Tour Report: Iranian S&C Day 6 – Mahan Air A300-600 & Iran Air A300B2

Day 6: Two Generations of A300s to and from Mashad

<–Day 5: Caspian 737 and MD-83 to Shiraz and Back

(Traveled on February 18, 2016)

This was the tour’s final full day in Iran. Once again, we had to wake up very early in order to make it for our Mahan Air A300-600 flight to Mashad. After a half-day in Mashad, we flew back to Tehran on Iran Air’s classic A300B2 and spent the rest of the day hanging around Mehrabad airport.

Early Rise for a New Aircraft Type

Our last full day in Iran wasn’t different from most of the other days – we once again had to catch a flight departing way too early in order to get on an interesting aircraft type.

Yet another early morning departure – W51031 to Mashad departing at 6:20AM.

This time, it was supposed to be an A310-300 of Mahan Air which would be my second ride on the type and first ride on the airline. Luckily, it turned out that the aircraft type was changed to A300-600 – a new type for my logbook.

After arriving at the airport and checking-in at counter 21, we headed through the security toward gate 10 where our flight was boarding.

Boarding in progress.

At dawn, a bus took us to EP-MNT – an A300-600 that would be our ride for the day. Everybody boarded the aircraft through L2 door, and at 6:23AM, all doors were closed and we were ready for departure.

Boarding the aircraft in the early morning darkness. Tehran – Mashad is the busiest domestic route in Iran.
Close Up
A close-up view of our ride.

We took of less than 15 minutes later from runway 29L, and less than 5 minutes later we were offered a wonderful view of Mt. Damavand – the highest peak of Iran.

Beautiful sunrise with Mt. Damavand – the highest peak in Iran – clearly visible.

As with every domestic sector in Iran (if you read the previous parts, you already know this), a decent meal was served.

A view of the economy class cabin shortly after the meal service started.
Even after getting past Mt. Damavand, the views were stunning.
Cream cheese, honey and Iranian bread – a surprisingly tasty combination.

Other than that, the flight was fairly uneventful. It was interesting to have a flight map on the bulkhead screen – something we did not encounter on the other domestic flights.

Almost There
The in-flight map – getting close to Mashad.

Roughly one hour of flight time later, we started our descent, and at 7:45AM we landed on Mashad airport’s runway 31R.

Starting our descend towards Mashad.

Couple of minutes later, we arrived at our parking spot. Walking through the business class cabin, we once again entered the cockpit for a brief while, and then headed into the bus that took us to the terminal.

Business Class
Business class cabin of the A300.
A quick look into the two-men cockpit.

The Countless Courtyards of Imam Reza Shrine

The first thing we did after arrival in Mashad was finding a van. Once that was done, I called my Iranian friend who explained to the driver what we wanted to do – see some of the sights of Mashad, especially the Imam Reza Shrine.

When the coordination was finished, we all jumped into the van and headed to our first stop of the day – the Imam Reza shrine.

Upon arrival, we were told that we could not take our cameras or bags inside – only mobile phone photos allowed. We were taken to a luggage storage room – first to a sketchy looking one that was closed, and then to a more seriously looking one where we left our bags and headed towards the entrance.

Baggage storage – no “real” cameras allowed inside.

Here, the extreme hospitality of the people of Iran was shown – we were assigned a guide who spoke very good English and who took us around the mosque.

First, we were taken into a room where we were shown a video about the mosque. It is the world’s largest mosque by area, and you can tell it once you walk around.

Once the video was finished, we were taken around the courtyards. Courtyard after courtyard bordered by beautiful architecture.

The First Courtyard
The first courtyard – just the size of this one was mesmerizing. At that point we were unaware that that one was to be followed by many more.

Every time we thought we were back at the starting point, it took us only a few seconds to realize it was another courtyard that we haven’t visited yet.

Another Courtyard
Another courtyard.
…and another…

Taken away by the beauty of the place, we ended up spending almost two hours at the place leaving us with very little time to see the other sights given that we had an early afternoon flight to catch. That combined with being very tired after days of constant travel, we decided to head straight back to the airport.

Back to Tehran Onboard Iran Air A300B2-200

After getting to the airport, we still had almost two hours until departure and so we went to have a quick lunch in the restaurant on the second floor of Mashad airport terminal.

The modern terminal of Mashad airport.

When we were finished with the fairly tasty burgers, we headed downstairs to check ourselves in and then straight to the security.

Check-in counter for our 1:45PM flight back to Tehran.

A flight to Tehran was already boarding when we got through, however, it turned out that it was not the one we were supposed to be on. Interestingly, at exactly the same time – 1:45PM – two flights were scheduled to fly to Tehran Mehrabad. Besides our flight – IR465, there was another flight – IR263 – that was operated by an Airbus A320.

Flight to Tehran with STD of 1:45PM boarding. But wait, this one is not ours…

Our gate was announced shortly, and so we headed over to join the line. Boarding was done by bus, and around our scheduled departure time, we reached the aircraft – EP-IBS – perhaps the oldest flying passenger Airbus in the world at over 36 years of age.

Passengers boarding a piece of history.
Group Photo
Me with two of the tour participants posing in front of the Iran Air aircraft. Initially, the ground staff was reluctant to take a photo of us, but once I took out my IR T-shirt, they became very friendly…
…in fact, so friendly that they posed for a photo before we got into the aircraft.

Entering the aircraft, once again the interior was in an immaculate condition – no one could tell the aircraft was more than 35 years old. Another surprising thing was that the airplane was half empty. The back and front sections were completely blocked off with passengers occupying the middle.

At 2:16PM, with about thirty minutes of delay, we started heading towards runway 31R from which we took off at 2:23PM.

Candies were offered right after take-off.

Once again, during the 1 hour and 20 minutes of flight time, the crew managed to serve a full meal on a tray.

The fairly tasty chicken meal.

Unfortunately, due to security not giving permission, we were not able to visit the cockpit in-flight. As such, we spent the rest of the flight photographing the empty cabin until at 3:16PM the seat belt signs were switched back on.

Photo Session
Everyone was enjoying photographing the nearly empty cabin.
Here’s my result #1…
…and result #2. You can see how empty the cabin was!
Also managed to take a couple of wing view photos. Unfortunately, it was not possible to take a shot of the full engine without the window frame in the photo.
As usual, the crew was extremely friendly and more than willing to pose for photos.

From there it was a quick descend towards Teheran, and after flying over countless houses of Tehran, we landed on Mehrabad’s runway 29L at 3:35PM.

Mt. Damavand once again – we are getting close to Tehran.
Almost there – flying over the countless houses of Tehran.

We reached our parking position only 5 minutes later at 3:40PM. Before disembarking and heading to the terminal, we had a quick look into the three-men cockpit.

The cockpit crew was very friendly and apologetic for not being able to arrange an in-flight visit.
Good bye, A300B2!

After the flight, some of us went to the famous Mehrabad spotting location to take pictures of aircraft for a while before returning to the hotel and calling it a day.

A Mahan Air A300-600 landing at Mehrabad airport.
A Pouya Air An-74 that we have flown on a couple days earlier landing at Mehrabad airport.

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