86th Baza - Mihail Kogalniceanu

Following on from a morning spent at Bucharest-Otopeni, the next destination for the Romanian tour took us to Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base located in the South East of the Country at which we would spend the afternoon.

Mihail Kogalniceanu International Airport serves the Dobrogea region of the country giving access to Constanta and other Romanian Black Sea resorts. The airport itself is used as an annex to the 86th Baza Aeriana Fetesti-Borcea, which at the time of our visit was closed for renovation works, thus meaning all aircraft were operating from the reserve field of Mihail Kogalniceanu.

Arriving just after lunch, we were greeted at the main gate by our escorts Lieutenant Tudor and Major Oancea. Following a security check, we boarded a bus which would transport us to the active military ramp used by the Romanians. On our way from the main gate, both Lieutenant Tudor and Major Oancea made us feel very welcome, explaining the role the 86th Baza plays for the Romanian Air Force, along with which units operate under the Wing and a brief history that preceded the current set up.

Mihail Kogalniceanu was once home to the 57th Baza of the Romanian Air Force, flying Mikoyan MiG-29’s until it was decided to withdraw them from service in early 2003. A year later the 57th Baza was disbanded leaving the retired aircraft in open air storage whilst they awaited their fate. Since 1999, the airfield has been regularly used by the US Air Force who themselves have put a lot of money into redeveloping the facilities. Also operating under the 57th Baza were a number of IAR-330L’s, who transferred to the 86th Baza after the disbandment. Under the new guise of the 86th Baza, the 861st and 862nd Fighter Squadrons operated at their new home a short distance away at Fetesti-Borcea flying MiG-21A/B and C’s. Eventually though, the 862nd Fighter Squadron was stood down as the MiG-21A’s were withdrawn from service or earmarked for upgrade. In its current state whilst works are ongoing at the 86th Baza, Mihail Kogalniceanu hosts the following squadrons (Escadrila's):

  • Esc. 861 Fighter Squadron – Operating MiG-21B/C LanceR’s
  • Esc. 863 Helicopter Squadron – Operating IAR-330L’s

Once our transport dropped us off at the active ramps, Lieutenant Tudor and Major Oancea showed us around the active MiG-21’s before flying for the afternoon commenced. Present was a pair of MiG-21B’s – the twin seat trainer variant and 4 MiG-21C’s – the single seat fighter variant. After having a good look at the aircraft and taking a number of photo’s, we positioned on a grassed area between the taxiway and the active runway for a launch of two MiG-21B’s who were due up on a training sortie. We were only a matter of 100 feet from the runway as the MiG’s took off, an experience that will remain at the forefront of our minds for a very long time. Within 45 minutes the MiG’s were back on approach for their recovery. Once they were down, it wasn’t long before the four MiG-21C’s were prepping for their sortie, allowing us to get photos of the pilots crewing in and taxiing out to the runway holding point. A quick move back to the runway allowed us to witness all four depart. The ground crew in this time had turned both MiG-21B’s round allowing for another afternoon training sortie. After watching these depart once more, one with a very impressive zoom climb, we were taken over to the IAR-330’s for a quick look around. The helicopters here operate a medivac and transport role with 4 airframes on the ground during our visit.

Aviation in Action would once again like to extend our thanks to the Romanian Air Force for allowing us the opportunity of this visit, the access and hospitality was truly outstanding. We would further like to thank the following:

  • Lieutenant Tudor – Public Relations and Administrative Centre, Mihail Kogalniceanu
  • Major Oancea – Public Relations, 86th Baza Fetesti-Borcea
  • Finally the crew and pilots of the 86th Baza for being so welcoming and accommodating, keen to show us how passionate they were about their Air Force.

 

 

Credits: Article and photography by Darren Willmin, additional imagery by Aaron Paxton