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zolagola
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Wings of Persia – Iran Aviation Tour Nov 2016 (part 1)

Sat Mar 25, 2017 12:59 am

Aiming to log a few rare aircraft which may not be flying for much longer and inspired by trip reports here and by a friend, I started planning a trip to Iran in mid-2016. Irrespective of the effort required before (Iranian visa) and after (US visa) I wanted to see the country and its aviation scene. After some research I decided to join an international aviation tour group which would best combine the two things in an optimal time. Despite I had to write off my initial hope to catch the B747SP before the trip, the tour still offered a good variety of aviation and tourism highlights:

- A visit to the cities of Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz flying four different Iranian carriers: Iran Air, Queshm Air, Caspian Airlines and Iran Aseman with their A340-300 (covered in this report)
- Trips to Mashad with Iran Aseman B727, Mahan B747-300, Mahan A300-600 as well as a unique flight with Pouya Air’s An74 (to be covered in part 2)

With sanctions easing, more and more airlines start flying to Tehran again. To get to IKA, the international airport of the Iranian capital, I opted for BA153, the recently relaunched service from Heathrow which is operated by a B777-200 (G-VIID)

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The Club World cabin was fairly empty, fortunately the seat next to me remained empty. In general, the load was fairly light, only 140 passengers across all four classes

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The cabin was worked by male flight attendants only (I can well imagine that as a woman IKA would not be top of your request list). After take-off dinner was served fairly quickly, following the salmon tatar starter I opted for pasta as main and then laid myself to rest for a few hours.

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The block time is only 5:30h but I still felt refreshed when waking up to this view. You gotta love the GE90 engines

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Arrival and clearing immigration at IKA was swift (I had obtained my visa in Germany before departure), luggage delivery then took a while however

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After exchanging money (I wanted to exchange 200 EUR but they only accepted 100 EUR, this however seems to be total random, other people in my group later told me they were only allowed to exchange 50 EUR), I stepped outside and was welcomed by crisp air and a beautiful morning sun

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After negotiating a price with a taxi driver I set off to our hotel in the outskirts of Tehran where we were to meet for a tour of the city. What followed was an almost 2h taxi ride, despite the driver apparently knew where we were going, he ended up taking the wrong exits, turned around and stopped to asked other drivers for directions (even on the motorway). In the end I knew where we had to go and helped him with directions, yet he still kept stopping and asking. When we finally arrived, the group was already ready for departure and I only just made it. Despite we had a bit of disagreement on the price in the end, I don´t have any hard feelings, you get this with taxi drivers in every corner of the world.

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After quickly changing clothes, I hoped on-board the minibus for our trip to the city centre

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We walked across Tabiat Bridge, an impressive foot bridge opened in 2014 and had contact with locals, some even approached us for selfies. In general young Tehranians are very open and almost westernized, the religious dresscode was only loosely adhered to by women. I even saw a local guy wearing a shirt with an American flag which I found somewhat odd. But this picture intensified during the next few days, not only were we met in a very friendly way but people spoke very open, even when it came to things they thought were going wrong in Iran today.

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Next stop was Milad Tower, the 6th tallest tower in the world and open since 2009

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Shops like these were seen a lot, the branding reminiscent of western companies but not carrying the same name due to the sanctions

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View of Tehran from Milad Tower’s outside viewing platform at a height of 284m

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When continued to Azadi Square, the biggest square in Tehran

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Azadi Tower, the Freedom Tower, was opened in 1972 o commemorate the Persian Empire

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View from Azadi Tower

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Need a taxi?

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Just your normal Tehran traffic

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Getting to know a country does include looking at its culinary options. Our standard fare for the next days would be kebab in different variations, not always as nicely presented as here but usually quite good.

