Bulgarian government shows off first of country’s six medical helicopters

Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov, the ministers of transport and of health, as well as other officials on February 2 showed off Bulgaria’s first emergency medical helicopter, an A109S Trekker manufactured by Italy’s Leonardo firm.

The aircraft, which landed in Sofia this week after a flight from Italy, is the first of six of which Bulgaria will take delivery. The acquisition was made possible with European Union funding.

Denkov said that it was a celebratory day for Bulgarian health care.

“There were obstacles, so along with the thanks to the European Commission, to the Ministry of Health, I want to congratulate the Minister of Transport Georgi Gvozdeikov,” Denkov said.

“His efforts began during the Petkov cabinet, but were blocked,” he said, referring to the caretaker government appointed by President Roumen Radev having shut down the acquisition, which was resumed after the Denkov government took office in June 2023.

“He (Gvozdeikov) did not give up, presented the coordination to the various institutions and we got here. By the end of this year, we may enjoy two more such high-tech machines. In one or two years, this will be standard,” Denkov said.

Health Minister Hristo Hinkov said: “I am convinced that the opportunities that will be provided by the specific air transport will bring the entire system of the emergency help at a new, high-quality level.

“Modern technology and professionally trained pilots, medical teams and operators will contribute to this. They will coordinate and carry out patients, equipment, organs and medicines from and to any geographical point in Bulgaria if necessary,” Hinkov said.

According to the schedule, at the end of June this year, the second helicopter intended for the base of operations in Dolna Mitropolia should arrive, and in December the third is expected, which will be available at the base of operations in Sliven. The remaining air ambulances will come in stages by 2026.

The first six Bulgarian pilots who completed training in Italy have already received their certificates of flying ability. They were handed to them personally by Denkov at a ceremony in December.

A total of 36 pilots and 14 engineers are expected to work in the air ambulance system. On board the machine there will also be medical personnel who are currently undergoing the relevant training. At the end of February, it is expected that the helicopter will be able to participate in rescue missions.

(Main photo: Sofia municipality)

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