Goodbye Iran

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I had been looking forward to this flight even before I started this trip. From then I knew getting over the mountains in this country was going to be quite difficult. Last flight proved my suspicions were correct even though I’ve never been to this country. More than anything else, leaving the mountains behind got me excited about leaving Iran, an otherwise interesting country just like the next.

I like to think it were the preparations I did the day before, but who knows, things just seemed to go smoother this particular morning. To start I had my breakfast and left the hotel in time, getting to the airport nice and early. I planned for a departure at 10AM because they all seemed to have a problem with me being there too early. 2 hours before takeoff time I met with mr. Amiri after which he seated me in he Iran Air dispatch area while he took care of things. At least here it seemed like I could get a decent briefing. The satellite showed 2 big storms; one moving in to Tehran in about 2 hours and another over Kuwait, slowly moving towards my alternate Shiraz. It looked like I would be in between the worst if I could make my takeoff time. No pressure..

It only took 20 minutes and a cup of tea for Mr. Amiri to return with the happy message I was able to go. Yes!
I did my preflight and prepared the cockpit to go, while waiting for the fuel truck. Once it arrived I tried to explain to them that I had one drum of fuel in the plane and I wanted to uplift that first. Somehow they understood I had an empty drum and wanted to fill it and of course, that’s not allowed. After 5 minutes of gestures they seemed to ge the point. We cut the tip off a traffic cone and I cleaned the inside, it would serve nicely as a funnel. More gestures sent someone running to an airplane nextdoor to grab a stepladder to put the drum on. We were all set.

 


During the uplift the guys were so amused and laughing, by this time joined by more ground crew from the plane next to us, we spilled some on the ground. Unfortunately, the fire chief must have spotted this or he was standing there the whole time, I wouldn’t have noticed anyway. Again I didn’t know what the problem was but now he was in a serious conversation with the bearded guy and threatening to take his badge. I tried asking him what the problem was but he just waved me off disrespectfully. Then he ran off and nothing happened. I called Mr. Amiri to resolve whatever was going on and so he did after 15 more minutes discussing. A cleaning truck showed up and he ordered it to spray the fuel with water. Laughing my ass off with a straight face (in case you’re wondering, fuel is hydrophobic) I decided to just keep quiet and wait it out instead of trying to tell them what they are doing is pointless.

Finally we got to fueling after 30 minutes of playing around. Turns out they are 40L short. Good thing I had that drum or the flight would become very tight, if not impossible! Now I just need to monitor the fuel closely but I should have enough with around 4h15m of fuel (ETE 3:30).

The weather improved much by the time I started the eninge and was on my way south. I started off flying VFR at FL105 after leaving the terminal area. As I got closer to the first group of hills the ceiling dropped and the headwind was blowing me back to Tehran, well almost.

 

After crossing that hill in the last pic I dropped lower and out of radio contact with Tehran. From there it got more and more exciting with lower clouds, rain-wrapped mountains and turbulence, thus resulting in fewer pictures. Every 10 minutes I had a plane relay an ‘OPS normal’ message to Tehran as he was clearly concerned about my well-being asking this before.

It all boiled down to a mountain pass I deliberately planned my route over. It’s the only deep-cut pass in the whole mountain range near Khoramabad. Here it is coming up ahead:

IMG_20151029_115215As you see the low clouds are not helping and I only have that tight gorge to fly through. 30 knot winds blowing from the SW made it perfect. I have some experience with this type of flying and I can handle mountain winds. Most important thing is to stay on the windward side of the valley to avoid rotors and clear air turbulence. I slowed down as well to about 100 knots (even though it’s not strictly necessary in this tank-like plane) with the gear down to stabilize the aircraft. Here we go:

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All in all the turbulence and up/down-drafts were not too bad. I was glad to see the descending horizon and the weather getting better slowly:

IMG_20151029_120054 IMG_20151029_114509Eventually the terrain flattened out and I was able to reach Dezful (military base) on the radio. They instructed me to fly around in a 15NM arc and after I proceeded direct to Ahwaz. The weather here was getting worse again bout it looked like an overcast layer above FL100 so I stayed at FL095 in some occasional moderate rain maintaining ‘VFR’.

IMG_20151029_124819 IMG_20151029_124750The weather maintained like that mostly all the way but ending without any rain and in very hazy conditions. Kuwait cleared me direct to the VOR (at first) saving me precious fuel and over-water time. After a 360 I was cleared to final 12L in Kuwait but I was still 12 NM out and could barely make out the city. They must have laughed (or the opposite) when they saw me approaching in big slow S turns trying to find the runway. Another nice landing followed (sry, it’s just true :P) after which I was frantically looking at the aerodrome chart trying to find my way but in the end it wasn’t really that hard 😛 A copilot would be nice though. Maybe next time.

In Kuwait at least they seemed to know what was going on. However I needed to pay in cash again and in local currency which proved to be another challenge. But more of that in the next post. In the mean time enjoy some more pics of exotic Iran!

 

 

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