A Bulgarian Air Force (Bulgarski Voennovazdushni Sili, BVVS) PC-9M trainer damaged in a forced landing in 2010 has recently been returned to airworthiness. Serial 665 (c/n 665) has been rebuilt by Pilatus at its factory in Stans-Buochs. The aircraft is seen here returning from a test flight on January 31.
The PC-9M is currently the BVVS workhorse for initial and basic flight training. Six were ordered in December 2003, in a contract valued at around $33m (this figure also included a single PC-12/45 utility transport). Delivery took place in November and December 2004.
The military and theoretical training of future BVVS officers is carried out at the ‘Vasil Levski’ National Military University (NMU) in Veliko Tarnovo. This is a four-year training course for officers who graduate with a bachelor university degree. In the past, students destined for the BVVS spent their first academic school year in Veliko Tarnovo but since 2015 have begun studies at the NMU’s Aviation Facility at Dolna Mitropolya. Co-located at Dolna Mitropolya is the BVVS’ ‘Georgy Benkovski’ Training Air Group, which controls a single flying squadron equipped with the PC-9M and the L-39ZA.
Students selected to undergo pilot training begin flying training on the PC-9M upon completion of their second academic year. By the time they graduate from the NMU they have 50 to 60 flight hours under their belts and are promoted to lieutenants. They continue flight training at Dolna Mitropolya for another two to three years.
BVVS C-in-C in 2014, Maj Gen Radev, introduced an accelerated flight-training programme for young and talented pilots, aimed at solving a growing problem with flight training. At the time, the existing system was judged inefficient as it took a very long time for trainees to be deemed suitably proficient to convert to frontline fighters. The new system, enforced by Maj Gen Radev, involves intensive training of a small number of carefully selected young pilots for the fighter and attack branches, with a total of 190 to 200 flight hours on the PC-9M (including time logged by the young pilots while studying in the MNU). This covers the initial, basic and even a proportion of the advanced phase. The remainder of the advanced and all lead-in fighter training, some 130 to 150 more hours, are then flown on the L-39ZA.