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After the city tour we headed to Mehrabad airport from where all domestic flights leave

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A quick stop at the entrance to Iran Air’s maintenance facility, unfortunately we didn´t manage to get a tour here

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The first flight we were to take would leave from Terminal 2

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Gone are the days when Iran Air flew 747

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Airport offices of just three of Iran’s more than dozen local airlines

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IR314 would be our flight today

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To my surprise, there were self-checkin terminals available. However I did not see anyone being able to get these to work, everyone was queuing at the counters for their boarding pass

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Airside waiting area. Photography was not allowed so we tried to kee it low key (which is of course difficult when you have a dozen or so people with big cameras and interested in aviation)

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THR apron view

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Meraj A300-600 (EP-SIF, first operator was Korean in 1996)

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The Iranian Government fleet, an A340-300 (EP-AJA which first flew for Air Canada in 1999) and an A321 (EP-AGB which was delivered to Monarch in 2000)

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Boarding was on time and despite there are a few jet bridges at THR, all boarding is done by bus

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Arriving at our MD82 (UR-BXM) which would take us to IFN. Due to the security personnel outside pictures are a true challenge and during the trip we did encounter scenarios where we had to delete pictures or videos taken.

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Cabin view Iran Air MD82)

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I settled in seat 23E, fairly at the rear of the cabin which has a 2-3 layout

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Iran Air safety card

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With a small delay we started taxiing to the runway, however came to a stop shortly after. The cabin crew started running back and forth and we soon joined by the flight deck crew. After some time, the captain came on PA and advised that there was an issue with the rear door and we had to return to the stand for Iran Air maintenance to check.

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So we taxied back to the stand, passing this Mahan RJ100 (EP-MON, the former SX-DVC of Aegean)

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As well as this Taftan MD82, which had the same history than our plane: built 1988, operated by China Northern, then Bukovyna, then came to Iran

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After the maintenance crew had performed their checks, we were eventually given the go-ahead and with a delay of 70mins we taxied to the runway with the sun already setting

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I admit I had a bit of a bad feeling initially but in the end there was nothing I had to worry about

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The MD82 was not the youngest (built back in 1988) so especially the windows had seen better days

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The flight time was under an hour but still Economy passengers received a very decent meal. Comparing this to the 2016 reality when flying in the US or Europe, it felt like a trip to the past.

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After landing at IFN, our group stayed on and had a warm exchange with the crew, both cabin and flight deck

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There was a small business class section of three rows in a 2-2 layout

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The MD82 had an Ukrainian registration, it used to fly for Bukovyna

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MD82 cockpit, clocks everywhere

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We were then rushed to exit the plane by ground crew (throughout the trip we encountered situations when the flight crew were happy to accommodate us but security personnel or ground staff tried to get in the way)

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IFN tower

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We took a mini-bus to our hotel, which was the best place we stayed at during the entire tour: Abasi Hotel

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Not only the interior was fascinating…

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.. but outside the courtyard was a great place to relax and of course take photos

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The next morning we started our all-day city tour at the river and one of the famous bridges, the Allahverdi Khan Bridge

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There was no water, so we explored the interior of the bridge

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We also stopped at Mosalla Mosque, he largest mosque in the world which is under construction since the 1990s

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Eventually we headed to THE tourist hot spot in Isfahan, Imam Square

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Lotfollah Mosque

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The one end of the square is dominated by the Shah Mosque, a UNESCO World Heritage site dating back to the 17th century

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Some impressions from inside the mosque

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No visit to a Persian city would be completed without a visit to the souq

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As the sun went down, great photo opportunities arose

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Night stop at the bridge again before heading back to the airport

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Security checks are conducted right at the entrance already, hence these are separated by gender

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The return flight to THR would be operated by Queshm Air

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IFN check-in area

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Ready for boarding

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An Iran Aseman ATR ready to depart to Ahwaz (EP-ATU, one of the few aircraft leased as a brand-new plane back in 2002)

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Our Queshm Air Fokker 100 (EP-FQI) built in 1993. Originally our Iran Air flight to IFN was supposed to be a F100 but it got swapped for a MD82. So now we fortunately got the F100 (which I hadn´t logged before) and not the originally planned RJ85

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Queshm Air F100 cabin view

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Queshm Air inflight magazine and safety card. Their CEO obviously has big plans looking at the aircraft model at his desk

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Amazing seat pitch for Economy in the year 2016

