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All forms of aviation have thriven in Poland since her re-establishment as a country in 1918


AIR LINES ARE OPERATED IN POLAND by the civil aviation company Polske Linje Lotnicze

AIR LINES ARE OPERATED IN POLAND by the civil aviation company Polske Linje Lotnicze, whose representative letters L.O.T. Are seen on the side of this Lockheed Electra aircraft. One of the company’s most important routes is that to Berlin; its is operated in conjunction with the German company Deutsche Lufthansa. A daily service in either direction is provided.

THE Poles have used aviation as an instrument first to aid the winning of their freedom and then as a method of communication and transport; Polish achievements in gliding, the flying of light aeroplanes and ballooning are considerable. The vigour with which Polish aviators have overcome the handicap of a severe climate in winter is characteristic of one of the most remarkable nations of Europe.

Poland, as an independent republic, came into being with the proclamation of November 9, 1918, but her people, who had borne arms in the war of 1914-18 for the various nations among whom their country was formerly partitioned, had to fight for their freedom for nearly two years against Russia; peace was made on October 12, 1920, and was ratified on March 18, 1921.

Military pilots, not all of whom were Poles, were prominent in the war for freedom. Among the foremost of them was Captain Merian C. Cooper, formerly an officer in the American Air Service. He was shot down and captured by the Germans during the war of 1914-18, and, after the Armistice, was in charge of relief work in Poland on behalf of the American Relief Administration. Moved by sympathy for Poland he resigned his post, and approached the Polish authorities with the suggestion that he should go to Paris and recruit a squadron of veteran American pilots to serve Poland. The suggestion was welcomed.

Cooper went to Paris and approached Major Cedric E. Fauntleroy, formerly chief test and ordnance pilot of the American Expeditionary Force. Fauntleroy had already received an offer to become chief test pilot for the Poles, but he preferred to cooperate with Cooper. The two enlisted K. O. Shrewsbury, George M. Crawford, E. H. Noble and A. H. Kelly, formerly of the American Air Service, and Edward C. Corsi and Carl H. Clark, who had been serving with the French. Fauntleroy was elected commander, because of his experience and seniority, and the eight pilots were presented to M. Paderewski, who was then Prime Minister of Poland. They chose to call themselves the Kosciuszko Squadron, in memory of Tadeusz Kosciuszko, the Polish patriot who aided the Americans in the War of American Independence (1775-83) and who afterwards became a great soldier.

The men crossed Germany to Poland and were joined there by Elliot W. Chess and E. P. Graves, two Americans who had flown with the Royal Flying Corps. The ten were assigned to the 7th Squadron (Pursuit) of the Second Aviation Group, with headquarters at Lwow, in the south-east of Poland. There were five Polish officers in this squadron, Ludomil Rayski, Wladyslaw Konopka, J. Weber, Alexsander Senkowski and Ludwik Idzikowski. Idzikowski was fated to perish in a forced landing in the Azores on an Atlantic flight attempt.

The machines and the pilots were veterans. The first aeroplanes were single-seat Albatross fighters with twin machine-guns mounted above the engine to fire between the propeller blades. The rate of fire, operated in synchronized action by a timing gear, was only a hundred rounds a minute, so Chess re-designed the cams that drove the mechanism and doubled the speed of both guns. When Marshal Pilsudski arrived at Lwow to review the troops the squadron performed aerobatics. The strain was too great for the Albatross biplane flown by Graves; the wing broke as he began a double roll after a series of loops. Graves was killed. Polish sympathy displayed at the funeral swept away the feeling that the Americans were foreigners, although few of them could speak more than a few words of Polish.

H. C. Rorison came from the United States to take the place of Graves. Fauntleroy divided his command into twp flights, and painted the noses of the machines of Flight No. 1 red and those of Flight No. 2 blue. This red and the fact that the pilots did not speak Polish caused several pilots trouble later.

Cold was the squadron’s worst enemy in the beginning of the adventure. A member of the British Military Mission, Major Holmes, required transport in bitter weather, and Cooper borrowed a Brandenburg two-seater, a training machine, in which he took off with his passenger. The radiator froze, and Cooper landed in a hurry in the square of a small town, pulling up within a yard of the fountain in the centre of the square.

Most of the flights were made between Lwow and Tarnopol, about eighty miles to the east, to take messages. Russian agents would tap telegraph and telephone wires and pass on information to their accomplices, hidden in the forests, for transmission to Russia by the use of portable radio sets.

Until the Poles had located these hidden stations they found that the only reliable way of transmitting orders promptly was by aeroplane. The messages were typed in single line spacing enabling a quantity of orders and correspondence to be packed tightly in metal tubes.

