8 Febr 2006, Alitalia # AZ117, MD-82 I-DAWC AMS-MXP seat 24F, sched 12.00-13.45 act 13.14-14.26.
While checking in we were informed our flight would depart about 45 minutes late. No worry to miss our flight, only our afternoon stop over in Milan would be cut a little short.
Photo © Gerry Stegmeier
. It was my first Alitalia flight and I was also happy they still use MD-80s to Milan, always nice to fly on a Douglas instead of yet another Airbus.
We took off and had an uneventful flight to Italy. A snack box was given, containing a dry small sandwich, a muffin, water and a nice chocolate, plus drink service, I took some red wine. Most of the time the weather was nice and we could see the Alps. Still, just like on later Alitalia flights, the seatbelt sign was on for most of the time. I almost suspect they use it to not have too many people in the aisles and as excuse to not do many service rounds. The weather deteriorated near Milan, we bumped through the clouds and landed at a cold and foggy Milan.
Despite arriving a bit late and Milan being even colder and more gloomy then Amsterdam we still decided to take the train to the centre to spend the afternoon walking around and seeing some sights. We came back to the airport in the early evening.
8/9 Febr, Alitalia # AZ748, 767-300 I-DEIG, MXP-DXB seat 33K, sched 21.50-07.00, actu 22.09-06:36.
Photo © Enrico Pierobon SpotIT
We boarded the Alitalia 767 when it was dark already. I had seat 33K, fairly in the back, and the big screen in this main cabin (no PTVs) wasn’t working, so I didn’t have a clear idea of the routing and had to ask my friends who were sitting more to the front what the route mapper was showing. About 45 minutes after take off, dinner was served.
Although the picture doesn’t look too appetizing, it was actually quite good and filling; lasagna, beef and spinach, with nice fresh salad containing ham, apple and raisins. The nightflight was uneventful, smooth although again the seatbelt signs were on most of the night. Our routing was over Greece, we passed Iraq on the west side, and approached over the gulf, seeing the lights of Doha to the right. I slept a bit (luckily the seat next to me was unoccupied, although the flight was about 80% full) and without a further pre arrival snack or drink (flight time of 5.30 hours might have been a factor, or the ungainly arrival hour of 6.36 local, 3.36 am European time) we landed in dusky Dubai.
The terminal was nice and modern.
I only decided during our stay in Dubai to actually go to Iran, I wanted to see if Iran would be safe to travel for me, taking into consideration how the cartoon riots were developing and after some asking around and meeting Amir and having Iranian dinner, I decided to go for Iran and the 707 while my travel mates would go to Oman. I went to the Mahan Travel office in Deira, Dubai, hoping to get on a (cheap) roundtrip on Mahan Air who fly the Tupolev 204 between Tehran and Dubai. Unfortunately their flights were full on the convenient times, so I decided to take Iran Asemans 727 instead. The return trip to Tehran was about 160 euro.
For the Aseman flight, I had to check in from the smaller terminal 2, from which the more obscure flights depart. A silver 737-200 of Silver Air departed to Baghdad on the same time, you can also see a Kish Air F-50, an Iran Aseman F-100 and other aircraft.
The terminal was simple but checking in and control went smoothly, not the long walks and waits of modern terminal 1. We were bused to our 727,
13 Febr, Iran Aseman #EP 6744 727-228 EP-ASA Dubai-Tehran Iman Khomeini Airport seat 9A, sched. 11.00-12.30, act. 11.17-12.29 (1.42 flying time due to 30 minutes time difference)
The weather was good, and right after take off land inwards, we took a sharp left turn and headed to the Persian Gulf. A few minutes later we passed Kish and the Iranian coast. The meal was handed out, after the picture was taken the same rice/chicken came (see later picture on the return flight). This time, the picture looked better then it tasted, the chicken seemed very dry. Best part was the sweet raisin cake. The Iranda coke tasted interesting, it was less fizzy then Pepsi or Coca Cola.
I could see the mountains of Iran. Later in the flight, some more clouds appeared. Before long we landed at the new Imam Khomeini Airport. This recently opened airport is in the middle of nowhere and makes a bit deserted impression. Only the flights to the region (Dubai, Gulf States) and the Mahan flights (also to Bangkok and Dusseldorf) depart from here, the domestic flights plus the flights to Europe still depart from Mehrabad. It is an hour drive in a taxi to Tehran, forget about the subway they also planned to build to the airport for a while, so I had rather flown to the airport in the centre of Tehran.
