I have received emails from Iranian enthusiasts about the news of possibility of Saha Air B707 retirement by end of March.
Although there are no official sources to verify the news, I have decided not to take things for granted. With some creativity on my work schedule, I managed to find some time off to fly to Iran for my potentially last Saha Air B707 ride!This time, I took Emirates from Dubai to Tehran. Overnight in Tehran then fly a roundtrip on B707 from Tehran to Mashhad and back. The next day I will fly with Mahan Air to Mashhad to join my return flight of Iran Aseman B727 to Dubai. I was in Iran a total of just under 48 hours.
At 4pm, we went to Terminal 4, the Saha Air flight opened check-in 1 hour 35 minutes prior to departure at 5:35pm. Luckily we were able to secure some good seats in front of the wing!
Photo of Saha Air’s Boarding pass. They use a sticker system for seat assignment. The same as my first flight with them 9 years ago. No name/ID check was conducted at check-in.
The boarding started at 5pm, 35 minutes prior to our takeoff time. There are no aerobridges for domestic flight boarding in Mehrabad, so we took the bus out to the ramp and here she is, the B707 await for us! Flight registration isEP-SHU (the only one active at the moment) this is also the very first Saha B707 I flew with 9 years ago in 2004!
Tehran – Mashhad
EP-SHU, B707-3J9C, BUILT 1976 (Ex IRAF Reg: 5-8310)
FL: 27,000 feet
Definitely a photo in front of an active B707 in 2013!
At 5:30pm, 5 minutes before our stated departure time, we started taxi off our stand with idle engine power! The taxi was definitely in Saha’s military fashion; the only word to describe the taxi:
Within few minutes of taxi, we were at the threshold of Runway 29R. All four engines of the B707 came alive and without holding, we immediately started rolling on the runway.
Surprisingly, half of the passenger onboard the flight are not Iranian but Iraqi Pilgrims for Holy city of Mashhad.
They started chanting Arabic prayer loud in the cabin while the B707 starts takeoff roll!
We took a while to get airborne. While our B707 slowly climbing away, we were treated to the views of Military ramp. You have B707, B747, IL-62, Tu-154 and more ! Indeed, it is a heaven for plane spotters! Perhaps Tehran Mehrabad has the best mix of aircraft in any airport of the world.
Our climb continues follow a 180 degrees turn heading towards Northwest direction to our destination Mashhad. The sun has slowly faded and disappaeared off the horizon.
We were also treated to see the snow covered peak of Mount Damavand enroute to Mashhad, note this is also Saha Air’s logo! (Sun with Mt Damavand)
Shortly, our in-flight service started. It consisted of a nicely packed snack box with chocolate cookies, date cookies, roasted almond and a box of pineapple juice. I really enjoyed my B707 window view while snacking around. I also chatted with some next seat passengers. An Iranian father is travelling with his beautiful daughter to Mashhad to see their relatives.
After about 45 minutes of flying, we started our descend fast, Saha’s B707 is famous for its nose dive high speed approach and I believe our flight was of no exception! We landed safely with a very smooth flare and steady touchdown on all main gears. At this point, the Iraqi Pilgrims are chanting out their prayer loud!
View of our Saha B707 on apron in Mashhad. Photo is very difficult in Mashhad but I didn’t have any problem, may be the security guard did not see me snapping around.
Shary and I quickly went to re-check in for our returned flight. This time I chose seat 29D, second row from the rear.
Mashhad - Tehran
EP-SHU, B707-3J9C, BUILT 1976 (Ex IRAF Reg: 5-8310)
FL: 28,000 feet
During the boarding, the captain waved at me enthusiastically from the cockpit window while I stood in line to board from ground, as he recognised me and probably knew what I was doing on Saha B707!
Here I am happily standing in front of the B707, ready to re-board. Perhaps my last ride (but hopefully not!)
This picture shows the security compartment located just after Door 1. The main cabin is after this compartment.
Our flight took off on-time as all Saha flight does. During the takeoff the cockpit door “popped open” and remained open during the climb. I could peek straight into the cockpit from row 29, the other end! It was really different to sit at the back, where you feel more vibrations, noise and bumps! You really need to take a few more flights to sit around different area of the B707 to experience it all! Here is a picture of main abin view all the way from the rear end.
We received dinner on the return leg. The food consist of Chicken Nuggets (cold but tasty), Yogurt and bread roll. As always, I enjoyed the dining on the B707 and finished everything!
Row 30 on Saha B707 is particularly interesting, not only because it is the last row (with bad leg room) but also because of this huge horizontal slided window. I was told this window is for observation of in-flight re-fuelling purpose. I believe this B707 was used as a tanker before in the Air force (ex reg. 5-8310)
I walked around the cabin after the meal service. The below photo shows a vast area of galley and crew rest; all at the very end of the B707. There are also 2 working lavatories at the back.
Afterwards, I returned to my seat, put on my Bose headset to enjoy some of my favourite music tunes while flying on the classic B707! It was the most enjoyable thing to do! Lot of good memories of travel and friendship sprung to my mind!
Of course, I let go of the music and listen to the 707 engine sound during the final approach. Tehran lit up well at night as you can imagine the views are simply splendid from the window.
I was among the last to deplane given I was seated at the very back end of the B707. To my utmost surprise while walking up to the front door; both captains and the engineer officer came outside of the cockpit, along with all Saha crew and securities they gave me a great personal farewell. Both myself and the captain recognized each other instantly; he was the very first captain I have flown with Saha, 9 years ago! He didn’t look aged at all! We exchange few words of pleasantries and I asked him how long can the B707 continue to fly and all he did is smile and said “We are ready to fly for the future!”.
FYI, The Saha Cockpit with this very same captain is featured inside on my new book .
Walking off the plane with all crew greeting you with personal hugs and handshakes, I felt like a celebrity receiving a standing ovation there! It was truly a touching moment. Iranians are so nice, their hospitality are incredible. I just wanted to convey my heartfelt, sincerest thanks to the crew members.
Well, that was my 10th B707 flight with Saha. Who knows there will be more or not, but I can say I walked away truly satisfied with the experience every time. Whenever I think about it, it brought instant happiness and excitement to my mind! I didn’t really care about too much photo video making anymore, I just want more time for personal enjoyment! Every moment onboard the B707 was a special one to me!