Polish Aviation Industry - Part 03

Kraków 2015-01-21

Polish Aviation Industry.

Part 3.

PZL-Pegaz XX engine built in Poland for the PZL-37 Łoś aircraft. 2017. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman
PZL-Pegaz XX engine built in Poland for the PZL-37 Łoś aircraft. 2017. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman


In parallel with the Central Aviation Workshops at the Mokotów Airport, the Polish authorities planned to launch new aviation production plants. In 1921, the Ministry of Military Affairs concluded an agreement with the Francopol Joint Stock Company. The company undertook the production of several thousand airplanes and aircraft engines. The construction of the factory began soon, which was erected in the areas of Okęcie and Raków. In 1923, a tram line was established at Okęcie, which became a convenient connection with the city center.

Francopol was established in 1921. It was the Polish Joint Stock Company, one of the founders of which was the later general Włodzimierz Ostoja-Zagórski.

The first contract concluded between the Ministry of Military Affairs and the Francopol company referred to the delivery of 2,630 aircraft and 5,300 aircraft engines within 10 years of starting production. The Ministry of Military Affairs undertook to partially finance the construction of the plants by providing an advance payment. The advance payment was to be paid only after the purchase of the plot for the construction of the plant by the Francopol Company. Advances were paid in installments.

In June 1924, three years had passed since the conclusion of the contract, and there was no question of the factory, planes and engines. The Ministry of Military Affairs intended to break the contract and impose contractual penalties. In November 1924, General Włodzimierz Ostoja-Zagórski sent a revised contract for the opinion of the General Prosecutor's Office. The contract was changed in December 1924. The number of planes was reduced to 500 and engines to 2,700. In January 1925, another control of the contract was carried out. It turned out that the funds transferred from the Ministry of Military Affairs to the Francopol Company were transferred for other purposes, contrary to the agreement. Accusations of corruption have emerged. The company asked for a further twelve months to remedy the irregularities.

At the beginning of 1925, the Ministry of Military Affairs terminated the contract with the Francopol company, which failed to fulfill its contract. Despite the advance payment and favorable terms of the contract, the company only managed to build two small and poorly equipped buildings. These objects were not suitable for the production of airframes.

Why did this happen? Some light on the matter is shed by the biography of General Włodzimierz Zagórski, which is extremely colorful and ends with an unexplained disappearance. The problem is that currently only his name is associated with the Francopol company, so the conclusions are not transparent. Włodzimierz Zagórski took part in the war with the Moscow state. He took part in the Battle of Warsaw. Until April 1921, he was the commander of the 4th Infantry Division. On April 9, 1921, at his own request, he was transferred to the Army Reserve. He started running a business. He introduced himself as an entrepreneur. Co-founder and temporarily a member of the board of the Francopol Joint Stock Company, dealing with the supply of aviation equipment for the army. However, already in March 1923, the then Minister of Military Affairs, Maj. Gen. Kazimierz Sosnkowski appointed Włodzimierz Zagórski to active service and appointed the head of the Military Industry Division of the Army Administration Headquarters. Soon he was appointed head of the Military Industry Department of the M.S. Wojsk. On November 1, 1923, he was appointed a professional officer with the rank of colonel in the General Staff. On March 31, 1924, he was appointed brigadier general. On August 17, 1924, General Władysław Sikorski entrusted him with the duties of the head of the 4th Air Navigation Department of the Ministry of Military Affairs. At that time, he was pushing through the controversial plan for the extensive expansion of Polish Aviation based on the purchase of machines in France. The actual creator of this plan was also the French officer François-Lèon Leveque.

Let us remember that in 1922, France granted the Commonwealth significant financial aid for the modernization of aviation, on the condition that aircraft were purchased in France. At that time, this move was criticized by the Piłsudians as hampering the development of domestic aviation structures. However, the implementation of the plans began. In 1923, the Ministry of Military Affairs (General Leveque) canceled the contract with Francopol for the purchase of 2,630 aircraft and 5,600 engines. Accusations of corruption have emerged. In 1924, General Włodzimierz Zagórski became the head of aviation, who renewed the supply of French equipment by the Francopol company. The large-scale purchases of aircraft in France meant that around 1925, Polish Aviation was one of the strongest in Europe in terms of the number of equipment owned. However, while some of the purchased machines were at a good construction level, e.g. Breguet XIX or Potez XXV (mentioned in Part 2), the others were of the wrong design and were bad. The Farman F-68 had very poor performance. The SPAD-61, known from numerous accidents and the deaths of 31 pilots, was a dangerous one. Named a flying coffin.

Most of the insiders say that the mass purchase of planes in France has delayed the development of the domestic aviation industry. Moreover, the high quantity of the equipment contrasted with the low number of persons. Hence, most of the Polish air squadrons did not have combat or even training capacity. So the strength of the Polish Military Aviation was illusory. Therefore, in 1926, there were stronger and stronger voices about the need for changes in the Polish Army. General Włodzimierz Zagórski was involved in a corruption scandal in the army related to the Francopol company and French capital. On March 18, 1926, the Minister of Military Affairs, Lieutenant General Lucjan Żeligowski dismissed General Włodzimierz Zagórski from the position of the head of the IV Department of the Military Police. and left at the disposal of the head of the Army Administration.

After the May Coup, Włodzimierz Zagórski was arrested, like many other opponents of Józef Piłsudski. Then, after a few months, like the others, he was released. However, after this fact, he disappeared. The opposition claimed he had been murdered. In the times of People's Poland, the case of Włodzimierz Zagórski was used to attack the leaders of the Second Polish Republic.

Polskie Zakłady Skoda S.A - engines.

The facilities built by Francopol have been taken over by Polskie Zakłady Skoda S.A. which began producing aircraft engines in 1927. In 1926, the Czech company Skoda won the competition to open an aircraft engine factory in unfinished facilities in Okęcie. According to the agreement, all employees were Polish, which was reflected in the name. The company became part of the concern, the Aviation Engines Factory, and two years later (1929), the Cable Factory and the Factory of Electric Motors and Apparatuses.

The first power units were built under a foreign license. The first 450hp engine was produced under license from Dorrain Dietrich. However, in 1933, the Polish GR-760 model with a capacity of 260 HP was successfully put into production. In 1934, this engine was installed in the domestic RWD-9 4-seater plane. This plane won a leading place in the international competition, the so-called Challenge. It was a success for our designers. The Polish Skoda Works were transformed into the Aviation Engines Manufacturing Plant No. 1. During the attack of the Germanic plague on the Commonwealth, 1,350 engines were built here, with a capacity of 55 engines per month.

Written by Karol Placha Hetman