The pilots overcame the rigours of flying in the open-cockpit wartime machines at a temperature below zero, but the engines were not built for such work. The mechanics started the engines and warmed them up, but whether the motor would last the distance to Tarnopol was always doubtful.

One pilot took off after the mechanics had been warming up the engine for hours, but it began to give trouble before long and he tried to land at the aerodrome. The engine stopped and the landing wheels collapsed when the machine touched the frozen surface. The aeroplane turned over and was badly damaged. Bruised and furious, the pilot demanded a second machine and took off with the urgent messages. Cooper also took off, to cover the first pilot if he should have a second mishap. The first pilot’s engine kept going on this second flight, but the strap on the cowling of Cooper’s machine snapped and the wind pressure lifted the hood that covered the upper part of the engine and jammed it in front of Cooper, blocking his view; he returned to Lwow and landed without damage to himself or his aeroplane.

On another occasion, winter gales blew Corsi off his course; his petrol ran out and he landed on the snow near a forest. Corsi was a No. 1 Flight pilot; a Polish soldier saw the red nose of the machine, mistook it for a Russian aeroplane and began firing. He missed Corsi, who quickly took off his flying suit and showed his Polish uniform.

Rorison was the first pilot to engage the Russian troops. As the Russians lacked trained pilots there was no aerial combat, and the Polish aviators were engaged in attacks on ground forces. Two bombs comprised the load of an Albatross, and the two machine-guns were the main weapon. Rorison located a concentration of Russians at the railway station of a town named Wolpynee. He bombed the station and machine-gunned the troops, and then flew back to report the position of the enemy.

Rayski was appointed to a higher command, with Idzikowski as his aide. Rayski knew that there were some Italian Balila machines at Warsaw, which were said to be capable of 160 miles an hour with full military load and to carry petrol for 5½ hours. These machines had been condemned because of repeated engine failures, but Rayski persuaded the staff to allow Fauntleroy and others of the squadron to examine them before they were discarded. Fauntleroy found the trouble to be in the carburettors; the jets had been designed for petrol used in Southern Europe and for warmer temperatures. After some experiments he made jets suitable for the petrol used in Poland and for the different climate.

POLAND IS DIRECTLY LINKED BY AIR with many of the capitals of Europe

POLAND IS DIRECTLY LINKED BY AIR with many of the capitals of Europe. Warsaw is near the centre of the country and makes an ideal point for Che operation of air services. Important civil customs aerodromes along the Polish international air routes are situatej at Lwow, Poznan and Wilno. South-eastwards from Warsaw runs a trunk route that extends by way of Athens to Palestine.

The Balilas proved to be fast machines and were appreciated by the pilots who had been flying the veteran Albatrosses. Breguet bombers were used by the Poles, the Balila cooperating with them. The Kosciuszko Squadron moved with the advance of the Poles and, with the Breguet bombers, they fought an unusual combat of aircraft against river monitors and armed boats. The Russians sent a river flotilla to retake Kiev. The rivercraft were bombed by the heavy aircraft while the fighters dived and dealt with the shore batteries; when these were silenced the Breguets swooped and attacked the surviving rivercraft with machine-guns. A number of rivercraft were sunk, others went aground and were wrecked, and the Russian attack was driven off.

When a vast army of Cossack horsemen had arrived, the Poles began to fall back. The aircraft were invaluable for scouting, and the aviators developed a special technique of fighting. The diving aeroplanes frightened the Cossacks’ horses and the riders could not shoot straight. Later the Cossacks were able to retaliate by dismounting and using machine-guns against low-flying aircraft, or by tempting them to dive near nests of hidden guns; the squadron began to suffer casualties.

During the retreat of the Polish Army, Fauntleroy, while on patrol, sighted a Cossack party mining the railway along which a Polish train was nearly due. He flew back along the line and dived low above the train, but the Poles did not at first understand his signals. Only after many dives to within a few feet of the train did those in it realize that he was trying to communicate an urgent message; then the train was stopped. Fauntleroy managed to land in a field and explained matters to an English-speaking officer in the train. Soldiers from the train then attacked the Cossacks on the flank while Fauntleroy attacked them from the air. When the Cossacks had been disposed of, the Poles dug the mines up and resumed the journey in safety.

Attacked by Cossacks

The Poles were driven back to Warsaw until they gained the decisive, victory which ended this war. Other-Americans and Poles joined the Kosciuszko Squadron to replace casualties; one member, T. V. McCallum, who was killed, was a Canadian. The founder, Cooper, was shot down by Cossacks but saved his life by his resourcefulness.

