Bulgaria, April 2009

Written by: Ivo Boscarol
In the second half of April (17-19 April 2009) I travelled to Bulgaria to visit our potential future Bulgarian distributor - the company Flying School LBDB Airport from Dolna Bania.
First of all, I must express my gratitude to Capt. Vatko Beshliev and all his friends and cooperatives - the entire visit was very well organised and professionally prepared. Despite arriving during the Orthodox Easter holidays, Mr Vatko and his team managed to arrange for me the meetings with many leading people of Bulgarian CAA (Civil Aviation Authority), so I could talk to them about possibilities of certification and importing our planes to Bulgaria.
As I arrived to the capital city of Sofia, everything was festively decorated for the occasion of the Orthodox Easter and the festive spirit was everywhere.
From Sofia I continued my path to Dolna Bania. The city lies at the foot of a large mountain, in the direct proximity of the largest Bulgarian ski resort Borovec and the highest peak in the country (Musala, 2925m).
It is also the home of my generous host, his company and flight school.
Capt. Vatko Beshliev in his office
The LBDB Airport Flying School can boast with top technology and equipment. Their hangar houses many planes, among other also a Pipistrel's Sinus!
I was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful and very tidy environment, the neighborhood which was tended to with almost Swiss-like precision and the very efficient organisation of the operation of the school and the airport.
The airport has an asphalt runway and the building of the flight school is very modern and comfortable. A complex of buildings is being constructed next to the runway - the so-called "AirParc" - a series of houses for the owners of the planes.
Also, the largest golf court in the country is being built at the opposite side of the airport - it will cover over 100 acres of land and feature over 100 luxurious villas for golf players.

I had the honour to meet Mr Tsvetan Doganov, a friend of Mr. Vatko, ex- MIG 21 pilot, director of the Bulgarian CAA and holder of a doctorate title from the field of aeronautic science. Mr Doganov is enjoying his retirement in a beautiful house (close to the airfield).
He took us flying around Bulgaria in several planes - under his skilful guidance we visited several other flying centres around the country.
The first stop was the next closest airfield, called "Crna Gora".
As soon as the door of the hangar opened, I was literally struck dumb with surprise. I laid my eyes upon a life-sized and flying replica of Albatross in all its gargantuan dimensions! This amazing plane was built entirely by Vatko himself.
It's a pity that such an achievement is hidden from public eye in a hangar - it would deserve to be the main attraction in one of the largest aircraft museums of the world!
I haven't yet had time to calm down when I was rendered speechless by the next surprise. Our next stop was the estate of the Flight Training Organisation "Air Sofia".
The enormous dimensions of the centre and the innovative ideas of the owner, Mr Todorov, simply can't leave anybody unaffected.
Mr Vatko and Mr Todorov
The flight centre includes an airfield, several hangars, a flight school, several maintenance areas, a huge golf court (it seems that combining golf with flying is a winning formula in Bulgaria), even a horse stable, a corral and a riding school, tennis courts, swimming pools, several  restaurants, bars and more.
One of the amazing ideas of the owner - to build a restaurant around a plane - so that it is possible to have a look and even sit in the fuselage of the plane, but parts of it poke out of the building!
On the way back I was stunned by the view from the Sinus - the landscape was truly breath-takingly beautiful!
I also had the chance to learn that all Bulgarians seem to be passionate smokers, so it is virtually imposible to find a place where smoking would be forbidden. It is considered perfectly natural everywhere, even in restaurants and public places.
Even our Sinus was adapted accordingly ;)
On the final day of my visit I also learned that Bulgarians are a very friendly folk and they can certainly value good food and good company. I was invited for a meal to a restaurant in the middle of pristine nature. The building was adorned with beautiful wooden sculptures. The entire place looked like a fairy-tale villa.

I would like to express my gratitude to Capt. Vatko Beshliev and his company Flying School LBDB Airport from Dolna Bania, his cooperatives and everyone who helped to organize my stay in Bulgaria. It was an unforgettable experience and I'm looking forward to our future cooperation.
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