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View from seat 14A

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Queshm Air dinner

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Approaching Tehran

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The kind crew invited us for a cockpit visit as well and happily signed my flight log

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We landed at mid night and headed to the hotel on what would be a really short night

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Only 4 hours later, after a 2,5h sleep (or whatever you would call that), we were back at THR, this time at Terminal 4

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Having checked in we waited for our departure to Shiraz with Caspian

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THR Terminal 4 airside waiting area

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Boarding now through gate 4

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We were again bussed to the gate and boarded through the forward stairs only

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The MD83 (EP-CPZ) was built in 1994

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Caspian Airlines MD83 cabin view

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View from seat 10A

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A nice old car outside

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We departed on time and saw the sun rising over Tehran as we climbed out

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Caspian Airlines breakfast

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Sunrise

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Approach into SYZ

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Iran Aseman maintenance facilities at SYZ

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At our stand, the same ATR we had seen last night in IFN was now parked next to us

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Another visit to the cockpit, the crew was in great mood

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SYZ terminal, nice setting with the nearby mountains

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SYZ terminal from the outside. Shiraz is obviously the gateway for the nearby ancient city of Persopolis

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Our first stop at Shiraz was the Pink Mosque, arguably the highlight of any visit to Shiraz when conducted at the right time of the day.

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And the morning, when the sun is still low, was the absolute right time as you can see from the following pictures

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Later that day we headed to Persepolis to see the remains of the ancient city such as the Gate of All Nations

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We also visited the necropolis at nearby Naqsh-e Rustam

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Before heading back to Shiraz where we went to the Shah Cheragh Mosque

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Shiraz souq

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A long day at Shiraz came to an end but we had one highlight remaining: the return flight to Tehran

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The flight would be operated by ab A340-300

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EP-APA is a former Virgin plane built in 1992 as MSN 2 – it was the second A340 prototype built and is still flying today

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The former Upper Class

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Iran Aseman has also kept the bar despite the fact that it is – as all Iranian carriers - a dry airline

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We received an upgrade and were sat in the old Premium Economy section which was sold as Business Class

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Want to make a call to the 1990s?

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Departure from SYZ

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The dinner service was a regular meal as we already knew from the previous flights

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After an uneventful flight we landed at THR and we are able to sneak some more photos of this beautiful aircraft

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This concludes part 1 of my Iranian trip report, I hope you enjoyed reading it and look forward to part 2 which should be up in the coming days

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In the meantime, feel free to check out some of my other trip reports as well:

2017
Lufthansa A350 Inaugural Flight MUC-HAM-MUC

2016
European Regionals (incl. CS100)
Round the world (Part 3): Arabic A380 Apogee (Etihad Apartment)
Round the world (Part 2): Skipping a day
Round the world (Part 1): a First Class start
Air Berlin across the pond – AB Y+ & C on DUS-MIA-DUS
A South American Teaser – LAN C 787 on FRA-MAD
Testing The Swiss Triple Seven In C FRA-ZRH-GVA

2015
Tudo Bom! - To Brazil In BA First & Club World
Lost In India – BOM-DEL-DOH-DME In AI+QR C
Meeting The Singapore Girls – ZRH-SIN-BOM In SQ C
At Putin’s Show Room - Maks Airshow 2015
New, Newer, Qatar Airways – A350, A380 & B788 In C
Siam Birds - Nokair & Bangkok Airways

2014
Quick Trip Across The Pond To NYC (SN & UA In C)
The Kim-Dom Calling-avgeek Heaven North Korea (P3)
The Kim-Dom Calling-avgeek Heaven North Korea (P2)
The Kim-Dom Calling-avgeek Heaven North Korea (P1)
Beijing And Back In C: LH A346 Vs. CA B773
A visit To Kingman & Mojave Boneyards With LX & LH
Northwest In Style - FRA-SEA-FRA In LH F (old)
Living The Dream(liner) – LAN FRA-MAD-FRA In Y

2013
Sleep Like An Egyptian:BRU-CAI-BKK-CAI-FRA In MS C
Endangered Species - A Weekend Trip To Russia (P2)
Endangered Species - A Weekend Trip To Russia (P1)