While he was unconscious the Cossacks stripped Cooper of his outer clothes and, when he came to, they rode round him preparing to kill him with their sabres. Cooper told them that he was a worker and showed the scars on his hands caused by mechanical work with aircraft engines. He also said that he was not an officer but a Corporal Frank Mosher, and as evidence showed that name stencilled on his underclothing. The underclothing was surplus from the American Expeditionary Force stores in France. Cooper’s life was spared and he escaped. The squadron was demobilized in May 1921.

During those momentous years an air mail was maintained between Paris and Warsaw via Coblenz and Berlin. Later a route Warsaw-Vienna-Strasbourg-Paris was flown. The achievements of the military pilots bad demonstrated the value of aircraft for mail carrying, and by 1923 the services within the borders of Poland and to capitals outside it, such as Prague, Vienna, Budapest and Paris, were considerable.

THE DOUGLAS AIR LINER which inaugurated the trunk service from Poland to Palestine in 1937

THE DOUGLAS AIR LINER which inaugurated the trunk service from Poland to Palestine in 1937, on the aerodrome at Warsaw. This air route is one of the longest in Europe and provides a service from Helsinki, in Finland, to Lydda, in Palestine. Between Warsaw and Bucharest the service runs daily in either direction; beyond Bucharest the service runs three times a week.

The services extending to other European countries were operated in collaboration with those countries. The Germans objected to French machines flying over their territory, however, and the route between Warsaw and Paris was therefore altered to one from Warsaw to Prague, Innsbruck, Zurich and Paris. Test flights were made between Lwow and Bucharest to provide experience for a regular Polish-Romanian service with Junkers machines, and a route from Danzig, on the Baltic, to Warsaw, and Lwow was linked with this. The route from Warsaw to Budapest was then extended to Belgrade. Another important link from Warsaw was to Cracow, on the Polish side of the Carpathian mountains.

Meanwhile Polish aviators were beginning long distance flights. Colonel Rayski made a 5,000 miles flight in a Breguet all-metal machine from Paris to Warsaw, Casablanca, Athens and Constantinople. A long distance nonstop flight was made in 1928 by a Fokker monoplane powered by three Wright Whirlwind motors. The machine left Poland and, piloted by Lieut. Kalina, with Lieut. Czalas and a mechanic, flew to Cairo, back to Poland and then to Baghdad. The aeroplane arrived over Baghdad in the early hours and circled waiting for daylight. The pilot descended in the half light and the machine struck a flood protection bank; Czalas was fatally injured. Major Idzikowski and Major Kubala went to Paris in 1928 to make an attempt on the Atlantic with an Amiot biplane powered by a 650 horsepower Loraine-Dietrich motor. They took off on August 3 from Le Bourget and were seen by a trawler about sixty miles from Lorient, after which nothing was heard for eighteen hours. The machine did not carry radio, and anxiety increased until a ship about a hundred miles from the Azores reported an aeroplane. The position was, however, north-east of the Azores instead of west of those islands, and when another ship, a hundred miles farther to the east, reported that an aeroplane had circled round her and then flown towards Europe it was evident that the aviators were in trouble. Then a third ship’s radio sent news that an aeroplane had descended in the sea about sixty miles from Cape Finisterre, off the north-west coast of Spain, and that both airmen were safe aboard her. The aeroplane had been well on the way to America when the oil feed began to give trouble. Idzikowski turned back when he was 300 miles beyond the Azores and had been flying for twenty hours. The two men had started with petrol for forty-eight hours, chocolate, chicken and coffee, parachutes and a collapsible dinghy. The machine came down near the ship, but capsized so that both men had to swim for their lives. Kubala slipped on the deck when he boarded the ship, but otherwise the two did not come to any harm.

Success of British Engines

The two Poles made another attempt in July 1929 at the same time as Costes and Bellonte, the French partners (see the chapter “Famous French Partnerships”). The two machines took off from Le Bourget within an hour of each other on July 13, and both encountered bad weather. The Frenchmen turned back and reached France, but Idzikowski attempted to land on the islet of the Azores and crashed. Kubala was injured and Idzikowski was killed. Idzikowski was one of the best pilots Poland has produced and his work in collaboration with Rayski did much to advance Polish aviation.

