HISTORY

From the establishment of Sofia Airport on 16 September 1937, through the 20th century that witnessed significant aviation developments, to the most recent history of the largest Bulgarian international airport.
 

16 SEPTEMBER 1937 – TO THE END OF THE CENTURY

The first airfield in the city of Sofia was located on the territory of the present Central Railway Station. The first domestic flights began with the transportation of mail shipments along two routes: Sofia – Gorna Oryahovitsa – Varna – Ruse and Sofia – Plovdiv – Yambol – Burgas.

Since the early 30s of 20th century, all flights were operated from the unpaved runway in the village of Vrazhdebna, later chosen for the construction of a civil airport by a Decree of Tzar Boris III, dated 16 September 1937. This is considered to be the birth date of Sofia Airport.

Airport construction was carried out under the governance of the Directorate of Civil Aviation to the Ministry of Railways, Posts and Telegraphs.

In 1939 Sofia Airport opened its first passenger waiting-room, and two years later it was followed by a completely finished airfield with a paved runway. Nine years later the first concrete runway was constructed of 1050 meters in length.

In 1949 Bulgarian-Soviet Transport Aviation Corporation TABSO was established to set the beginning of scheduled international flights operating on routes connecting Sofia to other European capital cities.

From 1951 to 1965 the existing passenger terminal and the runway were renovated by stages, the runway being extended to 2720 m to accommodate modern large turbo-jet aircraft.

The following years were characterized by rapid air traffic growth, which required multifold capacity increase – a separate terminal was appointed for domestic flights to Varna, Burgas, Ruse, Gorna Oryahovitsa, Vidin, and Targovishte, and later a new building was constructed to accommodate passengers arriving on international flights. Meanwhile, the runway underwent repair works several times, new aeronautical equipment was installed corresponding to the dynamically changing requirements of modern turbo-jet civil aviation.

In the 90s “Sofia Airport” was established as an independent entity by a Decision of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria.

At the dawn of the new century, a new Master Plan for the extension and modernization
of Sofia Airport existing infrastructure was adopted, with a main objective to ensure the capacity necessary
for the rapid aviation industry development through providing a contemporary airport services
standard and high level of safety and security of flights.

21ST CENTURY

In 2000, Sofia Airport Terminal 1 was totally renovated – the Departure Hall was extended, and a separate building was designated for arriving passengers. Spread over an area of 15 000 sq m, with capacity of 1.8 million passengers per year, the Terminal built during the first half of 20th century still bears the imprint of the architectural influences of that time – massive chandeliers of wrought iron and natural stone wall mosaics – that can be seen nowadays by the passengers using low cost and charter airlines.

On 31 August 2006, Sofia Airport opened its new runway, offset at 210 m to the north from the old one, the east end of the 3600 m-long runway crossing over Iskar River bed on a specially constructed bridge. New taxiways were constructed additionally allowing for 20 aircraft movements per hour at a high level of safety. The aeronautical equipment of the new runway guarantees landing under low visibility conditions at Category IIIA of ICAO standards.

On the eve of Bulgarian accession to European Union, Sofia Airport celebrated its 70th anniversary with a new appearance – 27 December 2006 marked the opening of Terminal 2. With annual capacity of 2.6 million passengers, Terminal 2 was designed to allow for a future extension to meet the requirements of the fast developing traffic during the next decade. Indeed, in December 2013 Terminal 2 was extended to the north, which increased its passenger capacity with about 200 000 per year.

The central building of Terminal 2 rests on a total area of 56 850 m², its pier stretching out to 242 m with 7 passenger boarding bridges and bus exits. The access to the eight levels of the terminal building is facilitated by 12 elevators and 7 escalators. A passageway connects the halls to the 800-space parking garage.

Terminal 2 has commercial units on a total area of more than 4000 m² offering passengers a variety of services - restaurants, coffee-bars, shops, tourist and rent-a-car services, bank offices and bureaux de change.

The automated baggage handling system with integrated four-level security control, the thirty-four check-in desks, and the modern flight information display system are only part of the facilities providing high level of customer service to 2000 passengers per peak hour.

In April 2009 Sofia Airport finished the construction of a noise protection screen at the aircraft engine testing platform. Constructing the screen and centralizing aircraft de-icing procedures at two platforms, Sofa Airport demonstrated its social commitment to the people living in the regions immediately affected by the airport operating activities.

The unique for the Balkans region equipment secures noise reduction through a solid acoustic barrier placed between the noise producer and the people exposed to its harmful impact. Its noise abatement effect during aircraft engines testing is about 17 dB(A), with 15 dB(A) prognosticated.

In the same year the process of Terminal 2 integration into the surrounding environment was completed. The reconstruction of an old stone pit and the preservation of the natural characteristics of the area, Iskar River being part of it, lead to the creation of a unique park area. Located north-east to Terminal 2 building, occupying a total area of 365 da, having a completed alley network, an amphitheatre and a natural lake, the park is an alternative stage for cultural events.

WHAT ELSE?

On 05 December 2012 a new control tower of State Enterprise "Air Traffic Services Authority" was open in the airport area to improve aeronautical services quality and efficiency. The project complements naturally the development of the airport complex and has direct connection to the reconstruction and extension of Sofia Airport. With total floorage of 2 400 sq m and height of 50 m, the tower located north of Terminal 2 is in accordance with the latest tendencies in Europe and has more than 40-year lifetime.

To the west of the airport control tower “Lufthansa Technik Sofia” is located. The enterprise is the fifth highly competitive base for repair and maintenance of narrow-body aircraft established by Lufthansa Technik Group in Europe.

WHAT’S NEW?

To maintain its high standards of passenger and aeronautical services, Sofia Airport plans to implement a series of infrastructural changes in close relation to the need of removing bottlenecks and increasing the capacity of the airport facilities. In this regard, Sofia Airport intends to purchase and install two additional passenger boarding bridges, to construct a new taxiway, to extend the existing eastern de-icing platform and to set up a separate apron for business aviation.