The history of LOT Polish Airlines. Part 1. 1929-1939.

Kraków 2014-04-15

The history of LOT Polish Airlines.

Part 1.

1929 - 1939.

On November 11, 1918, the Republic of Poland regained its independence after 123 years of partitions. Despite great difficulties, it quickly merged in terms of state and economy. The pilots who took an active part in the great world war on all its fronts returned to their homeland. Their experience was not wasted. The most important cities at that time were: Warsaw, Poznań, Kraków, Lviv and the Free City of Gdańsk. That is why these cities were in the spot of interest of potential air transport investors. As early as 1920, the first air routes were attempted by foreign companies or companies with partial Polish capital.

Aero-Targ (Aerotarg). 1921 year.

The first fully domestic airline in Poland was established in Poznań in 1921. Its purpose was to support participants and visitors going to the 1st Poznań Fair. The organizing committee of the first Poznań Fair (later Poznań International Fair) decided to launch an air connection between Poznań, Warsaw and Gdańsk during the event in order to quickly transport fair participants to Poznań. For this purpose, on May 10, 1921, the Aero-Targ Air Communication Society was established. In order to finance the project, the fair organizing committee allocated a total of 5 million Polish marks. Aero-Targ established cooperation with the Danziger Luftpost transport company from Gdańsk, from which it borrowed six Junkers F13 planes. The line started operating on May 28, 1921, on the opening day of the fair, and operated until June 5, 1921, until the closing date. On the occasion of the launch of the connection, Poczta Polska issued a commemorative surcharge stamp for the air shipment. During the fair, 58 flights were made on the Poznań-Warsaw-Poznań route and 30 flights on the Poznań-Gdańsk-Poznań route, about 100 passengers and 3,000 kg of shipments were carried. However, the project turned out to be in short supply and the 5 million Polish Brands that were put out for the needs of the line did not return to the organizers. Nevertheless, the venture was considered a success.

The first air connections in the Republic of Poland. 1921. The work by Karol Placha Hetman
The first air connections in the Republic of Poland. 1921. The work by Karol Placha Hetman

Polish Airline Aerolloyd. 1922 year.

The Polish-Moscow war halted the development of commercial transport for a short time. In 1922, a company called "Polska Linja Lotnicza Aerolloyd" was established. From September 5, 1922, the company began regular flights on the route: Gdańsk-Warsaw-Lviv. After the ownership changes, the company became a limited liability company "Aerolloyd z o o". In 1925, the company issued shares and changed its name to "Spółka Akcyjna Aerolot". At the same time, the company's seat was moved. The company moved from Gdańsk Wrzeszcz Airport to Mokotów Airport.

Areo Sp z o o. 1925 year.

In 1925, the company "Areo Sp z o o" was established in Poznań, which later became a joint-stock company and adopted the name "Aero Komunikna S.A.". The company used the Ławica Airport. The company purchased Farman F-70 aircraft in France. Two used and three new. The used Farman F-70 machines arrived in Poznań on May 19, 1925. On May 21, 1925, the first propaganda flights over the city were made. The first commercial flight was made on May 23, 1925, on the Poznań - Warsaw route. Subsequent flights were also made with a stopover in Łódź (route Poznań-Łódź-Warsaw and back). The company transported passengers and goods, mainly mail. In October 1925, three new Farman F-70 planes were brought from France, packed in crates.

In 1928, Aero purchased six Dutch Fokker F.VIIa / 1m planes. They were the first real transport aircraft with a high level of safety and comfort. It was the good financial results that allowed the purchase of these modern machines. The first three Fokker F.VIIa / 1m planes were delivered in June 1928, and the next three in December 1928.

By the end of 1928, approximately 3,200 passengers were transported. In 1928, the company and its equipment were taken over by LOT Polish Airlines, which, however, did not accept Farman F-70 planes due to their considerable wear and tear.

