Gliding in Bulgaria (and in global scale) began in the early 20-th century. Since it’s beginning, gliding in Bulgaria has been closely connected to various military and para-military structures in the country.
The first activities involving gliding and soaring in Bulgaria have been developed mostly by ex-military trainees with experience in gliding in Germany and Russia between WW1 and WW2. Just before the beginning of WW2 gliding in Germany, and later in Bulgaria becomes a good starting point for training young military pilots for the needs of military aviation.
After WW2 gliding in Bulgaria develops mostly as a part of the National Organisation for Military Aid (NOMA – bulgarian “OSO”). NOMA is under military command and focuses on sports training of the youth. The lose cooperation between Bulgaria and the former USSR after the war allows for frequent experience exchange between bulgarian and russian glider pilots. Both countries host frequent training camps for experience exchange. Bulgaria proves itself as a perfect destination for mountain wave training. Russian and Bulgarian pilots reach altitudes of up to 11 000 m over the capital “Vitosha”mountain.
During the 1950-s and 1960-s, Bulgaria starts it’s own production of gliders and sailplanes. Some of the most famous models are “Galab” (Dove) and “Cometa” (Comet). Many of the country and national records in those years are set with the new planes.
The 1970-s and 1980-s mark th peak of the Bulgarian gliding scene. Bulgaria is a host of many training camps and international competitions which aim to improve the abilities of the Bulgarian pilots..
Gliding is mainly supported by NOMA. The Bulgarian state acquires many new aircraft – predominantly Blanik L-13 and SZD – Jantar. Many gliding training centers are open all over the country. Some of the biggest ones are – Shumen, Kazanlak, Stara Zagora, Sliven, Plovdiv, Montana and Sofia. Since NOMА is a sub-military organisation, training is conducted under a militarized model heavily influenced by the countries political orientation at the time.
During the 1980-s Bulgaria is a host of a few big scale international competitions one of which is the 5-th European Women Gliding Championship in Shumen in 1987. Bulgarian competitors take part in some of the world gliding championships.
At the end of the 1990-s with the end of the communist regime, the Bulgarian state closes down all sub-military organisations such as NOMA. unfortunately this marks the end of the organised glider flying in Bulgaria for the next 20 years. The planes owned by the OSO (NOMA) are sold for “scrap” in dubious privatization schemes . Some of the higher level planes such as the national teams – 2 LS4s mysteriously disappear without a trace!. Some of the state owned Blanik L-13 are bought by private owners trying to conserve the sport.
In our days
Since the mid 90s till 2015 gliding in Bulgaria practically doesn’t exist. Although technically gliding is subject to regulation by the Bulgarian CAA, regulation of the sport does not exist. The country doesn’t have active glider pilots or registered glider planes.
During the last few years separate groups of people and private owners are trying to revive the Bulgarian gliding scene by organizing training and licensing mostly outside of the country.
Between 2016 – 2018 a few new gliding clubs were created in the country. Most active from them being – aeroclub Kazanlak – composed mainly from private owners and aeroclub “Ludogorie”- Blagoevo (Razgrad) – which is currently the only fully functional DTO in Bulgaria.
Currently Bulgaria has 2 Declared Training Organisations (DTO) -approved by the Bulgarian CAA. Theoretical preparation can be completed in both organisations but full training is available only in Aeroclub “Ludogorie”. Since there are still no certified Flight Instructor Examiners, training is conducted by external instructors mainly from central Europe. The training in DTO is according to EASA SPL programs and training norms. Glider registration unfortunately is complicated by inefficient CAA procedures.
Closest alternatives for training and licensing are in Romania, central Europe (Austria, Germany, Poland, Italy) and the UK.