Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov has levelled criticism at the Graf Ignatievo fighter pilots who for two days have not taken off for scheduled training exercises, saying that he gets on flights when he has work to do, even if the weather is bad.
Borissov, speaking on October 25, said that the government had spent hundreds of millions of euro on the Bulgarian Air Force pilots and more had been done for them than for anyone else.
“Our governments have so far paid hundreds of millions of euro for Bulgarian pilots and very little for the land forces, sailors and others,” he told journalists.
He expressed hope that there was no “external interference” in the situation at Graf Ignatievo, saying that if there was, this would be unfair.
Borissov expressed respect for the pilots’ discomfort, “yes, the weather is bad and I get frightened in such weather, but I have fly when I have tasks to carry out”.
“We have provided them with the most expensive and modern aircraft, the Spartan. The most expensive, specially for Bulgaria, Panthers, the most expensive and modern helicopter, the Cougar, and Bulgarian pilots are flying them,” Borissov said. He added that there was a process towards spending billions on new aircraft.
He said that he had discussed the situation with Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov, who had assured him that the situation at the air force base had been resolved.
The situation at Graf Ignatievo made headlines in Bulgarian and foreign media, with reports that the MiG-29 pilots had refused to take to the air out of concern for their safety and because of low morale caused by the latest delay in the new fighter jet acquisition process. Some reports said that poor weather conditions led to the pilots not wanting to fly.
Bulgarian authorities have insisted that the pilots had not mutinied, and emphasised that policing of Bulgarian air space was proceeding as normal.
Training flights at Graf Ignatievo did not go ahead for a second day on October 25, with Bulgarian National Radio saying that it was not clear whether the suspension was the result of bad weather or the pilots again feeling “psychologically unable” to fly.