|PWS-26 in the Polish Aviation Museum|
|Primary users||Polish Air Force
Romanian Air Force
The PWS-26 was a Polish advanced training aircraft, used from 1937 to 1939 by the Polish Air Force, constructed in the PWS (Podlaska Wytwórnia Samolotów - Podlasie Aircraft Factory). It was the second most numerous Polish pre-war aircraft, after the RWD-8.
The aircraft was a final development of a series: PWS-12, PWS-14 and PWS-16, designed in response to a Polish Air Force requirement for an advanced trainer. The chief designer was Augustyn Zdaniewski. The PWS-26 was a direct development of the PWS-16bis, sharing the same silhouette, being a more militarized variant - with strengthened construction, which allowed dive-bomber training. Contrary to its predecessors, the PWS-26 could be armed with a forward-shooting machine gun and practice bombs. It also had other improvements and was capable of aerobatics. A visual difference from the PWS-16bis were the canvas-covered struts of the landing gear.
The PWS-26 was used in Polish military aviation from early 1937, becoming a standard type of advanced trainer for fighter pilots. It replaced most of the older PWS-14s, PWS-16s, PWS-18s (a licence-built Avro Tutor) and Bartel BM-5d's. They carried numbers starting with "81-". The PWS-26 was regarded as a successful aircraft, with good flight characteristics. During its Polish service, there were 10 fatal crashes, which was not a high number.
After the German invasion of Poland, some PWS-26s were used in liaison flights, three aircraft in each, assigned to Armies (basic equipment of liaison flights was the RWD-8). The PWS-26 was mostly used as a replacement aircraft.
According to a report by Jan Falkowski, on September 3, 1939, while flying a PWS-26, he made a chasing Bf 109 crash near Lublin, by performing low-level manoeuvres, but there was no confirmation from the Germans. A single PWS-26 and two RWD-8s of the Polesie Operational Group, were the last Polish aircraft in the sky during the campaign. Some Czech pilots flew these aircraft during the campaign on the Polish side. Account of Jan Falkowski of the above kill. "I was only 200 feet from the ground when I tried a trick. I put my plane into a dive, all the time watching one of the Germans who was trying to get on my tail. I did little twists and turns, not allowing the enemy to get me squarely in his sights. All the time we were getting closer and closer to the ground. I brought him to about 50 feet off the ground and in the last second, dived again, then immediately pulled into a left turn. I missed the ground by a scat 10 feet, I figured. The German wasn't so lucky." (account of Jan Falkowski causing the Bf 109 to crash, taken from his auto biography "With The Wind In My Face").
Some PWS-26s were shot down by the Germans, at least one was shot down by the Soviets on September 19. A large number of PWS-26s were destroyed on the ground by the Germans or burned by the withdrawing Poles. A dozen or so were evacuated to Romania and at least 33 to Latvia. This latter group were captured by the Germans - in 1941. After some modification, 28 of them were sold to Romania. The Romanian aircraft (including those evacuated), entered service in civilian and military aviation (and used there until the 1950s). Two were tested in Germany. A dozen or so were captured by the Soviets in Poland and also used by them for testing.
Only one PWS-26 (Nr. 81-123) has survived. Captured by the Germans in September 1939, it was part of the German aviation museum, displayed with the Luftwaffe markings VG+AS. The aircraft was found in Poland after the war and used until 1953 by civilian operators with the markings SP-AJB. It is currently preserved in the Polish Aviation Museum in Kraków.
Two-seater mixed construction (steel and wood) trainer biplane, canvas and plywood covered, with open cockpits. A fuselage of a metal frame, covered with wood and canvas, section with aluminium sheets. Two-spar rectangular wings with rounded tips, of wooden construction, canvas and plywood covered. Crew of two, sitting in tandem, with dual controls (instructor in front, student in rear). Some had an elevated canvas cover above the student's cockpit for blind flying training. Engine: 9-cylinder Wright Whirlwind J-5B air-cooled radial engine, built under licence in the Polish Avia works. Two-blade wooden propeller of fixed pitch. Conventional landing gear, with a rear skid. Fuel tank 150 l in the fuselage. Armament (optional): 1 x 7.92 mm wz.33 or Vickers machinegun in the right-hand side of the fuselage, with interrupter gear, 1 x camera gun and 2 x 12 kg bombs.
1 x 7.92 mm machinegun, 2 x 12 kg bombs (optional)