Aviation training in Poland. 1922-1939.

Kraków 2017-05-09

Aviation training in Poland.

Part 6.



The name Dęblin appeared on the occasion of the French Pilot School and the description of schools in Grudziądz. Why Dęblin? The Mokotowskie airport was too tight for such a large number of air units. After considering various variants of the new location of the Aviation School, Dęblin was chosen. The main selection criterion was then to find a wide, flat terrain that could be used for learning basic piloting. The second important condition for establishing a base for an aviation school was a good railway connection, due to the necessity to transport equipment and spare parts as well as a large amount of fuels and lubricants. During this period, it was standard to transport partially disassembled planes on railway platforms. One train was the base for the air unit. It provided not only transport, but also repair facilities for airplanes and rest and refreshment facilities for soldiers. This was how the Kościuszko Squadron operated, beating the illiterate Russians, Siemion Budionny.

At that time, the property in Dęblin belonged to the State Treasury. Historically, it belonged to the princes Mniszch and Jabłonowski, and then was seized by the Russians. In connection with the intention to locate the School in a new location, twenty-two buildings were adapted and refurbished as early as in 1919 and at the beginning of 1920, and six temporary hangars were constructed. A linden avenue leading directly through the airport to the palace was also cut out.

As for the airport itself, according to the "Plan for the regulation of the take-off field", drawn up by the Agricultural Melioration Office of W. Kraski in Warsaw, the first planting works were started in early spring 1920. Technician Tadeusz Kosicki supervised them. According to the design of March 11, 1920, containing a detailed list of works, workshops, barracks, an office and a guardhouse, as well as sanitary facilities: a laundry and a bathhouse were built and arranged at that time. At the same time, the necessary water and electricity works were carried out (the electrification of the Irena settlement took place much later, in 1927).

It is also worth noting that the construction of propellant tanks and the reconstruction of the destroyed Mniszech Palace were already planned at that time. The scope and scale of the construction works that have begun clearly show that important decisions have been made with regard to Dęblin. It was not about a temporary, but about the construction of a permanent airport, equipped with all the necessary equipment and buildings necessary for its continuous operation.

In May 1920, the French Pilot School moved from Warsaw Mokotów Airport to Dęblin, as a place more suited to the conditions of aviation training. At that time, the School was fully equipped (approximately 50 aircraft - including 25 Nieuport, 20 Caudron and 5 Morane). The basic staff of the School consisted of French officers who already had Polish deputies assigned to them. The French commandant was Major Robert de Chivre, and his Polish counterpart, Cpt. pil. Czesław Łupiński.

This school uses a fully French training system based largely on the individual predispositions of the student - pilot. It was admittedly slightly longer than that commonly practiced at that time in other centers of Polish military aviation, but it ensured a better familiarization of the student with the plane. However, the training in Dęblin was not as intense as in Warsaw. Difficulties related to numerous technical and accommodation shortages stopped them. The Dęblin airport was not fully equipped yet. The problems with supplies, which were difficult at the time, were also not resolved.

In July 1920, the French command was liquidated. The intention was to release all French soldiers. The goal was ambitious but not yet achievable. Cpt. pil Jerzy Garbiński, while the former French Major de Chivre remained as a technical advisor. Unfortunately, the school did not manage to locate itself well when in June 1920, due to the threat from the front of Russian troops approaching the Vistula River, the Dęblin Airport had to be evacuated. The French Pilot School moved to Bydgoszcz, where it functioned as an independent aviation unit until December 1, 1920. Although Dęblin's aviation adventure with French aviation was short-lived, it showed where to permanently locate an aviation school.

In 1919, the Air Navigation Section was established at the Ministry of Military Affairs in Warsaw. It dealt with the coordination of all matters relating to military aviation, including training. But the main emphasis was placed on launching the production of aircraft for the Polish Army in the country. The training was relegated to the background and was not a priority. This does not mean, however, that in the early 20s of the twentieth century, no one learned to fly airplanes. On the contrary. A large group of young people wanted to learn to fly. Aviation, and especially airplanes, was still new and unusual. But to learn this skill, you had to pay for it. Such training was conducted in newly established Aeroclubs and private schools. Young pilots were often called up for military service at that time. The Polish Army would be irresponsible if it had not used the skills of a young man acquired in civilian life. So it was natural to appoint these young pilots to aviation. There were so many pilots that it satisfied the needs of young aviation.

On August 1, 1925, another aviation school was established in Grudziądz, which was called the Officers' Aviation School. About this School is described in an earlier article. On April 14, 1927, an order was issued to transfer the Officers' Aviation School from Grudziądz to Dęblin. The porting was completed in May 1927.

