The charm of French biplanes

Urok francuskich maszyn w lotnictwie II RP

The creation and subsequent development of the inter-war Polish military aviation is inevitably linked to the French aviation industry. Either bought in France, or built in Poland under license, the airplanes enabled numerous men and women to become flying personnel. French planes in Polish service are remembered well in this country. This is even despite some unwanted episodes such as the purchase of the entirely outdated Farman F-68 Goliath, or the faulty Spad fighters.

The brief text has been inspired by never previously published photographs selected from my private collection. Having collected original, nostalgic photos of old planes for a few years I realized that some of them can be logically grouped: although taken by different people and at various places they all show French biplanes in the Polish service during the nostalgic 1920s and 1930s.

Breguet 14

This famous WWI French reconnaissance and bomber plane was also used in Poland. In 1919 and 1920 my country obtained as many as 115 aircraft of this type. They were used successfully in the Polish-Soviet war as well as during uprisings against the Germans. The basic versions, both in France and in Poland, were A2 (reconnaissance airplane) and B2 (bomber).

According to T. Krolikiewicz the upper surfaces of Breguet 14 were painted with three-tone camouflage pattern, while under surfaces were natural fabric only covered with transparent dope. During repairs in Poland the planes were painted overall khaki. Still, T. J. Kowalski writes about Polish Breguet 14 planes being painted with five-tone camouflage, or khaki and blue. Polish evidence number for these aircraft started with 10, which was followed by the individual number of a plane. An example of a full evidence number for a Breguet 14 is 10.5.

Potez 15, 27 and 25

Potez 15 and Potez 27 were in Poland the successors of the Italian A.300 reconnaissance airplane. In 1928 Poland started the withdrawal of Potez 15 and Potez 27 aircraft to introduce improved Potez 25 planes. The maximum speed of Potez 25 was about 200 km/h, and it could carry up to 500 kg of bombs. Poland bought 16 of such aircraft from France. The type was built in this country by Zaklady Mechaniczne Plage i Laskiewicz (later, after nationalization in 1936, Lubelska Wytwornia Samolotow) in Lublin, and by Podlaska Wytwornia Samolotow in Biala Podlaska. It was also where spare parts were manufactured. The exact number of planes built in Poland is difficult to establish due to different data found in various sources. In any case, the number must have exceeded 250 aircraft. First license-built planes were sent in 1928 to IBTL (Instytut Badan Technicznych Lotnictwa) where they were the subject of intense flight evaluation. As a result, both the French design and the quality of planes built in Poland were good: the plane turned out to be sturdy and possessing required flight characteristics.

Versions produced in Poland were A2 – reconnaissance aircraft, and B2 – reconnaissance and bomber aircraft. Of this version four types were built:

type I – long range reconnaissance,

type II – short range reconnaissance,

type III – combat reconnaissance,

type IV – day bomber.

There was also a Potez 25 MN2 version meant for escorting Fokker F-VIIIB/3m bombers and fighting enemy planes operating at night. Ten planes, or one flight, were utilized by 1. Aviation Regiment (1. Pulk Lotniczy) in Warsaw from November 1929 till March 1939. After German aggression five Potez 25 aircraft conducted reconnaissance flights. Together with other obsolete types, many Potez 25 biplanes were deliberately exposed on airfields to attract German bombers. This trick worked well although it was exploited by German propagandists claiming that Poland was deprived of her air force at the very beginning of the war.

Polish modifications.

An unknown number Potez 25 planes were equipped with little aileron-fixed surfaces reducing forces on the control stick. Another successful modification was the equipping in 1936 (by LWS) of 47 planes with Jupiter radial engines. The modification proved to have better flight characteristics and performance. Due to the radial engine the silhouette of the biplane changed considerably. One Potez 25 was flown to England where Handley Page slats were installed. Unfortunately, this plane crashed on her way back to Poland.

Potez 25 aircraft were withdrawn from the first-line service and PZL P-23 Karas all-metal monoplanes were introduced. Exceptions were above mentioned Potez 25 MN2s, which were withdrawn from service as late as in March 1939.

See also gallery Hanriot H 19 White 6 Oficerska Szkola Lotnictwa Pre War Poland Military Pilot Training

potez xxv in polish service