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BIAF 2011 "Sky for all "

Arrival day

A visit to the 8th Bulgarian International Aviation Festival at Krumovo Air Base

The year 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of Bulgarian Aviation. In celebrating this historic anniversary, the organizers –the Bulgarian Air Force and Bulgarian Air Force Foundation- hosted an official celebration. A commemorative conference on 100 years Bulgarian Aviation aptly titled - Past, Present and Future was held during the 8th Bulgarian International Aviation Festival (BIAF 2011) on September 2 to 4, 2011, at Krumovo air base near the city of Plovdiv.

On the first day, a symposium was held at Plovdiv International Airport, a regional airport whose infrastructure is shared between the military ("Krumovo") and civilian users. The symposium was opened with a welcome speech by the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, Georgi Parvanov. All aspects of Bulgarian aviation development during the last 100 years were highlighted during the symposium. A good part was filled with presentations by the contenders for the bid to provide the Bulgarian Air Force with a new multi-role fighter aircraft.

On the second day -also the first day of the public air show- the event ("Past") started with the handover of three restored heritage aircraft to the air force museum, also located at Krumovo. The museum was established in 1991 and already has a large collection of aircraft and helicopters which served in the Bulgarian Air Force, including a very special WWII-era Arado Ar 196. Amongst the exhibits is the most produced Bulgarian airplane, the Laz 7M. Airplanes of World War II include the Yak-9, Li-2, Il-2 and Tu-2. The jet age shows their very first jet fighter, the Yak-23, and almost all models of the MiG-family of fighters. Also presented are several different helicopters, ranging from their first armed Mi-1 to the more recently used Mi-8 and Mi-24D. Utility aircraft and a few civil operated types complete the large outdoor exhibition.

The flying program ("Present") was opened by a presentation of the Bulgarian Air Force showing its capability during a show with incorporated an air intercept of a ‘stray’ C-27 by two MiG-21’s, an air power demo by Mi-17 end Cougar helicopters from local 24th Helicopter Air Base Krumovo, supported by a SU-25UBK attack jet, flown in from its home base of Bezmer. A Mi-17 helicopter made a demonstration water drop from a bambi-bucket, something most of the guests at the conference on Friday had already witnessed for real when a large brush fire raged along the southern edge of the base, skirting the museum grounds and blackening the main gate area.


Air show












Other flying demo’s of local origin included a PC-9 and MiG-29. All Bulgarian Air Force fixed wing flights were operated from nearby fighter base Graf Ignatievo and all foreign guests operated their flight demonstrations locally; from the civil ramp at Plovdiv International. Switzerland participated with a 9-ship PC-7 demonstration, giving one of their streamlined displays.

Always interesting for the general public was a race between a MiG-29 and a race car, in this case Formula 2, which tried to outrun a MiG-29 on take-off. Behind the wheel of the car was Plamen Kralev, Bulgaria’s most successful autosport driver. The race was won by the MiG-29 of course.

The airshow itself was good in lenght and provided both the local public and the more informed enthousiast a good mix of flying entertainment. Although the air force and defence budget in Bulgaria –like most countries in Europe- is under tremendous pressure, the Bulgarian Air Force has given their public a decent show, performed safely and enthousiastically. Recent budget cuts and developments in neighbouring countries prevented a larger turnout of aircraft in both the static show as well as the flying program. The Bulgarian Air Force is to be applauded for their efforts in organizing such an international event, including the special one-off 100 Years conference.

Latest news: Bulgaria postpones purchase of new multi-role fighters

Defense Minister Anyu Angelov released a statement on October 26th 2011, explaining that Bulgaria is to postpone a tender for eight new or second-hand multi-role fighters to replace their current fleet of dated MiG-21bis/UM and Su-25K jets. Budget cuts on a national level prevent the Air Force from proceeding with the tender in 2012. Work on preparing the tender is to proceed, but inevitably the introduction date of 2014/15 is expected to slip at least by one year.

Representatives of EADS and SAAB already confirmed to us during BIAF 2011 that they had serious concerns on the follow-up of their answers to the Bulgarian RFI, which they had delivered mid-April 2011. The replacement aircraft are o.a. needed for NATO compatibility issues and are not directly needed for air policing of QRA duties, since their MiG-29s (dating from 1989/90) are to serve until around 2025.

To cater for this longer use, Bulgaria signed a new maintenance and repair contract with RAC MiG for the MiG-29s during the show. Although the MiG-29 is not a formal contender for the purchase, the Russian manufacturer chose to show the OVT (variable thrust vectoring) variant at BIAF, where the demonstration was warmly welcomed by the public. EADS showed their Eurofighter for the first time in Bulgaria at BIAF 2011, while SAAB flew in operational jets and pilots from Sigonella (Italy), where they are flying combat missions in support of the UN-enforced no-fly zone over Libya



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