Here is the Mahan Tupolev 204 I wish I had flown to Tehran instead. Of course a 727 is cool as well, but I already logged surprisingly many 727 flights, even in the last few years. At the airport, I could buy a one week tourist visa for 50 USD without much hassle.
15 Febr, Saha Air, Boeing 707-300C EP-SHU. Scheduled: Tehran-Mashad 16.00-17.45.
Photo © Shary(Shahram)
During my stay in Tehran, I informed about Saha Air flights at a local travel agent. She was’nt surprised at all when I explained I wanted to fly Saha Air, no matter where they went as long as it is a 707. She suggested I’d fly to Mashhad next afternoon, a 80 minute flight to the border near Afghanistan, for about $ 35. In Mashhad, I’d spend the night, do some sightseeing (there is a very important and beautiful mosque there) and fly back next morning at 10.30 on Iran Air. The Iran Air type would be a surprise as I couldn’t trace the flight on the schedules, so it could be an old A-300, a 727 or even an Iran Air Tours Tu-154.
I took a taxi to the domestic Mehrabad terminal. It was a hustle and bustle there, a contrast with the sterile new airport. Busy with people, messy, the toilets were only the mid east style ground holes. The Saha staff was friendly and a bit surprised, seeing a western guy checking in for Mashhad. Waiting in the departure hall (unfortunately no view on the ramp) I still couldn’t believe I’d finally fly on a 707 again within an hour. I flew on MEA’s 707s and a 720B in 1995. The weather turned bad and I hoped we wouldn’t be cancelled. Already 15.50 and still not boarding yet while our flight was to leave at 16.00. Suddenly, boarding was announced and about 50 passengers boarded on a bus. We passed interesting aircraft like two military F-27s (5-3032 was wfu, and 5-3031 flyable), two Aria Tu-154M RA-85720 and RA-85761, an Iran Air Tours Tu-154 EP-MCF, Kish MD-80 LZ-LDX, TC-ONS, an A-321 of Qeshm Air, two Iran Air F-100s, EP-IDB and EP-CFJ, a 727 EP-IRR, an old A-300 EP-IBZ and then finally the star of today, “our” 707 EP-SHU. Unfortunately I didn’t dare to take pictures, also after my little adventure with the police in Nigeria I decided to keep a low profile this time in Iran and not do anything which can make them stop me boarding the aircraft. While it was heavily raining during boarding, the weather quickly got better. Most of the 50 passengers were allocated seats in the front. I at 8A sat next to a grumpy man who looked like president Ahmadjinidad, with a beard and a dollar shop suit. The door closed at 16.08 and we quickly taxied to the runway, the engines weren’t so noisy at that time. We waited there for about 10 minutes, and then suddenly the engines screamed and belted for a minute before the brakes were released at 16.17 and we took off forcefully to the west. Right after take off, I saw some military 707s, 747s and Herculeses at the military part of the airport. Majestatically we climbed, after initial climb the engines weren’t all that noisy at all, and I looked out of my window seeing and enjoying the fact I am finally on a 707 again! I felt the man next to me and his neighbor – even while he had a more trendy shirt- were suspective of me, and after I took the above classic 707 wing picture after take off, I saw him talking about me to the –friendly- male flight attendants so I decided not to take more pictures for a while. My seat mates weren’t typical for Irans hospitality, usually I met extremely friendly and fun people, especially the younger ones and even the women were much more open and talkative to me then I’d have expected.
The interior was 1960s style, with open overhead bins
Photo © Sam Chui
, while for instance MEA’s 707/720 on which I flew in 1995 were mostly in 1970s ‘widebody style’ interiors comparible to 727s and 737-200s. The 707 was fairly “new” built in 1976, maybe the even for 1976 old style interior was easier to retrofit as this aircraft used to be military.
The flight was quite smooth. The flight attendants passed by and handed out the snack box, with a bag of pistachios nuts, a muffin and water.
