A scary place to many of us. However I wasn’t really worried apart from the question if the permit and the handling would actually be arranged this time…
The start out of Van was not really a smooth one. I planned for an early departure again but I kinda knew it was not going to be that easy. The day before we straightened out the flight plan and permit issue (where there wasn’t really one like I said) so all I had to do was check everything and go.
After walking straight over to the AIM office upstairs after passing security, I checked everything and I was good to go in 10 minutes. Great, I’ll even be early!
I casually strolled down to the VIP airport where I came in the other day and was met by an unfamiliar official. Sigh. Whats up sir?
‘Can I see your passport please?’. From then I knew I was delayed. I had to follow the guy to the police station.
Of course there was a whole new shift of officials on duty who knew nothing about me or my flight. I explained the situation best I could but they didn’t seem to catch on (language barrier, anyone?). They asked about my route nearly a hundred times; ‘From where did you arrive? Where did you stop? Did you arrive yesterday?’. This was dragging on and on. More and more officers, public servants, policeman and who knows who else came into the office. At some point an hour later there were 10 guys discussing me and asking about my route and telling me to wait while they had my passport. This went on and on and I had no idea what the problem was. 90 minutes into the whole charade an official from the night before showed up and also joined in the discussion. I expected it would be cleared out but nothing much seemed to happen.
Finally I just grabbed my passport and walked away to the stairs again to see the manager on the first floor (funny enough, I didn’t get shot in the back). Some guy followed me and the manager was there as well. Again I tried to ask what the &*^#@ was going on. Only then did they explain to me that customs had to come to clear the plane. Customs? They cleared me in Erzurum. I guess because I left for town for the night I have to get customs again. That kind of makes sense.
Anyway, I sat there in the managers office and drank some tea. And another. Waited some more. After a total of 2 hours I was asked to come downstairs again to the police office. The customs officer was there with some papers I had to sign and that was it.
Why was it so hard to tell me I needed to clear customs? Why was this not communicated to me the night before so we could arrange it at a certain time? I guess you’re supposed to know it all…
I lost so much time (over 2 hours), I was in doubt that I was going to be able to fly from Teheran to Kuweit that day. A stretch that needs to be done VFR once again because of the high MEA (minimum enroute altitude). To get over the mountains before sunset I should leave Teheran at 14L the latest. It was now already 11L in Teheran and the flight there is about 2h30m. That gives me 30 minutes to handle everything in Iran. Hmm yeah, don’t think so.
Whatever happens later, got to move now is the spirit. I got in and took of fastest I could (safely, obviously). Again it felt like a relief just to get airborne. So far getting to the plane alone seems like the most difficult thing to achieve on this trip. I thought…
I filed VFR but when I got close to the Iranian border they still would not allow me to enter below FL150. I tried to insist to come over lower stating I had the terrain in sight and on the GPS but it was a no go. Due to the military airspace I HAD TO be at FL150. So I pushed her, and myself. I think spending 3 days at 6000 ft (2km) altitude in Erzurum helped my to up my red blood cell count and battle hypoxia. My hands starded to tingle and I could hear myself speaking slowly (or it appeared so?) as the Bonanza was climbing very slowly at 100kts with the stall warner beeping while barely staying afloat at 15000ft. The speed picked up a bit. Luckily I had only 20 NM to cover before he could let me back down. Big breaths… in….. hold…. out…. Pfffff. Avoid this thick cloud. Fly through the white one. Ice accumulation still the same. Check the terrain. 1000ft above in IMC. Check. Almost there. Try not to think of the worst that could happen. Must go back to kids. Breathe…. Deep and slow.
“Sierraaaa Hoootel Whiskeyyyy, reeequest desceeeent too 9500feeet”. Phew, I like oxygen….
Then I got my first view of Iran. Cloud tops were a few hundred above me. Not very smooth sailing, but ok. A few showers here and there. Lake Umia sliding under me and reminding me of the salt pans in Walvis Bay somehow. A big shower appears right in front of me. No way of going around it. Oh well, no terrain, autopilot, big fancy GPS, +15 degrees OAT. ‘VFR’ it is 😛
The shower was the first of what I believed to be the cold front/occlusion that has been following me the whole trip because of all my delays. After punching it a desolate sandy land lied ahead, again reminding me of Namibia. As I was avoiding the worst and flying along the edge (few miles) of a big updraft, turbulence set in. I would call it medium but I had never quite felt this kind of turbulence (pilots know what I mean). The airspeed shot up, I could see the autopilot trimming down. Hmmm, better reduce power a bit, I’m being sucked up. Then it felt like the plane was buffeting. Very eerie feeling. More shaking. I took her manually. Reduced power some more. Still at 160 indicated. Then everything slowly returned to normal, as did my heart. That was weird. Checked everything: I’m good, no worries, everything under control.
The weather started to clear out a bit and I got switched to Tehran approach about 100 NM out. Report 70NM. Descend 6500ft. Report 40NM. Finally, I was almost there.
The last bit was actually fun. I had to come in under 1000ft and make a 15NM arc. Overflying the city very low at 160kts. In Belgium they would shoot you down. The irony…
I reported field in sight and was cleared visual left downwind for 29L, landing between an RJ85 and an MD83 taking off. Little did I know, my day was just about to get worse. Again.
First thing that came to my mind after landing: “OK, it’s 14:30L now. What was the cutoff time again? Right, now… Shit. This will have to be a very quick turnaround!”.
“Sierra Hotel Whiskey, follow the marshaller.”. They have that here? Sweet. I open the door: “Welcome to Iran captain! How was your flight?”. “Interesting thank you!”. “Please wait here sir! Who is your handler?”. “Safiran, sir.” “Ok, wait here”
Wait here yeah… Heared that before. Turns out Safiran doesn’t know I’m coming. I had no cash on me, spent it all in Erzurum on fuel. @#%$@$& here we go again….
Discussing. Asking. Wondering. Texting. Not allowed to leave the aircraft. A credit line has to be established. Not by me. I cant do anything. Waiting… Waiting…. About 6 hours later, yes 6, the good news comes that I have credit. Things can happen now. Iran Air kicks in and stuff happens. “Now we can request a visa sir!” (I decided to overnight of course, waaaay past my cutoff time). Guess how long that takes? 3 to 4 hours….
I landed at 14:30L, I got to the hotel at 2:30AM. Exhausted of course. Now I’m supposed to prepare planning, permits, flight plan, taxi, food, etc… for tomorrow? Eyes closed. Just sleep, fuck it.
You all know what happened the next day. That email is what I wrote to my clients in the evening of the next day. But those things are normal if you don’t plan your trip properly (wink)….