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Zygmunt Pulawski – brilliant Polish aircraft designer 1901-1931


In the inter-war period, Poland was one of the few countries with a rapidly developing aerospace industry. It is interesting to note that among the manufactured aircraft, domestic designs soon began to lead the way and were rapidly gaining recognition around the world. One of the many highly regarded constructors was Zygmunt Puławski.

He was born on 24 October 1901 in Lublin, where he graduated from the Vetters’ Gymnasium. He was an excellent student, as well as an active scout. Soon after passing his school-leaving exams in August 1920, he enlisted in a volunteer scout battalion and took part in the Polish-Soviet War. In the autumn of the same year, he enrolled at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the Warsaw University of Technology. During his studies, he gave tutoring lessons. He also found time for his sporting interests, as well as for learning foreign languages: English, French and German. Studying did not cause him any problems. He then discovered and developed his passion – aviation. 

Then, he created his first designs: the SL-3 glider and the ‘Scout’ aeroplane, which was awarded in a competition held by the Ministry of Military Affairs in 1925. In the same year, he completed his studies and was sent to France for an apprenticeship. After their completion, he did his military service, obtaining a pilot’s certificate.

In 1927, Puławski was employed as the chief constructor at the State Aviation Works (PZL) in Warsaw. A year later, he presented a preliminary design of the P-1 fighter plane, which for the first time used the so-called “Puławski airfoil”, i.e. the shape of the wings in the silhouette of a seagull significantly increasing the pilot’s visibility, and the so-called scissor landing gear enabling take-off and landing in field conditions. The design was further developed by Puławski, and the next aircraft, the P-6, proved to be the winner of an international competition in 1931, delighting aviation experts. The subsequent P-7 and P-11 models (developed after Puławski’s death) entered series production and formed the backbone of Polish fighter aviation at the outbreak of the Second World War. 

At the same time, Zygmunt Puławski designed an amphibious aircraft, the P-12. Unfortunately, during one of the flights, the machine piloted by the designer crashed in Warsaw on 21 March 1931. He was buried at the cemetery on Lipowa Street in his hometown of Lublin. 


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