Polskie Linie Lotnicze "Lot" (1935-1939 - Rise and Fall of the Polish Crane)
Rapid advances in aeronautics technology in the 1930s meant that by the middle of the decade the air fleet of Polskie Linie Lotnicze "Lot"
was already starting to show the signs of obsolescence. At the same time problems with obtaining efficient passenger aircraft from domestic industry forced company leadership to seek sources of supplies abroad, while continuing support for design work for such aircraft in Poland. In the subsequent years fleet of LOT
was practically completely replaced with new machines, bought mostly in the United States.
At the same time net of destinations serviced by LOT
also grew.Domestic lines included connections between Warsaw and Kraków, Katowice, Poznań, Bydgoszcz, Wilno (Vilnius) and Lwów. Foreign destinations expanded: in 1936 to Athens, extended in 1937 to Lod (Palestine) via Rodos, in 1938 to Budapest and in 1939 three new lines: extension of Palestine line to Beirut; from Warsaw to Belgrade and Rome and from Warsaw via Gdynia to Copenhagen. In the year 1938 a test flight was conducted between Los Angeles, Buenos Aires and Warsaw, related to planned on 1940 opening of Transatlantic line. Length of the lines serviced by LOT
grew from 1850 kilometers in 1929 to 10 250 kilometers in 1939, and the total number of passengers transported in that decade reached 218 thousand (which is significant considering the capacity of the aircraft of the era).
Modernization of LOT
started with two Douglas DC-2 aircraft obtained in1935 (SP-ASK and SP-ASL) and third one (SP-ASJ) in 1937 - this one has crashed, however, during flight from Sofia to Thessaloniki in 1938. In september 1939 one of these aircraft was interned in Latvia and other one in Romania.
Poland, Douglas DC-2
Picture updated, October 2016
Next step in modernization effort was buying of ten Lockheed L-10A Electra planes in 1936 - first four of them arrived already in the same year (SP-AYA, -AYB, -AYC and -AYD) and remaining six in 1937 (SP-BGE, -BGF, -BGG, -BGH, -BGJ, -BGK). SP-AYB crashed near Athens in 1936, and year later SP-AYA near Tomaszów Lubelski and SP-AYD near Warsaw. Of the remaining aircraft, in september 1939 SP-BGK and -BGJ were left damaged in country while rest was interned in Romania.
Poland, Lockheed L-10 Electra
Most of the Junkers F-13 planes used by LOT
were re-sold to its manufacturer. As a part of the deal, in 1936 Polish airlines obtained in return a single Junkers Ju-52/3mge (SP-AKX) equipped with Bristol Pegasus VI engines. After the outbreak of war it was interned in Romania.
Many thanks to Glorfindel and WhyMe for their renditions of Junkers Ju-52.
Poland, Junkers Ju-52
Small (and fast) passenger aircraft RWD-11, that made a first flight in 1936, never actually served in LOT
although it was offered to the airline. While an excellent plane, it fell victim to politics, namely a drive of the authorities to nationalize whole aviation industry. Because Doświadczalne Warsztaty Lotnicze
(DWL, Experimental Aviation Workshops
- producer of RWD planes) was at the time resisting these efforts, LOT
was pressured to abstain from even accepting RWD-11 for trials (it was also offered for the military as a multi-engine trainer, but offer was declined, leading company into financial troubles). It is also suggested that situation of RWD-11 was worsened thanks to incident that occured during one of the test flights: prototype encountered a squadron of P.11 fighters, easily managed to chase and overtake them, leaving the fighters far behind, and creating some severe butt-hurt for some petty but self-important people in the Air Force HQ.
Single RWD-13 (SP-BFO) was obtained in 1937 (albeit somewhat reluctantly, for the reasons explained above) as a replacement for RWD-5 used for taxi flights. In 1938 it crashed in Nowy Sącz but was quickly replaced by new airplane (SP-BNU). In 1939 the plane was interned in Romania, but while most of the LOT
's aircraft interned there were ultimately lost during the war, this little aircraft survived and returned after the war to Poland, where it was used until the 1950s (as SP-ARL) and currently can be seen in the Muzeum Lotnictwa i Astronautyki
(Museum of Aviation and Astronautics
bought six Lockheed L-14A Super Electra planes in 1938. Five of them (SP-BNE, -BNF, -BNG, -BNH, -BNJ) were delivered by ship, while the sixth one (SP-LMK) was flown to Poland via South America and Africa. In may 1939 four new Lockheeds were bought (SP-BPK, -BPL, -BPM, -BPN). In 1938 SP-BNG crashed in Romania and SP-BNJ burned at the Bucuresti airport. In september 1939 SP-BNE, -BNH, -BPK and -BPL were interned in Romania, SP-BNP in Estonia and SP-BNF, -BPM and -LMK reached Great Britain. First of them was destroyed during French campaign while remaining two were ultimately taken over by BOAC.
Poland, Lockheed L-14 Super Electra
PZL-44 was a prototype of the fast and modern passenger aircraft in the same class as DC-2. It's first flight took place in march 1938 and on spring of next year it begun trials in LOT
, which ordered four such aircraft to be delivered in 1940. War preparations, however, caused the order to be cancelled as PZL was already overworked with military orders. In september 1939 damaged prototype of PZL-44 was left behind in Lwów.
Poland, PZL-44 Wicher
After the outbreak of World War 2, practically all personnel and materiel of Polskie Linie Lotnicze "Lot"
was safely evacuated from Poland, mostly to Romania, where, despite a military cooperation pact and previous agreements they were interned (due to German pressure), however while planes had to remain there, Romanians (as well as Hungarians, although that relates mostly to military aircraft), thanks to traditional friendship between our nations, were very careful to "look the other way" when interned Poles were escaping en masse to France and Great Britain. There, former personnel of LOT
played great role in the rebirth of the Polish military aviation as part of the Polish Armed Forces in Exile and it's gallant fight against nazi tyranny.
Next week first part of PLL LOT
after the war. Stay tuned.