Polish Air Force
by Karen Rychlewski

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The newly-constituted Polish Air Force acquired only one example of this plane, manufactured after the armistice. The plane arrived in Dobrzyn in mid-May, 1919 and was transferred to the Central Air Workshop at Mokotowskie Airfield, Warsaw, where it was very carefully inspected and examined. After several flights resulting in damage to the airframe, the plane was repaired, repainted, and rearmed with a single Lewis machine gun for the observer. It finally reached the Eastern Front in September, 1920, where it saw action against the Soviets. In October, 1920, it arrived at Lawica Airfield, Poznan, where it was finally scrapped in April, 1921. The model represents the plane upon its delivery in Warsaw; it is configured differently than the 1/72 Ardpol kit example. Two Spandau guns and feed/disposal chutes, Fotocut wire wheels, and a generator were added to the exterior, as well as a radio and antenna reel inside, to match photos of the delivered plane. These photos seem to show an unpainted engine cowling; the kit fuselage was thinned on the outside of the cowling area and an embossed brass cowling was installed, which was then covered with Bare Metal Foil. BMF was also used around and under the radiator. A ridiculous amount of detail was added to the interior (most of which is invisible) including a complete rebuild of the instrument panel and its bracing, a jungle of wires, hoses, pipes, tubes, and gauges, and a new floor, seat, radio, and gun ring for the observer. The undercarriage struts were replaced with strut stock and the axle replaced with brass tube. All control surfaces were cut off and repositioned using 1mm square stock hinges to secure them. Lozenge decals are Americal, national markings and the serial numbers were from the kit. This kit was started in June, 2002, with the intention of being a 'weekend build'. Hah!

Build shots

The interior is finished and ready to close. The instrument panel was constructed from scratch to include Reheat bezels and instrument faces, two control rods, the business end of a hand pump, and several holes for wires. On the port side are a scratchbuilt throttle, a panel for adjusting gas flow, an Eduard seat belt, and the control horn for the tailplane wires. Gas lines are 28 gauge wire painted white. I don't know what the blue wires/hoses were for but they look cool. On the starboard side is the kit rudder bar with scratchbuilt connection for the rudder cables, the control column (tilted to port to match future aileron placement), another tailplane wire control horn, a switch for unknown purpose (connects to the thin white wire coming out of the instrument panel), enlarged kit gas tank with added filler pipe and gas gauge, kit seat with added seat and armrest padding made from putty, the other end of the Eduard seat belt, the observer's floor made from 'cigar wood' with removable panels for camera use indicated, and the attachment point for observer's seat. All the control cables are very thin copper telephone wire painted aluminum. Also visible are six thin wire braces added to the inside of the gun ring fairing. The blob of putty in the rear of the port side is there for reinforcement because of a slight defect on the outside surface which will need to be sanded. Missing from the photo are a tube with a single gauge which crosses the fuselage in front of the instrument panel, another crosspiece behind the observer's cockpit, and the observer's cloth sling seat (known amusingly in German as the beobachtersitzgurt --what a great word!). Total time spent so far: about 22 hours.

Polish Albatros D.III (Oef), 1919

One of the premier fighters of World War I, the Albatros D.III was inspired by the French Nieuport fighters and their unusual 'sesquiplane' wing design with a single 'V' strut between the wings on each side. The design was produced in Austria by the Oester-reichische Flugzeugfabrik A. G. (Oeffag) in three series numbered 53, 153, and 253. In the 253 series, the use of the large and powerful Austro­Daimler engine necessitated a modification to the aircraft's nose, producing an agressive blunt snout. Over 200 aircraft were produced in this series, delivered to Austrian squadrons from May, 1918. The Austrians were not known for flamboyant color schemes, whether sanctioned camouflage or personal markings. However, a small number (perhaps as few as 15!) were delivered in a very unusual printed camouflage fabric with sworls in three colors. Several of these distinctively covered airplanes were obtained by Poland for use during the Polish War of Independence against the Soviet Union, 1919­1920.
This model represents a Polish D.III of the Pulaski (2nd) Flight of the Eskadra Kosciuszkowska operating on the Ukranian front from Lvov. This squadron was comprised of American flyers, lately put out of work by the end of WWI, who were persuaded to volunteer by Capt. Merian Cooper (Cooper is perhaps better known as the Hollywood producer of the original King Kong). Intended as a gesture of gratitude for the participation of Tadeusz Kosciuszko in America's Revolutionary War, the squadron was named for Kosciuszko and displayed his cap superimposed on American stars and stripes. The squadron name and insignia were kept even after the demobilization of the Americans and it became synonymous with the crack fliers of the Polish Air Force. The Kosciuszko squadron served with distinction in 1939; and when reformed in Britain in 1941, it became the highest scoring unit in the RAF during the Battle of Britain.