The Poles realized the value of the Bristol Jupiter engine and ordered a large number of these British air-cooled motors to power the French machines used by their air force in 1925. When the Bristol Mercury followed the Jupiter the later type of engine was adopted. The Bristol and Pegasus engines are made under licence by the Government-controlled Polsky Zaklady Lotnicze-Wytwornia Silnikow, the Polish national aero-engine factory at Warsaw. This concern produced Skoda engines of the radial air-cooled type when it was the Polish Skoda. It is also the National Aircraft Establishment, and is known as the PZL.

A POLISH AIR LINER at the end of its journey to Palestine

A POLISH AIR LINER at the end of its journey to Palestine. On the way from Warsaw the aeroplane calls at airports in Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and the island of Rhodes. The aircraft is a Douglas seventeen-seater DC-2. Among other types of aeroplanes used by the Polish civil aviation company are Lockheed Electra, Junkers Ju.52 and Fokker F.VII.

The PZL P.XIC is a single-seat fighter monoplane powered by a Bristol Mercury or PZL Mercury of 500 or 700 horse-power. The PZL P-XXIV is similar to the P.XIC, but is powered by a Gnome-Rhone engine. The PZL XXIII is a long range bombing and reconnaissance low - wing cantilever monoplane with three seats, powered by a Pegasus engine of 600-680 or 570-590 horse-power. RWD aircraft are produced by the Doswiadczalne Warsztaty Lotnicze (Aeronautical Experimental Works) of Warsaw, the initials being those of Rogalski, Wigura and Drzewiecki, who were designers of the Technical High School at Warsaw. The aeronautical section of the school produced machines which did so well in competitions in Poland that the Government decided to place workshops at the disposal of the section and the works were formed.

The RWD-5 machine was flown solo by the Polish pilot Stanislaw Skarzinski across the South Atlantic from St. Louis, Senegal, to Maceio, Brazil, in 1933. The machine was powered by a 105 horse-power Cirrus-Hermes engine. It was one of a number of light aircraft produced. Some of the models won international races flown in Poland, and others were training and commercial types. The RWD-8 is a two-seat training high-wing monoplane, powered by a 110 horse-power P.Z. Inz. Junior engine, or the 120 horse-power P.Z. Inz. Major, Walter Major, or D.H. Gipsy Major. The RWD-11 is a twin-engined low-wing commercial monoplane seating six passengers in addition to two crew.

Although air communication with Germany was retarded by political considerations, the difficulties were smoothed out and a route established to close this gap. The civil aviation company is Polske Linje Lotnicze (L.O.T.), whose services afford communication from the Baltic Sea to the Levant and Palestine and link Warsaw with the European network of services. The route to Berlin is operated in conjunction with the Deutsche Lufthansa. The fleet of the company includes the following types of modern air liners; Douglas D.C.2, Lockheed Electra, Junkers Ju.52 and Fokker F.VII.

Route to the Baltic

The schedule for the summer of 1938 of L.O.T. on the Warsaw-Poznan (Posen)-Berlin route provided a daily service in either direction. The distance from Warsaw to Poznan, 175 miles, is flown in 1 hour 25 minutes, and the 173 miles from Poznan to Berlin are flown in 1 hour 20 minutes. The three most modern types of liners are used on this service. Machines leave Warsaw at 12.40 p.m., stop at Poznan for twenty minutes, and reach Berlin at 3.45 p.m. In the reverse direction the machine leaves Berlin at 4.50 p.m. and arrives at Warsaw at 7.50 p.m. This service links Warsaw with the national and international services radiating from Tempelhof Airport.

An important internal route in Poland is that of 151 miles between Warsaw and Cracow, capital of the province of that name. The daily service is operated by Lockheed Electra machines in 65

minutes. The same type of liner is used on the 159 miles route between Warsaw and Katowice, the capital of the province of Silesia, which is flown in 70 minutes.

Lockheed Electra liners also operate the route between Gdynia (Poland’s new port on the Baltic), the Free City of Danzig, and Warsaw, a distance of 205 miles, which is flown by one service from Warsaw to Gdynia direct in 1 hour 30 minutes, and by another which provides a halt at Gdynia of 15 minutes and then proceeds to Danzig, a flight of 20 minutes. Gdynia, which was a fishing village when Poland became a republic, is now a great port with over 110,000 inhabitants, and is one of the newest cities in the world. Danzig has 260,000 inhabitants. Warsaw, the capital of Poland, has 1,300,000 inhabitants.

A LOCKHEED ELECTRA AIRCRAFT used by the Polish civil aviation company

A LOCKHEED ELECTRA AIRCRAFT used by the Polish civil aviation company. The machine carries ten passengers and two pilots, and has a maximum speed of over 200 miles an hour. Although many types of small aircraft are built in Poland, including fast military machines, large air liners are obtained from other countries which have had greater opportunities to develop the design of this class of aeroplane.

