Czyżyny-Rakowice Airport. Old LOT Polish Airlines hangar. 2019

Krakow 2019-01-29

Former PLL LOT hangar from 1931 in Kraków-Czyżyny.

Former PLL LOT hangar from 1931 in Kraków-Czyżyny, ul. Stelli-Sawickiego at the former Kraków Rakowice-Czyżyny Airport. Address: Krakow, Osiedle 2. Pułku Lotniczego 26 A.

Hangar of PLL LOT from 1931. Gate. North side. Krakow Czyżyny. 2019 year. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman
Hangar of PLL LOT from 1931. Gate. North side. Krakow Czyżyny. 2019 year. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman

Usually, the reason for the liquidation of an airport is the desire to obtain new land for the expansion of large cities. Such decisions are made both in Poland and around the world. In Poland, such airports as: Gdańsk - Wrzeszcz, Warsaw - Gocław, or Kraków - Czyżyny (Rakowice) were liquidated in this way. The liquidation of the airport entails various, sometimes not predictable consequences. As a standard, the landing area is built with apartment blocks, often several-story buildings. New stores are opened, and shopping centers since the 1990s.

The largest hangars are the largest objects after the former airport. Especially in Poland, they were impressive, because in the period between the two world wars, Poland was the leader in the construction of large and modern hangars.

The fate of hangars at former airports is different. They are usually intended for large-area stores or sports halls. But there are also other destinations. For example, at the former Warsaw - Gocław airport, a trampoline park was created in a hangar.

However, the hangar at the former Kraków-Czyżyny airport (Rakowice) has the most interesting story. The so-called PLL LOT hangar. Its history began in 1927, when another airport expansion plan was made. Its main structure was to be twelve large hangars placed around the landing area. Ultimately, six were built before the attack of the Germans and Muscovites on Poland.

The designers of the hangar were: professor Izydor Stella-Sawicki (rector of the Cracow University of Technology) and engineer Jerzy Koziołek. The hangar was designed on the basis of a square measuring 60 m x 60 m. It has an area of ​​3,600 square meters and a cubic capacity of 28,000 cubic meters. The walls in the form of reinforced concrete pillars were filled with a brick wall or concrete blocks with window openings. The roof is a light structure suspended on three (smaller version, two) spatial girders located above the hangar. The roof is gabled, made of aerated concrete plates covered with a double bituminous layer. Partially trained, so-called skylights. The roof is suspended on three or two 60-meter steel spans. The technology of making this type of roof was developed by the Upper Silesian Industrial Society. The roof was mounted on the ground and suspended under the spans by means of winches. The front is an 8-leaf sliding metal door. The gates - their structure, drive, control and automation were developed by engineer Ignacy Brach. The door sections slide on rollers on rails. The gates are insulated with peat inside. The hangars were designed in such a way that additional break rooms, laboratories, warehouses and workshops could be added along the side walls. They can have a total usable area of ​​up to 300 square meters.

According to this project, six hangars were built in Czyżyny.

The 60 m x 60 m hangar was intended to house two air squadrons. However, there was also a smaller version, with a base of 60 m x 36 m with two spans above the roof, with an area of ​​2,160 square meters and a cubic capacity of 17,280 cubic meters.

The hangars of the Rakowice-Czyżyny Airport were one of the largest structures of this type in the world. Such facilities were not erected even in the USA in the 1920s. Even today, they arouse the interest of engineers.

In the interwar period, about 100 modern hangars were built in the Republic of Poland, covering about 10 hectares of land under the roof. But there were also criticisms that these hangars were a symptom of megalomania, extravagance and unjustified luxury in a poor country. For most, however, it was a symbol of the pride and prestige of the Republic of Poland. At that time, no one could have imagined that the humiliated Germans and Muscovites would start another conflagration of war in a dozen or so years.

These hangars turned out to be particularly successful structures. It was difficult to destroy such a hangar completely. In the event of an explosion inside the bomb, the explosion knocked out windows, bulged closed gates, could damage brick and block walls, but the reinforced concrete structure remained intact. The fallen roof was also not difficult to rebuild.

After the Second World War, when hangars No. 1 and No. 3 were rebuilt, the roof technology was changed. Instead of aerated concrete slabs, a wooden ceiling covered with tar paper was used.

Such a hangar was erected for PLL LOT at today's Steli-Sawickiego Street (hangar No. 1). It is the easternmost hangar of the Rakowice-Czyżyny Airport. The location of this hangar resulted in a short distance from the railway station, which made it easier for passengers to reach the LOT Polish Airlines airport station.

The hangar was put into use in 1931. The facilities at the hangar include: a ticket office, a waiting room for passengers, a pilot's house, and a meteorological facility.