At 17.07, after 50 minutes of flying, the engines clearly dropped in volume and the nose dipped, we initiated descent. We soon disappeared in thick layers of clouds for about 10 minutes. Then at 17.20, the aircraft gained speed, it felt like a runway approach correction on the glidepath to landing, but the wings were still in en route configuration (no flaps yet). I felt we made a sharp right turn and after a few minutes, around 17.28, the clouds were below us again and we were flying west, straight to sunset. It seemed quite strange that we seemed to be climbing again and leaving the clouds below us and heading westwards while Mashhad is situated east of Tehran. At 17.31, the flight deck announced something in Persian which shocked the other passengers. I didn’t really worry as I saw the flight attendants laughing, so at least it was not about an imminent emergency crashlanding. I asked a flight attendant what was going on, and he smiled that we were heading back to Tehran as we couldn’t land at Mashhad due to fog. “The flight is cancelled.” He also saw me squeezed next to two grumpy men in the fairly tight seat and invited me to sit with him in the empty back of the plane. I walked with him to seat 22F, a seat at the emergency door with lots of space. The very friendly flight attendant sat next to me the rest of the flight, he brought me cakes and coffee and we chitchatted about the flight, Iran, Europe etc. It turned dark now. Luckily the 707 had enough fuel, as our return to Tehran meant a flighttime of 2:23 hours ! We had the approach over the busy city with full flaps, this picture gives a fuzzy impression. During the approach and landing, two children ran up and down the aisle and all the flight attendant did was hugging them !
After landing on 18.41, we saw some fire trucks (maybe they were always at the runway) and the pilot announced that there was a “technical problem with the navigation.” Maybe we were in bit of trouble after all, although I have always felt perfectly safe on board the old girl.
We were bused back to the terminal. People rebooked on the flight tomorrow, but as I was planning to go back to Dubai tomorrow, that was no option and I asked and got my money back. Yes, I am very dutch…. Having twice as much 707 fun for only 35 euro and still demanding my money back. But don’t forget I had other expenses, I could only get back 2/3rd of my Iran Air return ticket price (also 35 euro) of the next morning. I spent the night again in Tehran and have never seen Mashhad (yet). Maybe next time !
Next day I took the long taxi ride back to the new Khomeini Airport.
Checkin again no problem. As expected (bugger) the exact same 727 arrived for our Dubai flight. They serviced the right engine for almost an hour, hope it works when we fly!
16 Febr, Iran Aseman 727-228 EP6773, IKA-DXB seat 9F, sched. 14.00-16.30, act. 14.11-16.29
Tupolev 154M EP-CPS of Caspian Air
A view from my seat to the front. Near the front door is a picture of two unidentified friendly looking elderly men with beards, maybe the founders of Iran Aseman
. We took off at 14.11 and while the sky was clear, the climb was quite bumpy. Only after 14.22 the F/A’s were allowed to start service, we got a same sort of hot meal as on the way out. .
The flight took us over Esfahan, see next two pictures, on the 2nd one you can see an airport.
. After about 1,5 hour, we started descent over the Persian gulf, flew land inwards over Sharjah, made a right turn.
Check out the shadow of our 727 during final approach .
Next to us, a Malev 737 was also just arrived. Seeing people deboarding in tank tops and singlets, I knew it didn’t come from wintery Hungary, indeed I saw in the arrival hall the aircraft just came in from Surat Thani, Thailand !
Back in Dubai I met just one of my travel mates. Ironically, while my trip to “scary” Iran went fine, they were apprehensive to go there and decided to rent a car and go to “safe” Oman instead. They had a car crash (luckily both weren’t harmed) and one of them had to stay for a few days extra to sort out the paper, police and insurance duties.
18 Febr. Alitalia # AZ749, 767-300 I-DEIG, DXB-MXP seat 40K, sched 08.45-12.50, actual flight 09.24-12.56.
After two more days in Dubai, it was time to go back home on the early day flight back to Europe. Unfortunately it was the exact same 767 again.
around 10.30, an ok hot breakfast was served.
. This time the routing took us over Iran, we avoided and past Iraq on the east side. Around 11.40 we passed Mount Ararat, a considerably higher mountain then the rest. 45 Minutes before landing, the f/a’s did a drink service and passed out bags of chips and cookies. The approach was quite bumpy in the low clouds, after arrival someone got sick in the walkway, making deboarding an unpleasant experience.
Alitalia # AZ116, MD-82 I-DAVM MXP-AMS seat 9E, sched 15.10-17.05 act 15.39-17.02.
After a long and cold wait in the bus, we were driven to our MD-80 in rainy Malpensa. After take off, we had a nice view again of the Alps. No snackbox this time, a choice of the dry ham sandwich or an almond cookie, and softdrinks. After an approach over Rotterdam, we landed uneventfully at Schiphol.
Alitalia gave us what we paid for, they brought us to Dubai and back, but I observed the lack of service and functioning IFE, a bit the lax attitude of the crew and letting us freeze for 20 minutes in a bus, showing a bit lack of ambition and motivation.