Another route to the Baltic is from Warsaw via Wilno (in Poland) to Riga (in Latvia), Tallinn (in Estonia), and to Helsinki (in Finland). Wilno, 245 miles from Warsaw, is the first stop, and is reached in 1 hour 40 minutes. The town is close to Lithuania; because of political differences, however, the route does not cross the border, but avoids it by a detour. Riga, 230 miles from Wilno, is reached in 1 hour 30 minutes. The stage of 174 miles to Tallinn is flown in 70 minutes. That of 66 miles from Tallin across the Gulf of Finland to Helsinki is flown in 30 minutes.

Eastward from Warsaw there is no route from Poland into the U.S.S.R. at the time of writing.

South-eastward from Warsaw the first stage of the trunk route that extends to Palestine is to Bucharest, the capital of Romania, and is operated in conjunction with L.A.R.E.S. (Liniile Aerienne Romane Exploatate cu Statul), the line operated by the Romanian State. The first stop is at Lwow, 209 miles, and is flown in 80 or 85 minutes, according to the type of machine. Lwow (formerly Lemberg), with 317,000 inhabitants, is now the most important city in southeastern Poland. The next flight is one of 138 miles to Cernauti (Czernowitz; 112,000 inhabitants), in Romania, and is flown in 65 minutes. From here to Bucharest (700,000 inhabitants), the capital of Romania, is 291 miles, which are flown in 1 hour 40 minutes.

Westward from Bucharest other routes go to Belgrade, Budapest and Prague.

The trunk route flown by the L.O.T. air liners proceeds to Sofia, 325,000 inhabitants, capital of Bulgaria, a distance of 196 miles, which is flown in 85 minutes. The next stage of 162 miles, flown in 75 minutes, is to Salonica. That of 171 miles, flown in 70 minutes, is to Athens, the air junction for routes to Alexandria, South Africa and the Far East.

The L.O.T. route to Palestine is via the island of Rhodes, a stage of 273 miles, flown in 1 hour 40 minutes. The final stage of 542 miles, flown in 2 hours 50 minutes, passes above the island of Cyprus and then across the sea to the coast of Palestine, which the aeroplane crosses at Tel Aviv to descend at Lydda Airport.

Enthusiasm for Gliding

This eastern trunk route provides a service from Helsinki (in Finland) to Palestine, enabling all places on the European network west of it to be reached. There is a daily service in either direction between Warsaw and Bucharest; thence the service is three times a week to Lydda. The sentimental link between Poland, several millions of whose inhabitants are Jews, and the Jewish settlers in Palestine is strong.

Another important route linking Warsaw with Paris, 910 miles, is not operated by the Polish company, but is flown by Wibault air liners of Air France, whose agents in Poland are L.O.T. This route is Warsaw, Prague, Strasbourg, Paris, and is a daily one. The time for the journey is 3 hours 50 minutes. Considering the circumstances that hindered the progress of Poland after her ancient entity as a nation had been restored in 1918, Poland’s achievements in aviation are the more remarkable. Nor are they confined solely to commercial and military aviation.

That buoyancy of temperament, keen intelligence and artistry, coupled with mechanical aptitude, which are characteristic of the Poles in activities as diverse as those of music and engineering, have found in aviation a new medium. Poland won the annual Gordon Bennett Cup balloon races for the third time in succession in 1935, and thus retained the cup.

Enthusiasts who took up gliding became so numerous that gliding committees were established in the provinces in addition to the Polish Gliding Committee and the Warsaw District Gliding Committee. Katowice, Lwow, Poznan, Pomerania and Wilno all have their district committees.

The Warsaw civil customs aerodrome is situate four and a half miles southwest of the city, the dimensions being 1,608 by 1,389 yards. “Warszawa Okecie” is marked in a circle in the centre of the airport, the altitude of which is 341 feet. The amenities of the airport include meteorological and radio stations, hangars and facilities for repairs, windsocks and a landing T.

WARSAW AIRPORT is situated four and a half miles south-west of the Polish capital

WARSAW AIRPORT is situated four and a half miles south-west of the capital. The dimensions of the aerodrome are 1,608 yards by 1,389 yeards, and the words “Warszawa Okecie” are marked in the circle on the landing area. Meteorological, radio and repair services are available at this modern aerodrome, which is 341 feet above sea level.

You can read more on “Famous French Partnerships”, “Germany’s Air Lines” and “World-Wide France Services” on this website.

Polish Air Lines