At that time, it was possible to fly from Krakow to Warsaw, Lviv, Vienna and Czerniowice. You could fly via Warsaw to Gdańsk, Gdynia, Vilnius, Poznań, and via Czerniowice to Budapest, Belgrade, Saloniki and Athens. Kraków served the following planes: Junkers F-13, Fokker VII / 1m, Fokker VII / 3m, Junkers Ju-52, Lockheed L-10 Electra, Lockheed L-14 Super Electra, PWS-24, Douglas DC-2.

This state of affairs lasted until 1939. The hostilities caused significant damage to the hangar and accompanying facilities. After the war, the reconstruction took a long time.

The first Polish "civil" plane landed in Krakow on March 30, 1945. It was a circular flight: Warsaw-Łódź-Kraków-Rzeszów-Lublin-Warsaw. Permanent connection with Warsaw was restored on May 5, 1945. In 1946, the airport in Krakow handled 7,419 passengers. In 1950, it was already 16 553 passengers, and in 1955 - 30 201 passengers. The use of seats in airplanes was at the level of 80%.

Due to the war damage, a makeshift passenger station was placed in the western part of the airport. It functioned here until 1957. The station with the cash register and the waiting room were located outside the airport in one of the barracks. The rest were also in the barracks at the airport.

The rebuilt hangar was handed over to PLL LOT in 1957. It was used for the ongoing maintenance of PLL LOT aircraft. Mainly DC-3, Li-2, Il-12 and Il-14 planes. Airplanes from abroad rarely came here. LOT Polish Airlines planes used a 1,900 m long concrete runway (RWY), put into service in 1953. The RWY (DS) orientation is 08/26. The take-off area was equipped with radiogoniometric devices and lighting for night flights. The crews of PLL LOT aircraft also used information from mobile radar stations operated by the Polish Army.

At that time, the host of the Rakowice-Czyżyny airport was the Air Defense Forces, in the form of the 2nd Fighter Aviation Regiment and the 7th Fighter Aviation Division of the Polish Air Force (Anti-Air Defense). Therefore, at the airport there were mainly Jak-23, MiG-15, PZL Lim-1 and PZL Lim-2 combat aircraft. In addition, the airport was used by the Kraków Aero Club and Sanitary Aviation.

After the reconstruction of the LOT Polish Airlines hangar, the passenger station was opened this time not at the hangar itself, but in a small building behind the hangar on the south side.

In 1959, PLL LOT was divided into a transport company, hereinafter referred to as PLL LOT, and the Air Traffic and Communication Airports Authority, which dealt with airports and was subordinate to the Ministry of Communications. In 1961, 39,027 passengers were handled in Krakow, and in 1962, 56,535 passengers. In 1963, the construction of Balice Airport was started and decisions were made to transfer passenger traffic there.

The train station in Czyżyny operated until 1963, when passenger traffic was transferred to the Balice Airport. Initially, the transfer took place to the barracks at Balice Airport, and in 1966 to the new railway station.

In 1964, the hangar at Czyżyny Airport was already abandoned by the LOT Polish Airlines services. In 1965, the MPK-Kraków bus depot (Miejskie Przedsiębiorstwo Komunikacyjne in Kraków) was placed in the hangar. It was one of the three existing bus depots in Kraków at that time. Several car channels were made for servicing buses in the hangar. The Polish Jelcz reigned here for many years. In the 1970s, Jelcz-Berliet buses appeared here, and at the beginning of the 1980s, Ikarus buses.

In the 90s of the 20th century, the Krakow authorities obliged MPK to hand over the facility. The liquidation process began in 1997, and in March 1998 the last buses left the depot. Contrary to the original plans, the historic hangar was not taken over by anyone. Only in 2001, the section of Stella-Sawickiego Street was finally improved according to the project, leading it through a part of the depot square and the gas station. In 2007, historic trams, previously standing in the hall at Wawrzyńca Street, were put into the hangar. However, they could not be viewed.

District councilors have planned here the opening of a cultural center or at least a museum of technology. It all depended on fundraising. The museum of technology has joined the program. Due to the costs and scope of work, the project was divided into four stages. The deadline for implementation depended on the funds being obtained for each stage. If funding for the revitalization of the area could be obtained in 2017, the work could finally be completed in 2021. The total cost of the work was estimated at PLN 26 million. The facility was assigned the address - the housing estate of 2. Pułku Lotniczego 26 A.

The revitalization started in 2017. Within a dozen or so months, the entire hangar was renovated. The roof, walls and gates were renovated. A new floor was made.

On September 9, 2018, the temporary exhibition "Moto-histories" was opened in the hangar, presenting vehicles from the collection of the Museum of Municipal Engineering and the Museum of Rescue in Krakow. The exhibition shows historic vehicles of the Polish automotive industry from the times of the Second Polish Republic until the end of the Polish People's Republic. The exhibition was closed for the winter period. It reopened in April 2019.

After the renovation, the hangar and the surrounding area will perform exhibition, concert and educational functions. It will also be a place for research and archiving.

Written by Karol Placha Hetman