|2011 was the hundredth anniversary of aviation in Bulgaria, a perfect theme for the Bulgarian International Aviation Festival, with the Bulgarian air force at a crossroad.
The airshow was held at Krumovo, a few kilometres south of Bulgaria's second largest city, Plovdiv. Krumovo is home to the Bulgarian air force's helicopter base and a civilian airport. Opposite the civilian airport I the national aviation museum, with over 50 aircraft displayed in open air and a smaller exhibition inside. Also open to the public during the festival was the museums restoration center. This museum alone is wll worth a visit as it contains some splendid exhibits.
During the show, there was a ground parade of 3 vintage aircraft, but the main focus of the show lay with the present and future.
The Bulgarian air force presented itself extensively. The home-team Mi-17s performed a flag fly-by and a fire-suppression demonstration using a bambi-bucket. Another Mi-17 also featured in a setpiece which further involved a PC-9, an SU-25, 2 Cougars, 2 Mig-21s and a C-27 Spartan. Rounding off the present-day Bulgarian air force demonstration was a nice and tight Mig-29 solo demonstration. The planned race with a formula 2 car on Saturday was cancelled due to a technical problem with the Mig.
Watch the complete report above (53 minutes)
For many Bulgarian visitors, the highlights of the show were part of the future chapter of the show, which has everything to do with Bulgaria's search for a new fighter aircraft to replace the Mig-21, SU-25 and eventually Mig-29, a competition which has been postponed until 2013 in the meantime. In the static park, the audience could see 2 contenders in that competition, a pair of USAF F-16s and a pair of Italian Typhoons. In the air, three of the candidates performed on each day: the Swedish air force Gripen, a German Typhoon flown by EADS test pilot Chris Worning and the awesome Mig-29OVT, which appeared following special dispensation granted by Russian Prime Minister Putin.
BIAF 2011 was a relaxed show with some real highlights and rare items. For photographers the lack of fences to keep visitors from swarming over the static aircraft was obviously a negative point. Getting to the show was a breeze, with a free bus service from the center of Plovdiv or with one of the cheap extra trains, also from Plovdiv. Not the biggest airshow in Europe in 2011, but certainly one well worth a visit, in combination with a city trip to Plovdiv!
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by Chris Janssens
Lay-out and content by Chris Janssens, 2005 - present