Farman F-70. 1920 year. Photo of LAC.
Farman F-70. 1920 year. Photo of LAC.

LOT Polish Airlines. 1929 year.

At the same time, over 50 private airlines operated in the USA. In order to prevent chaos in the Republic of Poland and to ensure uniform standards, in 1928, a program was launched at the Civil Aviation Department of the Ministry of Communications regarding changes in the Polish Aviation Communication. The developed and implemented program included the liquidation of all private aviation companies, and in their place one state-owned enterprise was created.

The new company was named "Linji Lotnicze LOT Sp. Z o o", and the date of its establishment is December 29, 1928, and the commencement of operations is January 1, 1929. In 1929, these Fokker planes were taken over by the new company and were its basis. The first used aircraft were Junkers F.13 (15 pieces) and Fokker F.VIIa / 1m (6 pieces). Junkers F.13 planes served in LOT Polish Airlines until 1936. There were 11 Fokker F.VIIa / 1m aircraft in total at LOT Polish Airlines.

Polish Junkers F.13. Photo of LAC
Polish Junkers F.13. Photo of LAC

Polish Fokker F.VIIa / 1m with one in-line engine, therefore the marking is 1m. The Fokker with three engines had the designation 3m. Photo of LAC
Polish Fokker F.VIIa / 1m with one in-line engine, therefore the marking is 1m. The Fokker with three engines had the designation 3m. Photo of LAC

These aircraft were operated on domestic and international lines, including routes to Vienna and Czerniowice (via Lwów and Iwanow-Frankowski).

After consolidation, from January 2, 1929, as the company "LOT Polish Airlines", they had the second (after Air France) largest network of connections. Quickly moving outside of Europe, with realistic plans for flights to South America and the USA. Many Polish pilots from LOT Polish Airlines exceeded 250,000 km, 500,000 km, and 1,000,000 km in the air during that time.

From the beginning of the new company, the emphasis was on advertising and implementing new connections. Numerous posters and folders were distributed in Polish cities. Sightseeing flights were organized in Warsaw. Flights from Warsaw to Katowice and Bydgoszcz have started. During the General National Exhibition in Poznań (later known as Targi Poznańskie), special flights on the Warsaw-Poznań route were launched.

In November 1929, a competition for a logo for the new company was announced. The winner was a design by a visual artist from Warsaw, Tadeusz Groniewski, which depicts a stylized crane. In 1931, this logo was officially recognized as the company's coat of arms and it is today (2021). It is the oldest civil aviation symbol in the world.

The name of the company was extended to include the adjective "Polskie" and the full name is: "Polskie Linje Lotnicze LOT sp. Z o.o.". In 1930, Polskie Linje was admitted to IATA - the International Air Transport Association.

The first foreign connection was the Warsaw-Bucharest, Romania route, operated from April 1, 1930, from the Mokotów Airport. The Warsaw-Lviv-Chernivtsi-Bucharest stage route. Other cities that PLL LOT planes started to reach are; Athens, Beirut, Helsinki.

1930 year.

The Fokker F.VII / 3m license was purchased in 1928 and Poland was one of the first countries to purchase a license. The production was commissioned to Plage and Laśkiewicz in Lublin. 20 machines intended for the army and 11 civilian machines were built. The passenger version took 10 passengers and the transport version took 1,000 - 1,500 kg. These planes had Lorraine-Dietrich LD-12Eb in-line engines with a power of 464 HP (341 kW). From 1935, the engines were replaced with Bristol Jupiter VIIF radial engines, with a power of 529 hp (382 kW). In Poland, Fokker F.VII planes were used as bombers, transport planes and parachute landing planes. During the 1939 Defensive War, planes were used as transport planes. Weapons and ammunition were transported there.

