Czechs to be first passengers at Bulgaria's new airport in Balchik

Bulgaria's brand-new Black Sea airport in the northeastern town of Balchik is set to welcome its first passengers after being transformed from a military into civilian airport, its director announced.

On May 3, Thursday, Balchik Airport will receive a 9-seat passenger jet from the Prague Airport Ruzyne in the Czech Republic, according to Krasimir Kostov, chief of the newest Bulgarian airport.

As of September 21, 2011, the military airport in Balchik was transferred by the Bulgarian Council of Ministers from the Defense Ministry to the Transport Ministry in order to become the third international airport on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast after Varna Airport and Burgas Airport. It can still be used by the Bulgarian military, should the necessity arise, according to the inter-institutional agreement.

For the time being, however, the new Bulgarian Black Sea airport can receive only small passenger jets and is not equipped to service larger planes.

"If the airport is well-managed it would be profitable, and can generate positive financial results," stated Krasimir Kostov, a former officer of the Bulgarian Air Force who has been working at the Balchik Airport since 1985.

In June, the new airport is set to host an international aviation festival as a promotion initiative.

The military airport in Bulgaria's Black Sea town of Balchik – which was to be transformed into a commercial civilian airport by the summer of 2012 – has been declared a strategic national security facility.

Thus, Balchik Airport is the sixth civilian airport in Bulgaria to be declared a strategic national security site in addition to Sofia, Varna, Plovdiv, Burgas, and Gorna Oryahovitsa.

In the summer of 2011, the Bulgarian government set up a limited liability company, Balchik Airport EOOD, with a capital of BGN 390 000, fully-stated owned. In August, 2011 Bulgaria's Cabinet assigned the management of the future civilian airport at the Black Sea town of Balchik to Sofia International Airport. In June and July 2011, the Borisov Cabinet moved to turn the inactive military airport near Balchik into a third international airport on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast alongside Varna Airport and Burgas Airport.

The Balchik Airport runway is located 800 m east of the Levski Quarter of the town of Balchik, on a plot of 460 hectares; it is 60 m wide and 2 500 m long, and could be extended north by 3 500 m.

The Bulgarian government expects that the future Balchik Airport will take up about one-third of the flights that are currently served by Varna Airport, located 40 km to the south.

In early July 2011, Bulgaria's Cabinet decided it would invest BGN 30 M in the reconstruction of the military airport near the Black Sea resort of Balchik in order to transform it into a civilian airport.

Balchik Airport is located very close to the top resorts on Bulgaria's northern Black Sea coast – Albena and Golden Sands, among several others. At present, two international airport are serving the Bulgarian Black Sea coast – Varna Airport and Burgas Airport.

The Borisov Cabinet has revamped measures to revive several defunct airports around Bulgaria – including Gorna Oryahovitsa Airport near Veliko Tarnovo, and Straklevo Airport near Ruse; defunct airports in other locations such as Targovishte and Vidin could also be put on the table.

As Bulgaria's Cabinet plans to offer on concession Sofia International Airport, it remains unclear for the time being if the future airport in Balchik will be made part of the concession package.

Balchik Airport was set up as a civilian airport in 1935 when the region of Southern Dobrudzha was part of Romania after it was occupied as Bulgaria was on the losing side in World War I. In 1941, after Southern Dobrudzha was returned to Bulgaria, it was used by the air forces of Bulgaria and Nazi Germany. After 1944, it was used by the Soviet Union, and remained a military airport of the Bulgarian Air Force until September 2011.

In 1960-1961, the airport in Balchik was a civilian airport for one year servicing the traffic of Varna Airport, which underwent reconstruction. For that period, the military flights were services by a facility near Dobrich.

Source: Sofia News Agency