(Traveled on February 18, 2016)
This was the tour’s final full day in Iran. Once again, we had to wake up very early in order to make it for our Mahan Air A300-600 flight to Mashad. After a half-day in Mashad, we flew back to Tehran on Iran Air’s classic A300B2 and spent the rest of the day hanging around Mehrabad airport.
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Early Rise for a New Aircraft Type
Our last full day in Iran wasn’t different from most of the other days – we once again had to catch a flight departing way too early in order to get on an interesting aircraft type.
This time, it was supposed to be an A310-300 of Mahan Air which would be my second ride on the type and first ride on the airline. Luckily, it turned out that the aircraft type was changed to A300-600 – a new type for my logbook.
After arriving at the airport and checking-in at counter 21, we headed through the security toward gate 10 where our flight was boarding.
At dawn, a bus took us to EP-MNT – an A300-600 that would be our ride for the day. Everybody boarded the aircraft through L2 door, and at 6:23AM, all doors were closed and we were ready for departure.
We took of less than 15 minutes later from runway 29L, and less than 5 minutes later we were offered a wonderful view of Mt. Damavand – the highest peak of Iran.
As with every domestic sector in Iran (if you read the previous parts, you already know this), a decent meal was served.
Other than that, the flight was fairly uneventful. It was interesting to have a flight map on the bulkhead screen – something we did not encounter on the other domestic flights.
Roughly one hour of flight time later, we started our descent, and at 7:45AM we landed on Mashad airport’s runway 31R.
Couple of minutes later, we arrived at our parking spot. Walking through the business class cabin, we once again entered the cockpit for a brief while, and then headed into the bus that took us to the terminal.
The Countless Courtyards of Imam Reza Shrine
The first thing we did after arrival in Mashad was finding a van. Once that was done, I called my Iranian friend who explained to the driver what we wanted to do – see some of the sights of Mashad, especially the Imam Reza Shrine.
When the coordination was finished, we all jumped into the van and headed to our first stop of the day – the Imam Reza shrine.
Upon arrival, we were told that we could not take our cameras or bags inside – only mobile phone photos allowed. We were taken to a luggage storage room – first to a sketchy looking one that was closed, and then to a more seriously looking one where we left our bags and headed towards the entrance.
Here, the extreme hospitality of the people of Iran was shown – we were assigned a guide who spoke very good English and who took us around the mosque.
First, we were taken into a room where we were shown a video about the mosque. It is the world’s largest mosque by area, and you can tell it once you walk around.
Once the video was finished, we were taken around the courtyards. Courtyard after courtyard bordered by beautiful architecture.
Every time we thought we were back at the starting point, it took us only a few seconds to realize it was another courtyard that we haven’t visited yet.
Taken away by the beauty of the place, we ended up spending almost two hours at the place leaving us with very little time to see the other sights given that we had an early afternoon flight to catch. That combined with being very tired after days of constant travel, we decided to head straight back to the airport.
Back to Tehran Onboard Iran Air A300B2-200
After getting to the airport, we still had almost two hours until departure and so we went to have a quick lunch in the restaurant on the second floor of Mashad airport terminal.
When we were finished with the fairly tasty burgers, we headed downstairs to check ourselves in and then straight to the security.
A flight to Tehran was already boarding when we got through, however, it turned out that it was not the one we were supposed to be on. Interestingly, at exactly the same time – 1:45PM – two flights were scheduled to fly to Tehran Mehrabad. Besides our flight – IR465, there was another flight – IR263 – that was operated by an Airbus A320.
Our gate was announced shortly, and so we headed over to join the line. Boarding was done by bus, and around our scheduled departure time, we reached the aircraft – EP-IBS – perhaps the oldest flying passenger Airbus in the world at over 36 years of age.
Entering the aircraft, once again the interior was in an immaculate condition – no one could tell the aircraft was more than 35 years old. Another surprising thing was that the airplane was half empty. The back and front sections were completely blocked off with passengers occupying the middle.
At 2:16PM, with about thirty minutes of delay, we started heading towards runway 31R from which we took off at 2:23PM.
Once again, during the 1 hour and 20 minutes of flight time, the crew managed to serve a full meal on a tray.
Unfortunately, due to security not giving permission, we were not able to visit the cockpit in-flight. As such, we spent the rest of the flight photographing the empty cabin until at 3:16PM the seat belt signs were switched back on.
From there it was a quick descend towards Teheran, and after flying over countless houses of Tehran, we landed on Mehrabad’s runway 29L at 3:35PM.
We reached our parking position only 5 minutes later at 3:40PM. Before disembarking and heading to the terminal, we had a quick look into the three-men cockpit.
After the flight, some of us went to the famous Mehrabad spotting location to take pictures of aircraft for a while before returning to the hotel and calling it a day.