My 4th visit to Iran – Feb 2013
This trip report will concentrate on my recent trip to Iran at the end of February 2013. During the last few weeks,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 to fly to Iran for, potentially, my last Saha Air B707 ride!
This time, I took Emirates from Dubai to Tehran. Overnight in Tehran, then fly a roundtrip on The 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 for a total of just under 48 hours.
At 4pm, we went to Terminal 4; Saha Air opened check-in 1 hour and 35 minutes prior to departure at 5:35pm. Luckily we were able to secure some good seats in front of the wing!
The Saha Air Boarding Pass. They use a sticker system for seat assignment; this has not changed since my first flight with them, 9 years ago. No name/ID check was conducted at check-in.
Boarding started at 5pm, 35 minutes prior to our scheduled take-off time. There are no aerobridges for boarding domestic flights in Mehrabad, so we took the bus out to the ramp and here she is, The B707 awaiting us! Flight registration is EP-SHU (the only one active at the moment) this is the same Saha B707 that I flew on my very first flight, 9 years ago in 2004!
Tehran – Mashhad
EP-SHU, B707-3J9C, BUILT 1976 (Ex IRAF Reg: 5-8310)
FL: 27,000 feet
Definitely a must have, a photo in front of an active B707 in 2013!
At 5:30pm, 5 minutes before our stated departure time, we started taxiing off our stand with idle engine power! This was definitely in Saha’s military fashion; the only way to describe it is:-
After a few minutes of taxiing, 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 on-board the flight are Iraqi pilgrims for The Holy City of Mashhad.
They started chanting Arabic prayer loud in the cabin while the B707 started its takeoff roll!
We took a while to get airborne. With our B707 slowly climbing away, we were treated to views of the military flight deck. 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 of any airport in the world.
Our climb continues to follow a 180 degrees turn, heading in a Northwest direction towards our destination in Mashhad. The sun has slowly faded and disappeared off the horizon.
We were also treated to sights of the snow covered peaks of Mount Damavand; note that 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 including: chocolate cookies, date cookies, roasted almond and a box of pineapple juice. I really enjoyed my B707 window view whilst nibbling on my snacks. I also chatted with some passengers in the nearby seats. An Iranian father is travelling with his beautiful daughter to Mashhad, to see their relatives.
After about 45 minutes of flying, we started our descent, fast, Saha’s B707 is famous for its high speed nose dive approach; our flight was no exception! We landed safely however, with a very smooth flare and steady touchdown on all main gears. At this point, The Iraqi Pilgrims were chanting out their prayers, loud!
View of our Saha B707 on the apron in Mashhad. Taking photos is usually forbidden in Mashhad; however I did not have any problems, maybe security did not see me snapping around.
Shary and I quickly went to check in for our return 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, while I stood in line to board from ground, I noticed The Captain, waving at me enthusiastically from the cockpit window; he had 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 flights tend to do. During the take-off the cockpit door “popped open” and remained open during the climb. I was able to peek into the cockpit from row 29, the other end of the plane! It was really different experience to be sitting at the back, where you feel more vibrations, noise and bumps! You really need to take a number of flights on The B707; to sit around in all the different areas and experience it all! Here is a picture of main cabin view, all the way from the rear end of the plane.
We received dinner on the return leg. The food consisted of: chicken nuggets (cold but tasty) yogurt and a 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 shaped window. I was told this window is for the observation of in-flight re-fuelling. I believe this B707 was previously used as a tanker in The Air Force (ex reg. 5-8310)
I walked around the cabin after the meal service. The below photo is of the vast space that is the galley and crew rest area; all at the very back of The B707. There are also 2 working lavatories at the back.
I returned to my seat afterwards, put on my Bose headset, and then enjoyed some of my favourite tunes while flying on the classic B707! It was a most enjoyable thing to do! A lot of good memories of previous travels and friendships sprung to my mind!
Of course, I turned off the music and listened to the 707 engine sound during the final approach. Tehran was lit up well at night; as I am sure you can imagine the views were simply splendid from my 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 security personnel, they gave me a great personal farewell. Both The Captain and I recognized each other instantly; he was the very same captain as on my first flight with Saha, 9 years ago! He did not look aged at all! We exchanged a few pleasantries and I asked him “How long can The B707 continue to fly?” all he did was smile and say “We are ready to fly for the future!”
FYI, The Saha Cockpit with this very same captain is featured in my new book.
Walking off the plane with all the crew greeting me with personal hugs and handshakes, I felt like a celebrity receiving a standing ovation! It was truly a touching moment. Iranians are so nice, their hospitality is 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 if there will be more or not, but I can say I walked away truly satisfied; just like I have done all the other times previously. Whenever I think about this flight, it brings instant happiness and excitement to my mind! During this flight I stopped caring about photo taking and video making; I just wanted more time for my personal enjoyment on-board The B707! This was a special one to me!