Fokker F.VII / 3m of Polish production and Polish Military Aviation. A bomber version of the plane. There are bombs suspended under the fuselage. The plane has two shooting positions; upper and lower. 1938. Photo of LAC.
Fokker F.VII / 3m of Polish production and Polish Military Aviation. A bomber version of the plane. There are bombs suspended under the fuselage. The plane has two shooting positions; upper and lower. 1938. Photo of LAC.

Fokker F.VII / 3m Photo of the National Digital Archives
Fokker F.VII / 3m Photo of the National Digital Archives

1933 year.

In 1933, the construction of a new PLL LOT center, located at the Okęcie Airport, began. The ceremonial opening took place in 1934. A modern airport station, hangars, warehouses and workshops were put into operation. Office rooms, a weather station and a radio communication station were handed over for use.

In 1932, the PWS-24 prototype underwent trials in the service of PLL LOT, defeating the Lublin R-XVI plane. In 1933, PLL LOT accepted PWS-24 planes. The first planes of Polish production. The order was placed for 5 copies of SP-AJF, SP-AJG, SP-AJH, SP-AJJ, SP-AJK ("Filip", "Gienek", "Hipek", "Jacek" and "Kazik"). The SP-AGR, SP-AJF and SP-AJJ planes in mid-1933 were converted into aerophotometric. The aircraft of the first series were withdrawn from service in 1936, except for the SP-AJJ which was withdrawn in 1938.

PWS-24 SP-AJF. Photo of Wikipedia
PWS-24 SP-AJF. Photo of Wikipedia

In 1935, a version of the aircraft with a more powerful engine appeared, designated the PWS-24 bis. This version was ordered by PLL LOT in another 5 copies; SP-AMN, SP-AMO, SP-AMO, SP-AMR and SP-AMS. One of the planes from the previous series, the SP-AJH, was also converted to the PWS-24 bis version with the new designation SP-ASY. Therefore, it is assumed that PLL LOT operated 6 PWS-24 bis aircraft.

In 1935, Poland purchased three Douglas DC-2 planes for LOT Polish Airlines. Machines received registrations; SP-ASJ, SP-ASK, SP-ASL. On November 23, 1937, the DC-2 SP-ASJ plane crashed in Bulgaria. They all died on board the plane (6 people). After the outbreak of World War II, the DC-2 SP-ASK was interned in Riga, and the SP-ASL was interned in Romania.

Douglas DC-2 SP-ASK. Photo of LAC
Douglas DC-2 SP-ASK. Photo of LAC

1936 year.

One Junkers Ju 52 / 3m plane flew in LOT Polish Airlines. In the spring of 1936, the Junkers factory took over 9 badly worn Junkers F.13 machines operated by LOT Polish Airlines in exchange for one Ju-52 / 3m machine. By the way, the Junkers company had to scrap the F.13 planes because they were not suitable for repair.

The Ju 52 / 3m plane received SP-AKX registration. It was used on tours; Warsaw-Berlin and Warsaw-Thessaloniki. On September 17, 1939, he landed in Bucharest and was interned.

Lockheed L-10 Electra planes went to the equipment of PLL LOT. At the beginning of 1936, the dynamically developing PLL LOT company did not differ in terms of the level of services and the network of connections from other leading carriers. The management board of PLL LOT has decided to purchase 10 Lockheed L-10 Electra machines. At the beginning of 1936, a ship with four planes arrived at the port of Gdynia. They were assembled at Rumia Airport and flown. They were transported by air to Warsaw to the Okęcie Airport. Received registrations; SP-AYA, SP-AYB, SP-AYC, SP-AYD. From March 1936, the planes began regular cruises. In 1937, PLL LOT received the remaining 6 machines, registrations; SP-BGE, SP-BGF, SP-BGG, SP-BGH, SP-BGI, SP-BGJ.

Unfortunately, Lockheed L-10 Electra planes did not fly long, because in 1939, the German army deprived the Republic of Poland of its independence, initiating World War II.

