The purpose of this trip was to fly the YAK-42 which I never went on before. There is one operator fying into dubai with this bird: Fars Air Qeshm.
Since 85% of people in Dubai are foreigners, most of them need to exit and re-enter the country for renewal of their residence visa. For this reason there are several so called Visa Change flights which mainly operate from Dubai to nearby airports in Iran, most of the flights go to the island of Kish but a few go to the island of Qeshm. I have made many attempts trying to persuade the travel agents to sell me such ticket but they usually declined since I don’t need a visa change as such. My explanations that I want to do this trip just for the sake of flying an old Russian metal made them rather confused and even more suspicious… finally I managed to convince one travel agent and the nice staff agreed to sell me the ticket, however I was not able to book the return portion as people go their first and once their visa arrives (this can vary between a couple of hours to several days/weeks…) then they report to the airline and book themselves back to Dubai. I even tried to involve some friends in Tehran for the sake of getting a return booking prior to departure but this airline is hardly heard of in places like Tehran since they only conduct visa change flights from a small and remote place calls Qeshm (close to the bigger and more known Iranian port of Bandar Abbas)
18 December 2007 Dep. 15:30
Flight Fars Air Qeshm from Dubai to Qeshm (Iran)
YAK 42D EP-QFA
Having my ticket in hand, i headed to the airport. It was a beautiful winter day in Dubai and since it was the first day of Eid Al Adha, streets were half empty and I reached Terminal 2 in no time. After parking the car at a side-street expecting the worst of getting stuck in Qehsm for a couple of days… I walked the short distance to the Terminal which was (surprise surprise in Dubai..) undergoing some construction work. Once in the Terminal, i felt the "Eid" rush., Never experienced such congestion, there were half a dozen of flights departing to many destinations including the fancy Terminal 2 ones: Baghdad & Kabul, further Finnair was having a flight to Goa (A319). A very interesting announcement came over the P/A: " United Nations regrets the delay of its flight to Kabul, the new departure time is 7 a.m Dubai time.." it was the DC-9 ZS-GAT in all white.
3 flights were at check-in at the small area, since I was there early, the Fars Air Qeshm counter was deserted and I got my seat (Window of course) in a couple of minutes. The smiling DNATA staff did reconfirm with me: "excuse me Sir with this passport you don’t need a visa change, you know that?" I just smiled back and told her yes no big deal am just going to try the ride..
In spite of the bustling transit Area one could hear the roaring sound of an TU-154 (Kish Air).
Boarding was smooth and non eventful. We were bussed to the plane and once I wanted to take a pic of the Yak-42 I was stopped immediately so only this was possible:
There were some interesting planes on Tarmac: Iraqi Airways 732, Air Blue A320, Kisk Air F50 (EP-LCE), 2X MD11 Fedex, 727 in all white (A6-RCB), National Air TU204 (RA-64021) Air Zimbabwe 762, and a 752 with black and red colours. The ill fated Biman A313 that had an accident back in March was still there covered with lots of sand.
One female F/A was welcoming pax, I immediately told her about my reason for this flight and asked for her help to have a look into the cockpit. There was a total of 4 F/A/s on board. Plus the obligatory security men (2). We pushed back exactly on time (I was impressed!) then the engines were started, sitting in the second row the sound was way too low for my likings… Lined up RWY 30R then we took off after a rather short take off role followed by normal climb no vibrations. The plane in general looked fairly o.K and not too old. In front of the first row there was a sign indicating YAK42D operated by Pecotox Air. An all Economy class cabin 6 seat abreat), Seat-Pitch was o.k though the seat width was tight. Old style Russian seats that fold to the front but covered with thick western style brown colored seat covers. All seats had safety cards and airsickness bags. Overhead bins were the closing ones but rather small. Exit signs were in both Arabic and English plus old signs in Russian.
Soon after take off, FA's started distributing small kits including Juice, Cookies, a Comb and a Fars Air branded pen! In addition small plastic model planes were distributed among children! I was lucky to get one too, the content however was a model of a 767-300 with Fars Air Qeshem titles. I was impressed to have this on a 30 Minute flight..Finally I was allowed a cockpit visit, all were smiling including the security gentlemen, he checked my documents and camera briefly and then I was inside. The crew (all Ukrainians) were very nice and talkative, taking pictures was not a problem.
Soon after we started descend, landing in the middle of now where. We taxied to the tiny building which was the only visable buidling around. A MI-8 Helicopter with military markings was the only other air vehicle around. Deboarding was great! We used the built in aft-Stairs! While going out I took some shots of the cabin (all no problem with Cabin crew smiling!)
Immigration at Qeshem was a tiering experience, it took me almost 90 minutes to clear immigration since there were only two manned counters and about 100 Pax most of them non Iranians. It was a bit of chaos but nothing unusual for such countries. The fact that I was entering Iran not for a visa change was rather awesome and created a bit of confusion among the immigration officers. Finally with a lot of laughs and jokes from my side the officers were O.K and I was allowed entry. The next step for me was to somehow secure a return booking. Similar to other Iranian airports I have visited before, i searched for the Fars Air office at the airport to conduct a reservation but I found out that bookings are only done at the two hotels for visa change pax.. Anyhow they told me to wait and try my luck as a go-show. I was told that there are two flights back to Dubai departing with a 15 minutes separation, this confused me as I thought the airline has only one plane available… The Check-in area was a clean yet old looking with 4 counters. The place was deserted. Only two militry personell and one Airline staff present. All of a sudden a bus arrived outside and about 50 people stormed the check in counters. Finally I was checked in and given an Iran Asseman Boarding Pass with a hand written seat number. and proceeded to the departure gate which was the smallest i have ever seen in my life, yet It included a souvenir shop and a counter selling some drinks and snacks. The place was full since two flights were departing. When our flight was called we walked to the plane it was dark already. The YAK 42 of my incoming flight was parked with no lights on. I started wondering with which flight am returning! It was a ATR7 of Iran Asseman (Reg. EP-ATZ). I was seated in the last row, the flight was completely full. You could see some galley items carrying Sabena markings. Two female F/A/s on board but no service carried out. Flight time was 40 Minutes flying along the coastline of UAE, you could see the lights of Ras Al Kheima and Sharjah. It was the desert side approach to DXB landing on RWY30R again. Landing was firm and heavy breaks were applied soon after touch down
One of the great things about Terminal 2 in DXB is the quick time you are out. With no checked in luggage and using the finger scanned entry, it took me exactly 2 minutes from the moment i left the bus heading into the immigration hall and getting outside the terminal! What a treat compared to the "standard" arrivals at Terminal 1