The palace and adjacent buildings were adapted to the needs of the school. The reconstruction of the palace was carried out in the period 1924-1927, according to the design of the Polish architect Antoni Dygat. At the same time, the interiors were rebuilt for the needs of the school. The headquarters and staff of the School as well as rooms for the officers' staff are located here. An officers' casino was also arranged. For the purposes of the School, three forts were also used for warehouses, weapons depots and shooting ranges in; Dęblin, Gołębia and Zajezierze. As early as 1924, intensive construction of the airport (airfields, taxiways, hangars, etc.), technical, school, barracks and residential facilities began. Initially, the School consisted of 125 cadets and 60 lecturers and instructors. But by the fall of 1927, there were 170 cadets.

The basic machine for the initial training was the Morane Saulnier MS AR-35 EP2 plane. Powered by a 59 kW Le Rhone rotary engine, takeoff weight 700 kg, top speed 126 km / h, minimum speed 56 km / h. 70 copies were brought to the Republic of Poland in 1925, and to Dęblin in 1927.

School and training planes 1924-1939. Source: Dęblin. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman
School and training planes 1924-1939. Source: Dęblin. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman

Bomber planes 1920 -1939. Source: Dęblin. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman
Bomber planes 1920 -1939. Source: Dęblin. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman

The first commandant of the Officers' Aviation School was Lt. Col. Roman Florer. He organized a school in Grudziądz and was its commander after he was transferred to Dęblin. The first officer's promotion to the rank of second lieutenant-observer took place in Dęblin on August 15, 1928. The first promotion was second lieutenant observer Bronisław Bogucki.

The main task of the school was to train pilots and observers in the technique of pilotage and combat application, enabling their further specialization during their service in aviation regiments.

But by the decision of the Aeronautics Department of the Ministry of Military Affairs in the period 1926-1929 in Dęblin, pilot training was abandoned. The pilots were trained again in Grudziądz, in the Pilot School.

At that time, efforts were made to standardize military training in some of its aspects. For example, on the topic of general military preparation, the so-called unitary period. It was decided that each candidate for an officer school must undergo a year of preparation at the Cadet School in Warsaw, which in 1926 was transferred to Ostrów Mazowiecka. The training period at the Officers' Aviation School continued for two years.

In 1928, all officer schools were renamed to Officer Cadet Schools. At the same time, the school in Ostrów Mazowiecka was renamed a unitary course at the School of Infantry Cadets. Graduates of the course were trained at the level of the squad commander and obtained the title of cadet and the right to take exams to the ensign school of their choice. The Officers' School of Aviation was called the Aviation Cadet School.

Due to the constant development of the school at the beginning of 1929, the Dęblin Air Base was established at the Aviation Training Center No. 1 in Dęblin. Its commander was Maj. Pil. Marian Tarnowski. The Air Base was tasked with ensuring the material and technical basis for the daily work of all air units. It supplied airplanes, spare parts and propellants for the following airports: Dęblin, Ułęż, Podlodów, Zajezierze. In 1939, in the face of aggression by the German and Russian armies, the Base secured the airport area, organized the evacuation of equipment and units' facilities.

In 1929, the theoretical training program of the SPL included: 1st year of study: 1,155 hours (618 hours of lectures and 537 hours of practice); 2nd year: 1,045 hours (524 hours of lectures and 521 hours of practice).

In 1929, the school in Dęblin continued to develop dynamically. It was renamed the Aviation Officers Training Center. It consisted of; Aviation Cadet School (SPL), Reserve Aviation Cadet School (SPRL), Pilotage Course for Junior Officers, Training Squadron, Training Squadron, CWOL Aviation Base.

As we can see, pilotage was again taught in Dęblin, but already soldiers with the rank of officer. The command assumed that entrusting valuable equipment such as an airplane to an unformed, inexperienced soldier is not a good solution. As a result, a large group of officers, especially from the infantry, joined the aviation. As a result, the Polish Aviator was a well-trained soldier with extensive military experience. He could do both in the air and on the ground.

In 1933, recruitment to the SPL in Dęblin was suspended. It was dictated by the provision of sufficient human aviation observers during the period of peace.

In 1935, due to the aggressive behavior of our western neighbor, the recruitment of candidates for the SPL in Dęblin was resumed. This time, candidates for pilots (2/3 of the number of students) and observers, shooters, radio operators (1/3 of the number of students) were accepted. At the same time, education was extended to 3 years. This allowed for a more thorough theoretical and practical preparation. Combat training was also more intense. This made it possible to eliminate the existing disproportions in the structure of flying personnel and randomness in the selection of candidates.