The model began as a 1/48 Glencoe injection molded kit, which is, to say the least, inaccurate. Major modifications included extensive reshaping of the fuselage to achieve the slab­sided contours and the unusual metal fairings into the lower wing. The rudder and engine compartment panels were replaced with scratchbuilt ones; the wings and tailplane were sanded much thinner with a scalloped trailing edge and rib tapes of thin plastic sheet added top and bottom. The entire cockpit and engine compartment interiors were scratchbuilt. The kit engine was replaced with a more accurate Aeroclub cast metal one and extensively detailed with wiring, tubing, plastic sheet and rod, and photo­etched parts; several engine panels were removed to reveal all this fiddly work. Fotocut and Lone Star PE parts were used for the wing radiator, machine guns, wheels, and cockpit details. All color, including the sworl camouflage fabric and the squadron markings, were hand painted by brush with oil-based enamels; the camo painting is not perfect but there wasn't then and still isn't a sheet of this sworl fabric in 1/48.  The wing and rudder 'checkerboard' national markings were Blue Rider decals. I decided to weather the surfaces since the PAF received these planes after they had been well­used by the Austrians and thus they would never have appeared 'factory fresh' in Polish markings. The model received several awards, including Most Realistic Finish at the IPMS Region II Show in October, 1993, and Most Colorful Aircraft at the IPMS 3 Rivers show in May, 1994. On the other hand, during travel to a later show one of the wire wheels collapsed, and while photographing it, like Icarus, it came too close to the sun and the heat from the photo lights severly warped the upper wing (no, I'm not about to replace that wing!). Nevertheless, it's still one of my favorites, having been an extensive excursion into obsessiveness.

History of the Polish Air Force, J. Cynk, Osprey Pub. Ltd., 1972
Pierwsze Samoloty Mysliwskie Lotnictwa Polskiego, T. Goworek, Sigma Not sp.z ., Warsaw, 1991
World War I Aero, No. 105, July, 1985...No. 133, Aug. 1991
Albatros D.III Datafile, Albatros Prod. Ltd., 1986
Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War I, Military Press, 1990

Polish Rumpler C.I, 1918

he Rumpler C.I appeared on the Western Front in December, 1915, and quickly became a favorite among German air crews. It was one of the first 2­seater biplanes specifically designed to carry a machine gun in a combat environment. Reliable and rugged, the C.I followed standard design concepts of wood, wire, and fabric; however, steel tubing was used from the nose to the observer's cockpit resulting in a stronger and lighter aircraft than contemporary Albatros, Aviatik, and LVG B­type planes. At least eight different manufacturers built the C.I, and it flew successfully on every front from northern Poland to Egypt and soldiered on into the 1920's as part of the Baltic nations' fledgling air forces. Dozens of this sturdy type ended up in Poland by various and somewhat confusing routes.
By October, 1918, signs of the imminent downfall of the Austrian and German empires became very clear and the Polish population, conscious of approaching political upheavals, was waiting for a suitable moment to free their land from the oppressors. By the end of the month Polish forces had 'liberated' Austrian airfields at Krakow and Przemysl, and in the first week of November they added the airfields and equipment at Lvov and Lublin. In Warsaw, when the secret Airmen's Union learned that the Germans were contemplating flying their machines away, they demanded the surrender of the airfield and took it on November 15th--it is likely that some Rumpler C.Is were at this airfield. On November 20th the first Polish military aircraft, piloted by Stanislav Jakubowski, took off from Mokotow airfield on a triumphal flight over free Warsaw. Because of the spontaneous way in which individual regions freed themselves from the occupying powers, local authorities were the first to emerge, and each region devised its own system of aircraft markings.

This model represents a very famous aircraft which took pride of place at the ceremony of swearing allegiance to Poland by Polish airmen on December 16, 1918, at Warsaw­Mokotow airfield. The Rumpler C.I Datafile incorrectly captions a photo of this plane as number 4607/16 when in fact, it was built under license by the Hannover factory in 1917 and was given the Warsaw local markings of a red and white shield on wings, fuselage, and rudder when acquired by the Poles.
The model is built from a 1/72 Joystick vacuform kit--one of the best of the line. Construction was relatively simple for a vacuform, and only the cockpits needed to be further detailed. Engine, propellor, and wheels are Aeroclub items; the decals of the Warsaw markings and serial numbers are from the Blue Rider decal sheet 201. Painting was all by hand with oil-base enamels and it was rigged with 'invisible' monofilament thread.

History of the Polish Air Force 1918­1968, J. Cynk, Osprey Pub. Ltd., 1972

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