LWS RWD-14 Czapla
RWD RWD-14 Czapla
The RWD-14 Czapla was a Polish observation, close reconnaissance and liaison aircraft, designed in the mid-1930s by the RWD team, and produced in the LWS factory from 1938. The aircraft was designed in response to a Polish Air Force requirement of 1933 for a new army cooperation plane, a successor of the Lublin R-XIII. The RWD team of the DWL workshops (Doświadczalne Warsztaty Lotnicze) initially proposed the RWD-12 project, based on the RWD-8 trainer. It was however considered as not as good as the R-XIII, and another aircraft, the RWD-14 was designed by Stanislaw Rogalski and Jerzy Drzewiecki. Designer Tadeusz Chyliński prepared its technical documentation.
The aircraft was a mixed construction monoplane with a braced parasol high-wing. The fuselage was a metal and wooden frame, covered with canvas. Wooden two-spar wings were covered with canvas and plywood and fitted with slats and the stabilizers were also of wooden construction. The wings folded rearwards. The fixed landing gear was of conventional design with a rear tailwheel. The Crew of two sat in tandem open cockpits, with twin controls and individual windshields. The observer had a 7.7 mm Vickers K machine gun, the pilot had a fixed 7.92 mm wz.33 machine gun with interrupter gear. 9 cylinder air-cooled radial engine PZL G-1620B Mors-II with 430 hp (320 kW) nominal power and 470 hp (350 kW) take-off power and a two-blade wooden propeller. Two fuel tanks with total capacity of 315 litres (265 liter in the fuselage, 50 liter in the central wing). The aircraft could be fitted with a radio and camera.
The first prototype was flown in late 1935. It won the contest over the Lublin R-XXI project and the Podlaska Wytwórnia Samolotów factory project, but factory trials showed that its performance was still not satisfactory. Between 1936 and 1937 two modified prototypes were built, designated RWD-14a, but both crashed during trials due to steering mechanism faults (the pilots survived). Finally, in early 1938 the fourth prototype, designated RWD-14b, was built.
It was ordered by the Polish Air Force, receiving the name Czapla (Heron), but due to the long development process, it was regarded as only an interim model, to replace the R-XIII until the advent of the more modern LWS-3 Mewa. In return for refunding the development costs, DWL gave the rights to produce the RWD-14b to the state factory LWS (Lubelska Wytwórnia Samolotów - Lublin Aircraft Works, a successor of the Plage i Laśkiewicz).
The fourth prototype was tested by the Ilmavoimat evaluation team but the only feature that rated highly was the short take-off (140 m) and landing (120 m) distances which enabled it to operate from fields and meadows.
LWS built a series of 65 RWD-14b Czapla’s by February 28, 1939, out of 125 ordered by the Polish Army, 120, and Polish Navy. The Czaplas entered service in the Polish Air Force in the spring of 1939, equipping a number of observation squadrons (eskadra obserwacyjna). Due to its long development, it was not a modern aircraft, only a little better than the Lublin R-XIII. Its advantage was its short take-off (140 m) and landing (120 m), enabling it to operate from fields and meadows. Its modern successor, the LWS-3 Mewa, did not manage to enter operational units due to the war. In the invasion of Poland in 1939, the Polish Air Force had 35 Czaplas in five observation squadrons (out of 12): No.'s 13, 23, 33, 53 and 63. Each squadron had seven aircraft. Squadrons were distributed among the field Armies.
The remaining 30 Czaplas were in reserve (probably only four supplemented combat units during the campaign). Like the R-XIII, the Czapla was no match for any Luftwaffe fighter, bomber, or even reconnaissance aircraft encountered, being much slower, and armed with only two machine guns. In spite of this, they were actively used for close reconnaissance and liaison tasks. Most RWD-14b’s were destroyed during the campaign. About ten were withdrawn to Romania (there are quoted numbers from 10 to 16) and one probably to Hungary. They were taken over by the Romanian Air Force and used for auxiliary duties. No RWD-14b has survived.
Ten Polish Air Force Czaplas escaped from Poland to Sweden as the Polish resistance to the German and Soviet invasions collapsed. On arrival in Sweden after flying across German-held territory and then a wavetop flight across the Baltic, they were quickly refueled and flew on to Finland, eventually landing at Turku. These aircraft were incorporated into the Ilmavoimat.
Crew: two (Pilot and Observer)
Engine: 1 x PZL G-1620B Mors-II air-cooled 9-cylinder radial, 470 hp
Maximum speed: 153 mph
Range: 421 miles
Service ceiling: 16,728 ft
Defensive armament: 1 × fixed, forward-firing 7.92 mm wz.33 machine gun / 1 × flexible, rearward-firing 7.7 mm Vickers K machine gun for observer.