Lockheed L-10 Electra SP-AYD PLL LOT 1937. Photo of the National Digital Archives.
Lockheed L-10 Electra SP-AYD PLL LOT 1937. Photo of the National Digital Archives.

1938 year.

In 1937, it was decided to purchase 10 machines of the new, enlarged version, the Lockheed L-14. The first five machines arrived in Poland on board the ocean liners MS Batory and MS Piłsudski in April and May 1938. The machines were assembled at Rumia Airport, as was the case with the L-10 Electra. Another four planes arrived in Poland in June 1938.

Lockheed L-14 Super Electra SP-LMK at Okęcie Airport. June 5, 1938. Photo of the National Digital Archives.
Lockheed L-14 Super Electra SP-LMK at Okęcie Airport. June 5, 1938. Photo of the National Digital Archives.

The authorities of PLL LOT decided to use the purchase of a modern aircraft for propaganda purposes. It was decided that the last machine would be brought from the factory in Burbank (USA) to Warsaw by air. It was to be a test in the possible launch of an airline connecting Warsaw with New York and Chicago. Interestingly, the Atlantic Ocean was to be traversed at its narrowest point, i.e. from Natal in Brazil to Dakar in Senegal. The flight took place in May 1938. The crew consisting of: Wacław Makowski (LOT director and first pilot), Zbigniew Wysiekierski (co-pilot), Szymon Piskorz (mechanic), Alfons Rzeczewski (radio navigator) and Jerzy Krassowski (assistant) took off in a brand new plane from Burbank, California on 13.05 .1938. Via Mazatlan, Mexico, Guatemala, Lima, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, the machine reached Natal, Brazil. From there, in 11 hours and 10 minutes, the crew crossed the Atlantic Ocean and landed in Dakar, covering a record distance of 3,070 kilometers without stopping. Then the route led through Senegal, Casablanca, Tunis and Rome, from where the plane arrived on June 5, 1938, directly to the Okęcie airport in Warsaw. In total, during the flight from California to Poland, the machine spent 85 hours in the air. The flight over the record distance of 24,850 km had an advertising and propaganda significance, but also was to be a preparation for the commencement of regular transatlantic flights in 1940. These plans were thwarted by the German army, initiating World War II.

Okęcie airport. Welcoming the L-14 Super Electra SP-LMK and crew after their flight from the USA. June 5, 1938. Photo of the National Digital Archives.
Okęcie airport. Welcoming the L-14 Super Electra SP-LMK and crew after their flight from the USA. June 5, 1938. Photo of the National Digital Archives.

Soon, LOT Polish Airlines lost two machines: the SP-BNG crashed in July 1938, near Campulung in Romania, and the SP-BNJ burned down at the airport in Bucharest shortly after. To make up for the losses, in May 1939, another four L-14 Super Electra were brought to Poland. During the defensive war of 1939, all Lockheed Electra planes were mobilized by the Polish Army and performed courier and supply flights. Then four of them were evacuated to Romania, where they were interned. One machine was interned in Tallinn, Estonia. The remaining three planes of this type (SP-BPM, SP-LMK and SP-BNF) were evacuated to France, where they served as liaison planes for Polish diplomacy. The SP-BPM was destroyed during the German attack on France in June 1940, and the SP-LMK and SP-BNF flew to Great Britain. There, it was planned to convert them into planes for Cichociemni airdrops, but eventually the idea was withdrawn and both machines were taken over by BOAC airlines.

In 1939, due to the spelling changes in the Polish language, the spelling of the company changed from Polskie Linje Lotnicze to Polskie Linie Lotnicze.

In August 1939, PLL LOT had 26 communication aircraft.

Unfortunately. On September 1, 1939, the German army made an armed aggression against the Republic of Poland. As a result of the war, PLL LOT planes were transferred to Romania, where 16 machines were interned. Okęcie airport, airport buildings, hangars, railway station were bombed and badly damaged.

Written by Karol Placha Hetman