Across the Atlantic...

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Nov 9, 2005
Do you know this story....?

"RWD-5, a development of the relatively successful, if a bit odd-looking RWD-4, was the first Polish fully-fledged touring airplane. First flown in 1931, 20 examples of this two-seater were built, and played an important role in the development of Polish civil aviation. It earned its place in the annals of aviation history when, in 1933, Captain Stanislaw Skarzynski made a record-breaking flight over the South Atlantic in the one-seater RWD-5bis variant, the smallest and lightest plane ever to cross the ocean.
The goal underlying the development of the RWD-5 was to provide a comfortable and durable aircraft for use in Polish Aeroclubs. Only the characteristic, Fokker-type wing was preserved from its predecessor, the RWD-4, and a completely new fuselage, based on tubular steel structure, was designed. It was the first aircraft in Poland (and one of few in the world at that time) to receive a completely enclosed cockpit. To increase crew comfort, engine exhaust muffler was fitted, and a hot-air duct from engine to the cockpit was installed for heating.
The airplane had pleasant flying characteristics, its only drawback being somewhat limited visibility (to the top, and to the side during steep turns). It was generally liked by the pilots, and used for touring and rallies up till the outbreak of Second World War in 1939
In late 1932, the Ministry of Transportation ordered a special long-range variant of the RWD-5. The rear seat was replaced by a large, 300-liter fuel tank, additional fuel tanks were also fitted in the wings. Special care was taken to use highest-quality materials during construction, so, even though the design underwent some structural strengthening, its empty weight remained virtually the same as that of the standard RWD-5. The aircraft, designated RWD-5bis, made its maiden flight on March 28, 1933.
By then, the preparations for the Atlantic flight were in advanced stages. The idea of the record-breaking flight had been born in the mind of Captain Stanislaw Skarzynski, in everyday life a modest employee of the War Ministry. In 1931, he and his friend, navigator Andrzej Markiewicz, had completed an exhausting, 26,000 km (16,000 miles) long rally over Africa, and his next goal - which he had set himself when flying over the African coast - was crossing the Atlantic.
The preparations for the flight were made in secret, so as to avoid undue publicity. The element of risk was substantial, and many Poles still remembered the death of Maj. Ludwik Idzikowski who, with Kazimierz Kubala, had twice attempted to cross the North Atlantic in the late 1920s. Officially, only an attempt to break the world distance record for aircraft of the FAI 2nd category (empty weight 450 kg or less) was announced. Still, the preparations were very thorough, and included, among others, a detailed meteorological study of the planned route.
The pilot, and his silver RWD-5bis, arrived safely at the starting point - St Louis de Senegal in Africa - on May 4, 1933. Here, Skarzynski finally disclosed to the astonished FAI commissar the real purpose of his flight. Despite the latter's reservations (the idea of crossing the Atlantic in a small touring airplane must have seemed no less ludicrous then, as it does now), he obtained his permission.
The take-off took place on May 7, at 11PM, and the whole flight passed without a single incident. The pre-flight navigational preparation proved excellent, and after 17 hours and 15 minutes the RWD-5bis arrived at the Brazilian coast only 15km (9 miles) from the intended point. Three hours later, Skarzynski landed at a small airfield in Maceio, deciding not to risk a night landing in Natal, which had been the original destination. The astonishment of the Brazilian staff at the Maceio airfield was no lesser than that of the FAI commissar in St Louis, when the large transatlantic machine they had expected turned out to be a small touring aeroplane. To add to their confusion, Skarzynski was dressed in a regular gray suit, and carried a hat with him - not the sort of clothing one would expect a 'heroic aviator' to wear for a transatlantic flight.
After the flight, Skarzynski and his RWD-5bis remained in South America, touring the continent, to return to Poland in glory several months later. As no further long-range raids were planned, RWD-5bis was soon rebuilt to the two-seater RWD-5 standard for use with Aeroclubs, while Stanislaw Skarzynski remained faithful the Polish Air Force. He was the Chief of Staff in the "Pomorze" Army Air Wing in September 1939. After Poland's collapse, as so many Polish airmen, he made his way to Britain where, as the C/O of the Lindholme RAF Bomber Station, he often volunteered for combat sorties with Polish bomber crews. On 26 June 1942, in a Vickers Wellingtion of 305 Squadron, he took part in the 1000-bomber raid on Bremen. The bomber had to ditch in the North Sea due to engine failure, and when trying to board the dinghy, Lieutenant Colonel Stanislaw Skarzynski was washed off the airplane's wing by a strong wave and drowned - by an ironic twist of fate, the sea claimed its Polish conqueror."

Story by Robert Postowicz.


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Is that an actual picture or a drawing? The background looks real while the plane looks like a drawing.....
This black and white photo is oryginal.


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