2008
The True Berlin Airport - Last Trip To THF
 
An767
Posts: 283
Joined: Sun Apr 17, 2016 4:21 am

Re: Wings of Persia – Iran Aviation Tour Nov 2016 (part 1)

Sat Mar 25, 2017 10:20 am

cant see the pictures :( but i am thinking as Iran has a must see,
An767
If its got wings put me on it. If it floats on water take it away
 
cam747
Posts: 68
Joined: Thu Sep 15, 2011 12:25 pm

Re: Wings of Persia – Iran Aviation Tour Nov 2016 (part 1)

Sun Mar 26, 2017 11:39 am

One of the most fascinating and interesting TRs I've read on this forum. Great photos too. Thanks for your efforts.
 
ALAfly
Posts: 216
Joined: Sun Aug 24, 2014 8:19 am

Re: Wings of Persia – Iran Aviation Tour Nov 2016 (part 1)

Sun Mar 26, 2017 11:56 am

cam747 wrote:
One of the most fascinating and interesting TRs I've read on this forum.


Can add that to. Must say, those buildings and architecture plus city everview is really amazing. It really invites to go there an see all with own eyes. Food looks good on those flights you had :)
 
moby147
Posts: 95
Joined: Fri Mar 08, 2013 12:30 am

Re: Wings of Persia – Iran Aviation Tour Nov 2016 (part 1)

Sun Mar 26, 2017 5:02 pm

Well done, great report on a very interesting country & the many airlines

Moby147
 
DDR
Posts: 1729
Joined: Sat Sep 28, 2013 11:09 pm

Re: Wings of Persia – Iran Aviation Tour Nov 2016 (part 1)

Sun Mar 26, 2017 6:29 pm

Terrific TR. Really interesting and great pics. I'm happy you had the chance to fly on the F100. That opportunity is becoming rare.
 
User avatar
zolagola
Topic Author
Posts: 86
Joined: Wed Jan 02, 2013 10:34 pm

Re: Wings of Persia – Iran Aviation Tour Nov 2016 (part 1)

Tue Mar 28, 2017 9:27 pm

Glad you enjoyed the first part, many thanks for your comments. Part 2 is now also available here: viewtopic.php?f=9&t=1359037
 
irelayer
Posts: 1128
Joined: Wed Jul 06, 2005 4:34 pm

Re: Wings of Persia – Iran Aviation Tour Nov 2016 (part 1)

Tue Mar 28, 2017 10:46 pm

Wow awesome! Thanks for posting this.

A couple of things:

1) The taxi driver at the beginning was just trying to take advantage of you...as you probably already know.
2) It's really sad, but those bridges used to have actual water flowing beneath them, but a huge dam project has taken that away...pity you didn't get to see it.

-IR
 
CO7e7
Posts: 2697
Joined: Thu Dec 30, 2004 3:39 pm

Re: Wings of Persia – Iran Aviation Tour Nov 2016 (part 1)

Fri Mar 31, 2017 4:54 pm

Hands down one of the best TR I've seen on Anet in a while. Thanks for sharing.. I'll be looking for more of your reports.

Cheers!
 
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capicua
Posts: 207
Joined: Tue Apr 19, 2011 8:32 pm

Re: Wings of Persia – Iran Aviation Tour Nov 2016 (part 1)

Fri Mar 31, 2017 10:05 pm

Zolagola,

I've been a fan of your reports for quite a while. Thank you especially for this one full of amazing photos and insights to a country not much reported on here. The variety of still operational classics is certainly one of avgeeks heavens.

Cheers
C.
"The greatest sight to see is the world - look at it!" (Kurt Tucholsky),
and getting there is half the fun!
 
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CollegeAviator
Posts: 553
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2016 2:55 am

Re: Wings of Persia – Iran Aviation Tour Nov 2016 (part 1)

Wed Apr 05, 2017 3:44 am

What an awesome trip report, thanks so much for sharing this gem!

I love the variety of airlines and aircraft. Catering sure does look absolutely stunning on such short flights.

Awesome pictures from the cities in Iran. I can't wait to read part 2, as well!

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