LWS LWS-3 Mewa
The LWS-3 Mewa ("Seagull") was a Polish observation and close reconnaissance aircraft, designed in the late-1930s by the LWS factory as the successor to the now-obsolete Lublin R-XIII army cooperation aircraft. The first sketches were drawn up in 1936 by Zbysław Ciołkosz, the chief designer of the LWS factory (Lubelska Wytwórnia Samolotów). It was similar to the earlier light ambulance plane LWS-2, which itself was inspired by the RW-9 STOL aircraft wing design. After Ciołkosz left LWS in 1937, the project, named LWS-3 Mewa, was modified and further developed at the LWS bureau. In the same year, the Polish Air Force ordered three prototypes. The first prototype, the LWS-3/I was flown in November 1937. It revealed some handling deficiencies, but otherwise had good performance. Following tests, the design of the aircraft was improved. In 1938, the second prototype LWS-3/II was flown. It had a crank mechanism to lower the tailfin and rudder in order to increase the angle of rear machine gun fire, but as it proved impractical, the next prototype LWS-3/III which flew in autumn 1938 again had a classic tailfin design. The third prototype, with some further changes, among others to the engine cover and canopy, was the pattern for serial production. The first prototype was exhibited at the 16th International Paris Aviation Salon in November 1938 (as "PZL Mewa"), where it met with considerable interest. The PZL was building the Mewa reconnaissance monoplane by the beginning of Second World War.
The aircraft was a mixed construction (steel and wood) monoplane, conventional in layout, with canvas and plywood covered braced high wings. The wings folded rearwards. Conventional fixed landing gear, with a tailwheel. The crew of two sat in tandem in a glassed-in enclosed cockpit, with large transparent canopy surfaces. The crew had dual controls. Prototypes were armed with two forward-firing 7.92 mm machine guns fixed on the undercarriage covers, but it appeared, that their accuracy was low due to vibration, and (according to J. Cynk) production aircraft were intended to have twin machine guns fitted on the fuselage sides. The observer had a 7.92 mm wz.37 machine gun in a rear station, covered by an opening canopy. The engine was a Gnome-Rhône 14M01 14 cylinder air-cooled radial engine (prototypes) or 14M05 (serial) with 660 hp (490 kW) nominal power and 730 hp (540 kW) maximum power. Three-blade metal propeller (planned) or two-blade wooden propeller (installed on some aircraft). Fuel capacity about 380 liters in wing fuel tanks. The aircraft was fitted with a radio and cameras.
Contrary to its direct predecessor, RWD-14 Czapla, the Mewa was a modern close reconnaissance plane, comparable with leading foreign aircraft of that period, like Henschel Hs 126 or Westland Lysander. Its advantages were quite short take-off and landing, which enabled it to operate from fields. Official tests were satisfactory, and in 1938 the Polish Air Force ordered 200 aircraft of the production variant LWS-3A Mewa (or "Mewa A"). Production started in early 1939, and first aircraft were to be ready in the summer. In August 1939, about 30 aircraft were almost completed (10 ready, but lacking propellers, 7 in painting and 10 in final assembly). At the time the LWS-3B Mewa variant powered with a Fiat R74 860 hp (640 kW) engine was being developed for sale to Bulgaria, as was a floatplane LWS-3H (hydro) variant for Polish naval aviation. None were produced due to the outbreak of war.
None of the aircraft entered service in the Polish Air Force before the outbreak of the World War II on September 1, 1939. The problem was with propellers, which had to be delivered from France. The first two aircraft were ready for delivery on September 2, but one of them was damaged on the factory airfield in Lublin by German bombers. The fate of the other one is not clear. Following that, some of the almost finished aircraft were hidden in Lublin park and in a forest nearby. A couple were modified to use wooden propellers with a fixed pitch. Two such aircraft were evacuated to an airfield near Lwów, and given over to the 26th Observation Escadre on September 12. One of them crashed during a night landing on Medyka airfield near Przemyśl on the same day, the other was burned on September 17, when it could not be evacuated. According to some sources, two other Mewas were assigned to the 23rd Observation Escadre on September 11, but this has not been confirmed. It is not clear whether any of these aircraft were armed. One of the aircraft was also seen during evacuation to Pinsk in mid-September. The rest of the uncompleted aircraft were seized by Germans and scrapped.
The Ilmavoimat / Maavoimat evaluation team performed an extensive series of test flights with the the second Mewa prototype LWS-3/II in early 1938. The aircraft rated comparatively higher and remained in consideration up to the final decision being made. Speed and STOL performance were both excellent and the aircraft itself was rugged and well-constructed.
Crew: 2 (Pilot and Observer)
Engine: 1 x Gnome-Rhône 14M05, 492 kW (660 hp)
Prop: two-blade wooden fixed pitch propeller or three-blade metal variable pitch propeller (planned)
Maximum speed: 224mph
Range: 436 miles
Service ceiling: 27,880 ft
Armament: 2× fixed, forward-firing 7.92 mm PWU wz.36 machine guns, 1× rearward-firing 7.92 mm PWU karabin maszynowy obserwatora wz.37