Bulgarian Defence Minister: Reports of Mutiny by Air Force Pilots Exaggerated
(Source: Sofia Globe; posted Oct 24, 2017)
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer
Having let its air force run down since the end of the Cold War, Bulgaria is now facing a revolt by combat pilots unwilling the risk their lives on MiG-29 fighters whose airworthiness they question. (USAF photo)
Bulgarian Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov told a hastily-convened news conference on October 24 that reports that Air Force pilots had refused to take off for training flights had been blown out of proportion.

Reports in the morning had said that Bulgarian Air Force pilots scheduled for training flights at Graf Ignatievo base near Plovdiv had refused en masse, because of safety concerns and low morale sparked by delays in the acquisition of new fighter jets.

Karakachanov told the early evening news conference that he wanted to put forward an explanation for the “misunderstanding that was blown up today in the media”.

He said that there was normal communication between the Defence Ministry and the Air Force leadership. There were problems in military aviation, but every effort was being made to overcome them.

Referring to the problem of MiG-29 engines – new and overhauled – supplied by Russia but not put into use because of questions about the documentation, Karakachanov said that the engines would be used once the questions had been resolved.

“We cannot violate this contract and sign additional agreements and protocols, because our principal concern is the life of the pilot. Caring for human life, the person is of the highest value in the army,” Karakachanov said.

He said that for the motivation of the military, the government was providing 100 million leva (about 50 million euro) for salary increases. Karakachanov was referring to the draft Budget 2018 published by the Finance Ministry on Octobe 24, for which approval by the Cabinet and Parliament is pending.

“I do not accept talk about strikes and riots, the army is not a kindergarten, and no one has thought about such actions,” he said. “What we are doing is guaranteeing pilots airworthiness,” he said, criticising this being used for political speculation.

Karakachanov was speaking after meeting Air Force commander General Tsanko Stoykov and Graf Ignatievo air base commander General Ivan Lalov.

Lalov said that when pilots do not feel well prepared, they cannot fly. “In the morning, the pilots said that they did not feel able to perform their assigned tasks and no one could make them fly,” he said.

This was why it was not appropriate to use the word “mutiny”, Lalov said.

He said that the problem with the pilots on October 24 had arisen from “complex” reasons.

“Despite the small number we have, the flight crew is preparing and we continue to perform the tasks of air policing,” Lalov said. He had received assurances from the Defence Ministry that efforts were being made to solve the problems.

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Bulgarian Air Force Pilots Refuse Training Flights Because of Safety Concerns, Demotivation – reports (excerpt)
(Source: Sofia Globe; posted Oct 24, 2017)
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer
Scheduled training flights at the Bulgarian Air Force’s Graf Ignatievo base were suspended on October 24 as combat pilots massively refused to fly because of safety concerns and discontent over the delay in acquiring new jet fighters, several media reports said.

Policing of Bulgarian air space was going ahead as usual, with the Italian Air Force currently assisting the Bulgarian Air Force in a mission scheduled to end on October 31.

Public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio, quoting its own sources, said that combat pilots reported that they felt “psychologically unable” to fly. The pilots were demotivated because of yet another delay in the process of acquiring new fighter jets.

As The Sofia Globe has reported previously, going by statements by Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Velichkov, eight out of 10 of the overhauled MiG-29 jet fighter engines delivered to the Air Force had not been put into use because of shortcomings in the documentation about them.

Specialist website Aero said on October 24 that there was again a shortage of lubricant for the jet engines at the air force base. In May-June, there was practically a stoppage of flights at the base because of a lack of engine lubricant. In June, Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov promised that the problem would be resolved urgently.

The Defence Ministry posted a tender for the supply of engine lubricant on October 17, with a deadline of November 22 for the submission of offers. This means that the lubricant may be supplied only next year, Aero said.

According to BNR, pilots felt that conditions were dangerous and the risk of accidents was high. (end of excerpt)


Click here for the full story, on the Sophia Globe website.

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