In 1936, the Higher Aviation School was established at the Higher Military School in Warsaw. It began training aviation staffs, planners and theorists. Its activities had an impact on the training systems and program in Dęblin, raising the level of its training even higher. The effects were visible during the defensive war in September 1939, and then on all Western fronts.

The first promotion of well-educated graduates of the three-year Aviation Cadet School took place on October 15, 1937.

In 1937, the school changed its name to the Aviation Training Center No. 1 and continued to develop dynamically. The School also included the Higher School of Pilotage from Grudziądz.

During this period, a uniform aviation education system emerged, covering the popularization and training activities of flying clubs, the work of military aviation schools and the professional development of their graduates in aviation regiments. It eliminated the previous randomness in the selection of air cadres, ensured a natural selection of flying personnel, and above all created conditions for the formation of a compact body of air cadres. The linking of military aviation education with a wide base of civil aviation organizations (mainly with aero clubs and the League of Air and Gas Defense) was very important for this process. Aviation education began to develop its own teaching and upbringing methods and to earn a highly qualified teaching and instructor staff, which was particularly fruitful in the period of expansion of military aviation education after 1935.

Significant for the improvement of the aviation training system was the acquisition in 1933 of the training of aviation candidates as part of the Military-Aviation Training (PWL), and later the Military Aviation Training (LPW), from aero clubs. At the same time, gliding training was introduced for candidates at the Military Gliding Center in Ustianowa. The program and process of education and training, first the OSL, and then the SPL, corresponded to the tasks set for aviation at that time and the resulting requirements for flying personnel. The university's curriculum model was developed gradually.

Initially, the existing experiences of aviation education were used. However, these programs did not fully correspond to the tasks to be fulfilled by the School. The methodology of theoretical and practical teaching also had to change. The aviation education system in the SPL consisted of theoretical training alternating with practical training in the air. The basic teaching methods at the Dęblin school were lectures, demonstrations and exercises. A lot of time was also devoted to self-education under the guidance of lecturers and school platoon commanders.

After an extension in 1935, the curriculum was enriched in the Aviation Cadet School for three years. Nearly 3,500 hours of theoretical and practical training for cadets have been achieved. The number of hours of exercise was increased and self-study developed. The idea was to equalize the level of knowledge and skills of all students as much as possible. The first year was dominated by theoretical education, combined for both fields of study, while in the second and third year, training in the specialties of pilot and observer was carried out.

In the interwar period, the selection of candidates gradually evolved. Requirements for future pilots gradually increased, although generally they were always high. After 1935, candidates had to have secondary education with a high school diploma, completed a pilot course at an aeroclub or at LPW camps (Aviation Military Training). Those who did not take such a course were directed to the qualifying course at the Military Gliding Center in Ustianowa. All of them had to undergo medical examinations, including a psychological examination, confirmed by a certificate of fitness for service in aviation issued by a military medical board. Only then did the candidates take the entrance examination. There was a written general knowledge test and an oral exam. In addition, there was a foreign language exam and a physical exam. In such a situation, let us not be surprised that most of the candidates came from the so-called middle-income strata; clerical, intellectual, educational, craft, police and military. Representatives of the layers of the upper zones (manufacturers, professors, patrons) and lower (farmers and workers) constituted a negligible percentage. Mainly they could be found in the SPRL (Reserve Aviation School of Cadets) and the reserve aviation officer corps.

The achievement of the 30s of the 20th century was the unification of training principles. It was possible to build a healthy and comprehensive model of aviation training. Many helpful documents have been developed, such as: regulations, manuals, instructions and procedures. The practical training was based solely on Polish equipment, developed in Poland and built here. The graduates of the School in Dęblin were thoroughly prepared in terms of the military, professionally trained in aviation, fully physically fit and had a high ethical and moral level.

On October 15, 1937, Marshal Edward Rydz Śmigły handed over to the then Commander of the Aviation Cadet School, Lt. Col. Stefan Sznuk a banner for the School of Eaglets.

On June 15, 1939, there was a ceremonial completion of the training of 150 cadets-pilots and observers who, without promotion to the rank of second lieutenant, were transferred to line units for further training on combat aircraft. With the outbreak of the war on September 1, 1939, all graduates of the latter, the 13th pre-war promotion at the Dęblin School of Eaglets, received the rank of lieutenant with seniority from September 1, 1939 and stood up to fight to defend the Homeland. 973 cadets, including 707 observers and 266 pilots, graduated from the School of the Eaglets in 14 years.

Written by Karol Placha Hetman