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The History of Iranian Air Transportation Industry

Iranian Mythical Flights
There are numerous mythical stories in relation to the flight of kings and heroes depicted in poetry in the famous book of Shahnameh, The Epic of Kings: The Hero Tales of Ancient Persia, created by famous Persian poet, Hakim Abol-Ghasem Ferdowsi Toosi (940-1020).

Several references have been made in Shahnameh to giant rocs, eagles and demons or "deev"s, which have flown the Iranian kings and heroes. The most popular myths are about the flights of two kings, Kaikavoos and Jamshid and the Iranian hero, Rostam.

Mythologies aside, it is thought that some other experiments in relation to human flights may have been attempted throughout the ancient Persia, which have not been recorded.

First balloons and airplanes in Iran

Although the stories in relation to the events of sending balloons to the air, have been recorded in different versions, but it is certain that the first event at which this flying object was sent into the air in Iran occurred in 1891. These events took place during the reign of Nasseredin Shah (1848-1896,) a king of Qajar dynasty that ruled in Iran prior to Pahlavis, the last of the Iranian empire.

Then around the end of 1913, one day the people of Tehran for the first time saw an airplane flying over the city. The residents were taken to the streets to have a closer look at the strange bird. The airplane landed at a ground, then known as Meidan Mashgh, the army exercise field in the city center. On landing, it knocked the barrel of a canon in the field and became damaged. This airplane, a Bleriot XI, was flown into Tehran from Russia by a Russian pilot.

This aircraft later was repaired at the army repair shop with help from Iranian army technicians and flew back to Russia.


The eight phases of Iranian air transportation and airlines
According to the book, The History of Iranian Commercial Aviation, published in 2007, in just over 80 years, from 1923 till now, the Iranian air transportation and airline industry has gone through eight periods:

  1. 1923 - 1927: Iranian Air Force
  2. 1927 - 1932: Junkers Airlines in Iran
  3. 1932 - 1938: Absence of commercial air transport
  4. 1938 - 1946: The airline of the Ministry of post and telegram or "Iranian State Airlines"
  5. 1945 - 1961: Iranian Airways and Persian Air Services
  6. 1961 - 1962: United Iranian Airlines
  7. 1962 - 1979: Iran National Airlines (Iran Air), the flourishing years
  8. 1979 - Now: Post Revolution, the era of multiple airlines

Junkers F13 in Tehran, 1923-1924
First air force aircraft
The mission of acquiring aircraft for the air force started in 1922, when the Iranian government approached the US administration to negotiate purchasing of American military aircraft and the training of pilots and technicians. Americans rejected the request, on the ground of their commitments to the peace treaties they had signed with other countries.

As a result, Iran turned to other countries such as Germany, Russia, France and later Britain.

The story as to when the first aircraft was acquired by the Iranian government for the newly established air force is, somehow, ambiguous. But what is certain is that one German made Junkers F13 was purchased and brought to Iran. Also later, in 1923, due to government shortage of funds, people of Gilan and Mazandaran, donated sufficient money to enable the government to purchase two more Junkers F13. In appreciation of this patriotic move, the airplanes were named after these two provinces.

At the time, the Junkers F13s were among the World's best airplanes, from the military and transport point of view. The production of this World's first all-metal aircraft started in Germany in 1919.

Between 1923 and 1925, an array of diverse types of airplanes built by different countries was added to the air force fleet. Among them British DeHaviland Avro 504K (or Avroshka,) some assembled in Russia as well as French built Spad 42, Breguet 14 and 19 as well as Potez 8. However, in spite of this growing fleet, the air force still did not have Iranian pilots to fly them.


Col. Ahmad Khan Nakhjavan
First Air Force Pilots
Following the sale of aircraft by France and Russia, these two countries were chosen for air force pilots and technicians training. In June 1923, the first group of officers was dispatched to France for training. Among them, the first officer who was selected to be trained as a pilot was Col. Ahmad Khan Nakhjavan. In June next year another 10 officers were sent to Russia for the same purpose.

Col. Nakhjavan, after completing his training, took off from Paris on one of the Iranian Breguet 19 airplanes marked with Iranian flag and logo. He landed at Ghaleh Morghi airfield, on 25th of February 1925 (5th of Esfand 1304.) This officer earned the title of Iran's first pilot. He was later appointed the first commander-in-chief of the Iranian air force.

Out of the group of 10 officers, who went to Russia, three were ready to return to Iran after 18 months of training. According to Issa Eshtodakh, a military student (later an air force major general and director general of Iranian Civil Aviation Organization) three pilots were assigned to fly three DeHaviland DH 9A airplanes purchased from Russia to Tehran.

Upon departure for Tehran, one of the three planes crashed on takeoff, therefore, that flight was terminated in Baku and its pilot, 1st Lt. Ali Akbar Aminzadeh with his airplane crossed the Caspian Sea by ship to north of Iran.

The other two, 1st Lt. Sharaf-e-din Ghahremani and Issa Eshtodakh took off for Tehran, but due to harsh weather and a number of incidents they had to spend a long time in Ghazvin. This time Ghahremani's plane was damaged on last takeoff and had to be carried on truck to Tehran. Eshtodakh, spent extra week and took off on February 27, 1925 and arrived in Tehran after two hours. He was considered the second Iranian pilot who flew into Iranian territory, though if it was not due to bad weather, he would have arrived before Nakhjavan.

Iranian Air Force, from a humble beginning in 1921, as a small department of the army, grew to become one of the World's outstanding, strongest and technologically advanced air forces. The Iranian Air Force consisted of an exceptional group of highly qualified, educated, skilled and brave officers and pilots. It owned a large fleet of sophisticated fighter aircraft, military transports and other type of specialized aircraft and equipments.

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