IS THERE A PILOT IN THE PLANE?

by Stamen Manolov; photography by Anthony Georgieff

Bulgaria has failed to solve the bizarre case of what appears to have been a runaway aircraft that landed at a long-abandoned airport at Targovishte in the northeast, spawning a variety of conspiracy theories.

airport bulgaria

In early June a small plane flew into Bulgarian airspace from the northwest and landed at what used to be a commercial airport near Vidin. Apparently, the aircraft refuelled. It is unclear whether the pilot or pilots got any on-the-ground assistance from anyone or just poured fuel into the plane's tank from canisters. Guards from a private security company that was supposed to protect the ruins of Vidin Airport noticed the activity and alerted the local police. But the aircraft was quicker. It took off before the police arrived.

The aircraft flew off eastward and landed at Targovishte, some 400 kilometres away. There, its passengers covered it with a piece of tarpaulin, installed a camera and left – before anyone could do a thing.

Since then the Bulgarian police and prosecutors have been unable to identify who the aircraft belonged to, why it flew through half of Bulgaria without getting intercepted and most importantly who and why flew it into this country one stormy night last June.

Reportedly, the aircraft, a 60-year-old Piper PA-23-250 Aztec, belonged to a Lithuanian, a former Air Force captain. The man, based in Panevėžys, had put it up for sale on an aviation Internet site in the UK. The asking price was $35,000. The Piper apparently took off in Lithuania, crossed Poland and Slovakia, and landed at a small airfield at Hajdúszoboszló, Hungary, where it refuelled. The Hungarian police approached but the plane took off as soon as their cars went onto the runaway. The plane then continued its journey over Serbia and Romania, and landed at Vidin. Through its voyage over several East European NATO member states it was followed by military interceptors. Except in Bulgaria.

Various Bulgarian officials, including the defence and the interior ministers, explained the aircraft was not followed because it flew at a very low altitude, 500 metres at most, to avoid a brewing storm.

Once the plane was discovered at Targovishte the local police checked it for explosives, reconnaissance equipment and narcotics. They found none.

An assortment of experts of various shades and hues were quick to promulgate wildly divergent theories about what the Piper was doing over Bulgaria. Some immediately saw Vladimir Putin's long hand: the plane was either on a top secret reconnaissance mission or just tested what NATO's response would be. Others conjectured illegal drugs or arms. Some thought the plane had been hijacked by Ukrainians desperate to flee the war. Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov said his department would release any information as soon as it became available.

So far, nothing has happened. The plane remains covered with tarpaulin on the long-abandoned airport at Targovishte. Its pilot, pilots or passengers have vanished into thin air. 

  • COMMENTING RULES

    Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

    Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

WOULD YOU BUY AN USED CAR FROM ANY OF THESE PEOPLE?
In an election campaign almost entirely dominated by finger-pointing and mudslinging the "genius" PRs of the CC-DB-DSB, or Changes Continued-Democratic Bulgaria-Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, seem to have gained the top ignominy for the worst

'SMART & BEAUTIFUL' PARKING WOES GRIP CENTRAL SOFIA
The advisors to Vasil Terziev, the mayor of Sofia, who are supposedly as "smart and beautiful" as the political parties that put him forward, must have swallowed that book several times over and mastered to perfection the craft of losing friends and alienat
NEED A CONSPIRACY THEORY?
Atanas Atanasov is a general. He was the head of the Bulgarian security service under Ivan Kostov, the Bulgarian prime minister in 1997-2001, who inimitably prompted just two reactions: love or hate.

SENIOR CLERIC GETS STATE FUNERAL
So what has a senior cleric, Patriarch Neofit, who died in March aged 78, done to deserve a state funeral replete with military salutes and a coffin being drawn by... an armoured personnel carrier?

ROTATING, ROTATING...
When it was hammered out last year with the support of Boyko Borisov's GERB (whom everyone left, right and centre of Kiril Petkov, Asen Vasilev, Hristo Ivanov and Gen Atanas Atanasov swore was the godfather of all evils to befall Bulgaria

GOING, GOING...
The cops by far outnumber the construction workers wielding chop saws inside a ladder hoist. There have been no press releases, nor the obligatory information signs to tell the public what's going on. The area has been cordoned off.

ASEN VASILEV GETS BANNED FROM BALLOT BOX
The man, who went to his native Haskovo, in southern Bulgaria, to vote in the local elections was turned away by the election authority because he failed to live up to the basic requirement of having had an address in his constituency for at least six month

PRE-ELECTION TALK
"Hey, beauty, let's go home and have sex."" I can't do it just like that. We do not even have common acquaintances.""Well, do you know Boyko Borisov?""Yes, I do.""So, let's go!"***
LONG LIVE RED ARMY MONUMENT
Other angry citizens have taken to the park, where the MOCHA is situated.

FLYING COLOURS & METEORITES
Firstly, a bright light appeared in the sky over Vidin, at the River Danube, one dark, hot and mosquito-infested night. It was reputedly followed by a loud explosion. People were mesmerised and slightly frightened.

TO 'GIVE' SOMEONE TO A PROSECUTOR
What led to that is so complicated and absurd that analysts find it difficult to explain while ordinary people prefer just to laugh it off. Here is the story briefly.

CAR OF DISCORD
Everyone who has had some work to do with the Bulgarian police should have noticed the despicable conditions in which rank and file officers often work.