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24 VAB Plovidv-Krumovo,  29 April 2015

Plovdiv-Krumovo has both a civil and a military part. The civil part called Plovdiv Airport handles about 100.000 passengers per year. Due to its location near the popular ski resorts Bansko and Pamporovo, the airport is most active during the winter season.

 

The military part, called 24 VAB Krumovo used to house the 44th Helicopter Air Regiment (flying the Mi-2, Mi-8 and Mi-17). After reconstruction in 1994 the 23rd Attack Helicopter Air Base at Stara Zagora was disbanded one of its squadrons became the 2nd Attack Helicopter Squadron of 24 VAB (24th Helicopter Air Base).

 

The ressurection of the Hind

Of the 44 Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters the Bulgarian Air Force aquired, about 50% were left behind at Stara Zagora in a non-airworthy condition. Around 2005 only a few Hinds remained in active service, with 1/24 VAE at Krumovo. The last active Mi-24 serial "140" made its last flight in early 2010. A few Hinds were sold abroad, 15 other were stored at Krumovo and other locations across the country.

In 2014 the decision came that four Mi-24V's will be overhauled. On November 18th 2015, the first overhauled Mi-24V serial "142" made its first test flights at Sofia-Vrazhdebna. From December 10th the "142" is officially in active service again.

 

Oldies withdrawn from use

They mentioned Mi-2's and Mi-8's have been withdrawn from use at the end of the last millennium. At least twenty Mi-2 Hoplites wre obtained from Poland in 1968. Some went to the Police (now stored at Sofia-Vrazhdebna). The withdrawl began as the delivery of the Bell 206 started. The last Mi-2 was out of service in 1999. In 1969 the Bulgarian Air Force received at least twelve Mi-8 Hips from the manufacturer. One of these were sold to the Police, where it is still in active service. All other Mi-8's were withdrawn from use in 2000.

 

The 2/24 VAE nowadays

The 2/24 VAE based at Krumovo now operates the Mi-17 Hip and the AS.532 Cougar. A total of 25 Mi-17's (21 Mi-17V Hip-H and four Mi-17PP EW versions) were delievered from 1985. Three of the Electronic Warfare Mi-17PP's were deconverted. Only one "431" remained in the original status as communication jammer. This one is now stored at Krumovo. Of the 21 Hip H-'s only four remain in active service nowadays. All four were noted during our visit last April.

 

The most modern helicopter in service with the Bulgarian Air Force is the Eurocopter AS.532AL Cougar. Twelve were ordered in early 2005. Eight helicopters for tactical transport missions and four for Combat SAR. The first three Cougars were delivered in 2006, the rest followed one year later.

 

Jet Ranger Trainers

The Otdelna Uchebno Aviozveno (OUA) based at Krumovo is the Independent Training Flight. This unit operates the Bell 206 Jet Ranger III. Six helicopters were ordered in early 1999 from the manufacturer and delivered in the summer of 1999.

Two examples are equipped with high ground-clearance skids for Medevac operations. The Bell 206 was purchased to partially replace the aging Mi-2. One example, the"04" was damaged due to an incident and went to Baden, Germany for repairs. For unknown reasons this one never returned to active service.

 

Visiting 24 VAB Plovdiv-Krumovo

During our visit on April 29, 2015 we were able to take photos of all types of helicopters. When we entered the base in the morning two Bell 206's were already airborne. We were able to take some nice shots of these trainers as they flew by. One Mi-17 was also flying in the morning. It was performing some kind of Medevac training operations. Later on we went to the dispersals of the Mi-17's and Cougars. Here was saw another three Hips, but no Cougars as these were al parked inside hangars. Close to this area two Mi-17's and nine Mi-24's were parked in open storage. Thanks to the beautiful scenery this resulted in some very nice photo's. While photographing these helicopters the groundcrew towed out an AS.532 Cougar especially for us. The visit ended in the Bulgarian Museum of Aviation which is located next to the airbase. A full report on this museum can be found here(Click here for a full log)

 

 

A very big thanks goes out the our guide Krasimira of PAO and the crew of 24 VAB Plovdiv-Krumovo.

 

 

 

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