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April 15, 2006

Review: Saha Air B707 – A Story of Iran

Review: Saha Air B707 – A Story of Iran

 
Introduction

This trip report mainly concentrates on the flying glory of Saha Air B707. I have made another attempt recently in February 2013 to fly the ever lasting B707. However, I felt it is part of the bigger story of my travel and affairs to Iran, a total of four times in nine years. The stories go on here....

My 1st visit to Iran – May 2004

When I first heard about an active B707 flying in Iran back in 2004, I instantly jumped on the bandwagon and start to make plans to visit Iran. On my log book, I missed the B707 so it seems too good to pass a ride on the plane which transformed intercontinental travel historically.

I left Beijing for Tehran on Iran Air’s famous B747-SP. I didn’t even possess an Iranian visa before hand and decide try to get a “Transit visa” good for 72 hours stay in Iran and fly the Saha Air B707 in between my transit time. Looking back, those days I was young and bold, I did not have to think twice to plan anything and fortunately things worked out so well beyond my wish.

Without knowing one single person or one single bit of history of Iran, I embarked on an “eye opening” trip to the ancient nation of Persia in May 2004 by myself.

Luckily, I met an Iran Air steward whose brother works as a load master for Saha Air onboard the Iran Air B747SP on my way to Tehran.

After arrival in Mehrabad, I went to a “secret room”. It turned out that I have surprised the officials that I didn’t have a visa.

But I impressed them with my strong wills of flying the Saha B707 and they gave in finally by issuing me a 72 hours “non extendable” transit visa. After 3 days, I flew to Dubai and later returned to Iran again for another 72 hours!

Within hours of my arrival in Tehran, the Saha load master came to help and delivered me a ticket on Saha Air B707 to Kish Island the same very evening!

Suddenly, I am ready to fly my first ever B707 in just a few hours! Looking back, I think I was really beyond lucky that day! Here are a few pictures of my first B707 trip.

Picture below: The B707 takeoff over Military ramp.

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Landing at Kish Island in dusk.

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The interior of EP-SHU B707. I flew the same plane 9 years later in 2013!

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After completing my first roundtrip of Saha Air B707 experience, I crave for more! It was so good and unique. I bought another ticket for a roundtrip flight from Tehran to Mashhad four days later.

It was a fabulous clear day in Tehran in spring time. Photo taken moments before I step inside the B707 again.

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The B707 at Mashhad.

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View of B707 engines and wing on takeoff from Mashhad.

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Perhaps the most famous shot of mine, approaching the massive urban sprawl of Tehran onboard the B707.

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In between my rides of Saha B707, I was also fortunate to fly the Tu-154 of Iran Air Tours, A300B2 and A310-200 of Iran Air with a visit to Shiraz, in particular Persepolis.

I didn’t plan anything before hand but luck is always on my side, there were many kind Iranians I met onboard the flight came to help me. They act as tour guide to show me around their city. The Iranian people’s hospitality made me feel so warm and at ease. My travel was so smooth without any worries.

After a week’s tour of Persia, I went back home to Sydney via Beijing and Indonesia. I became actively involve in reading the history of Persia; the days of pre and post revolution. I also started sharing with other enthusiasts about my flights with Saha.

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My 2nd visit – April 2006

In 2006, when I was planning my second Middle East Trip, I have included Iran again on my itinerary along Lebanon, Jordan and UAE. This time I flew into Tehran from Dubai by Iran Aseman B727-200. We landed at the new Imam Khomeini International Airport 40 km away from the city. I have met with a few very nice Iranian spotters such as Sharham Sherifi and Mohammed Rassi. They have helped me to buy tickets on Saha Air B707 again.

I flew with Saha B707 a total of 4 segments this trip. This time I flew it from Tehran in the morning to Asaloyeah, then onward to Isfahan. Returning at noon from Isfahan to Asaloyeah then return to Tehran in early afternoon. I flew 4 sectors on B707-3J9C, EP-SHV, 1976 built. (ex EP-SHG)

Photo: Cabin of EP-SHV, with original rack shelf. Later this plane has been retrofitted with overhead bins!

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Airborne from Mehrabad runway 29R. A Tu-154M held short below in between the runways.

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Landing at the Gas rich Asaloyeah. I was the only non-Iranian there.

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A cockpit visit is granted in between turnaround of the B707. I sat with the pilots while they start all four engines.

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Climbing out of Asaloyeah bound for Isfahan

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Over PARS Gas facility near Persian Gulf

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Approaching over massive urban area of Tehran.

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After 4 more sectors on the B707, I thought I have enough of the B707 (felt at that moment) and out of my wildest imagination, I could never imagine the B707 is still flying today as I am writing this trip report. The only regret was I didn’t record any sound or any video of the flight. I was concentrating taking pictures only.

Overall, that was another huge successful trip; I got to know Iran and its people better. I started reading many Iranian books and stories published by Iranian author on current regime and the past. Iran remains as a very special place in my heart.

To be continued...

 

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