No. 11598. D.W.L. RWD 5 (SP-AGJ c/n 34)
Photographed in France, 1934, source unknown

D.W.L. RWD 5

09/30/2012. The Polish Doswiadczalne Warsztaty Lotnicze (D.W.L., Experimental Aviation Workshops) stemmed directly from the activities of Sekcja Lotnicza Kola Mechaników Studentów Politechniki Warszawskiej (Aviation Section of Warsaw Technical University Engineering Students' Circle) (Sekcja Lotnicza for short), which was formed in 1921 as the successor to the earlier Aeronautical Section founded at the Warsaw Technical University in 1916 by Bartel, Brunner and Suchos.

In 1929 three of the Sekcja Lotnicza's most active and promising light aircraft designers, Stanislaw Rogalski, Stanislaw Wigura and Jerzy Drzewiecki, who formed the RWD team, managed to obtain the exclusive rights to the use of the Sekcja Lotnicza workshop at Warsaw-Okecie. The facility, at first known as Warsztaty Lotnicze, was used to built light aircraft and gliders. In April 1931, the D.W.L. was formed, and the RWD team formally separated from the Sekcja Lotnicza.

D.W.L. set itself the task of designing and developing light aircraft as a prime concern. Small-scale production of the selected types, in batches of 10 to 20, was envisaged to cover the cost of experimental and development work, and in the case of large orders license rights were to be offered to other Polish factories. D.W.L. successfully resisted all attempts by the Department of Aeronautics to nationalize the company and was the only privately-owned aircraft factory in existence in Poland in the late 'thirties.

In the final years before the war, D.W.L. employed on average about 300 people, and the total number of airframes completed at the D.W.L.'s Okecie establishment exceeded 300. When war came in September 1939, D.W.L. evacuated its Okecie factory, and nine of its airworthy aircraft reached Rumania on September 14. Eventually D.W.L. ceased operations, Rogalski, Wigura, Drzewiecki and many staff members went separate ways, about 25 ending up in Turkey, organizing and running the Türk Hava Kurumu-Uçak Fabrikasi (Turkish Air League-Uçak Factory).

In 1930 the RWD design team conceived a new two-seat high-wing cantilever light tourer monoplane, designated RWD 5, which represented a further evolution and refinement of earlier models. The aircraft was of composite construction and embodied a completely new fuselage with a rectangular-section structure of welded steel-tubes covered with fabric. Two fully-enclosed amply-glazed tandem cockpits, with provision for dual controls, were situated below the wing. Aft of the rear seat was a large baggage locker. Doors to both cockpits were on the starboard side of the fuselage, and cabin windows were made to hinge outwards from the bottom for ventilation.

The undivided tapered wing, a two-spar structure of wood with plywood D leading edge, was covered with fabric and bolted direct to the top of the fuselage. On the standard production aircraft the wing aspect ratio was slightly reduced, the overall span being cut from 34 ft 5.5 in (10.5 m) to 33 ft 10 in (10,3 m), and wing area increased from 161.5 sq.ft (15 sq.m) to 166.8 sq.ft (15.5 sq.m). The tail unit, with a cantilever tailplane, was constructed of wood. Fin and tailplane were ply-covered, and rudder and elevators were fabric-covered, in later models a taller fin and rudder was employed. The tailplane was adjustable in flight.

The undercarriage of the production model was of the divided type and consisted of two D.W.L. rubber-in-compression legs, running from the sides of the fuselage, with the lower ends hinged to the bottom of the fuselage by short axles and radius rods. The compression legs were enclosed in streamlined fairings, and the medium-pressure Dunlop wheels were often fitted with large spats. A semi-leaf spring tailskid was used. The wheel track was 5 ft 11 in (1.8 m).

Alternative powerplants included the 105-115 hp Cirrus-Hermes IIB, 120-130 hp Cirrus-Hermes IV, 130 hp de Havilland Gipsy-Major, or 110 hp Walter Junior four-cylinder inverted in-line air-cooled engines, driving a Szomanski two-blade wooden airscrew. Other in-line engines of similar output could be installed. Two fuel tanks, with a total capacity of 58.12 gal (220 l) were mounted side by side in the wing above the cabin. The oil tank was carried externally at the bottom of the fuselage on the port side.

Work on the machine was delayed by the move from the University's primitive workshop to the new establishment at Warsaw-Okecie. Construction of the prototype began at the new factory in September 1930, but due to extreme financial difficulties and other problems arising from the move, the aircraft was not finished until July 1931. Powered by the Cirrus-Hermes IIB the RWD 5 flew for the first time on August 7, 1931, proving eminently successful. Registered SP-AGJ (c/n 34) the aircraft was flown a week later to victory in the 3rd Tour of Southwestern Poland by Mieczyslaw Pronaszko, and less than two months after its first flight it came first in the 4th National Lightplane Contest, piloted by Franciszek Zwirko.

The first year of D.W.L.'s existence was a critical one, and, apart from the RWD 5 prototype, only one other aeroplane, the record-breaking RWD 7, was completed in 1931. Soon, however, the prospects began to improve, and in addition to a Government contract for a new Challenge tourer, the RWD 6, orders for the RWD 5 were mounting. In the spring of 1932 work on the first batch of ten RWD 5s began, and this was followed by another batch of ten in 1933.

The production model differed from the prototype in having a redesigned undercarriage with medium-pressure wheels and a more efficient windscreen and improved cabin windows. The first two production machines, the Cirrus-Hermes IIB powered SP-AJA and SP-AJB, c/ns 58 and 59, named Kolejarz I (Railwayman) and Kolejarz II, were financed by the Railwaymen's Union, and officially presented to the Warsaw Aeroclub on November 13, 1932.

The prototype, SP-AGJ, underwent various modifications; in 1933 it was re-engined with a Cirrus-Hermes IV, and later was fitted (site files) with a production-type wind screen and Dunlop medium-pressure wheels in place of the earlier Palmer wheels. Several RWD 5s were re-engined during their life, including SP-AJA, which was fitted with a Gipsy Major in 1936. In addition to the twenty RWD 5s produced by D.W.L., one monoplane of this type was completed before the end of 1933 by the Central Aeroclubs' Workshops in Lublin.

The RWD 5s played a prominent role in the development of Polish popular flying and, in addition to extensive touring and sporting activities, some of the machines, such as SP-ARP (c/n 68), owned by the Central Board of the Aeroclub of the Polish Republic, and SP-LOP (c/n 84), owned by the Central Board of Aviation League, were operated as executive aircraft. The RWD 5s achieved a number of victories in national and regional rallies and meetings, most outstanding among them being the success in the 5th National Lightplane Contest; the competition was won by Cirrus-Hermes IV powered SP-AGJ, piloted by Pronaszko, and two Cirrus-Hermes IIB powered RWD 5s qualified for the fourth and fifth places.

The RWD 5 participated also in several international events, and gained considerable fame in the Tour of Algeria and Morocco, staged in April 1933, in the course of which SP-AJB, flown by Robert Hirszbandt, with Bohdan Kwiecinski as passenger, covered a route of 7,077 mls (11,389 km) without a hitch. Flying in greatly varying climatic conditions over difficult terrain, the monoplane won the 'Foreigners' Prize' at the Casablanca Meeting. However, all these successes were overshadowed by one of the greatest epics in the annals of Polish flying, Skarzynski's Atlantic flight.

Created September 30, 2012