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16 TrAB Sofia-Vrazhdebna,  27 April 2015

Sofia-Vrazhdebna airfield was built in the 1930s and established as a training base in 1937. During World War II the Luftwaffe deployed Messerschmitt Bf-109s and Bf-110s here. Although various military transport units have been based at the airport since the late 1940s, it was not until May 1993 when a separate military base (16th Transport Air Base) was established. Nowadays the airbase houses the 1/16 Transportna Avio Eskadrila (1/16 TrAE) equipped with a few operational transport aircraft.


An-2, the old workhorse

In the 1950s the Bulgarian Air Force received three An-2 Colts for various roles. These large Soviet build biplanes have been in use for many years. Only one of these is still in operational service with the Korpus Protivovazdushna Otbrana (Air Defence Corps) Headquarters. In 2015 it received a new engine which will lengthen its service life for at least one more year. The other two An-2 are preserved at Graf Ignatievo and the Plovdiv-Krumovo museum.


East meets West

In 1984 the Bulgarian Air Force acquired five Soviet build An-26 Curl transport aircraft. These were withdrawn from use after their replacement was delivered, the Alenia C-27J Spartan. All five An-26s can still be found at Sofia-Vrazhdebna Air Base. Three of these are stored and two others are parked at the TEREM facility to be sold. In 2006 the Bulgarian Air Force signed a 210 million Euro contract to purchase five Italian build C-27J Spartans. In the end only three Spartans were delivered to the Bulgarian Air Force.


Open Skies for Bulgaria

In 2002 more than 30 states signed the Open Skies Treaty, which provides unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the territory of any treaty member. The Bulgarian Air Force uses their sole An-30 Clank for their Open Skies flights. The airframe was acquired in 1976 and is still operational with the 1/16 TrAE. For their VIP transport the Bulgarian Air Force uses the Swiss build Pilatus PC-12M which was delivered in December 2003. Although in was damaged during an incident in June 2004 it is still in operational service.


Will they ever fly again?

The Bulgarian Air Force received eight L-410 Turbolets between 1984 and 1986. By 2010 all of these L-410s were withdrawn for use. The oldest “062” was send to Plovdiv-Krumovo where it can be found at the museum. The other seven L-410s stayed at their former home base Sofia-Vrazhdebna and are still in open storage here. Two of these “068” and “069” are believed to be in operational status during our visit. The other five will most likely never fly again for the Bulgarian Air Force.


The Governmental airline

On the civil side of Sofia-Vrazhdebna the VIP “A” Government Terminal is located. The Pravitelstven Aviaootryad 28 is the unit to which the aircraft/helicopters of the Bulgarian Government belong. The unit was founded in 1972, and received number 28 because of the 28th anniversary of the coup on September 9, 1944. In the past years the unit operated various VIP versions of the Il-18, Tu-134, Tu-154, Yak-40 and An-24. Nowadays the unit has more modern aircraft in its inventory like the Airbus A319, Falcon 2000 an Agusta AW-109E and two older Mi-8 Hips.


Visiting 16 TrAB Sofia-Vrazhdebna

During our visit on April 27, 2015 we were able to take photos of all operational and non-operational aircraft parked at the military part of Sofia-Vrazhdebna. We were very lucky to see some action of the An-2 which made some engine runs to test its recently installed engine. One of the L-410s that are believed to be in operational status was also connected to a power truck for some electronics tests. We also saw some real action as one of the C-27J Spartans and the PC-12M took to the sky for a local mission. Another highlight of this day was a Mi-17 Hip which just came out of overhaul at the TEREM facility. This helicopter made a short local flight, and later on it departed back to its home base 24 AB Plovdiv-Krumovo.  (Click here for a full log)





A very big thanks goes out the our guide Captain Konstantin and the crew of  1/16 TrAE based at 16 TrAB Sofia-Vrazhdebna.




Copyright © 2015 by Rob Hendriks


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