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31.03.2011  22:49

PZL-104 Wilga

text: Rafał "Yoyo" Stankiewicz,

To fly and fly... with no limits, with no end... with passion...

And when you fly, why not try Poland's “home made” construction?

There is an aircraft, so special, and its name is Wilga. Its specific name derives from the name of one of the most colorful and bright birds living in Poland. In the past the PZL-104 aircraft became (and still is) the symbol of the Polish technological concept for leisure and sport aviation.

At the end of the 1950s in Poland there appeared an idea to design a modern, light, economical and multifunctional plane. It was supposed to be fueled by an I-head engine and have enough space for 3-4 people inside. It was designed to be a slow speed engined, high-winged plane, intended for VFR flights, towing gliders and the transport of parachute jumpers. Also the versions: disposable, hospital and agricultural were planned. The construction and the functionality of the machine were designed to be simple and with attractive piloting and navigating characteristics.

The aircraft was designed by the office of the engineer Ryszard Orłowski and it appeared in its “infant” phase in April 1961. The newly built machine had an attractive, slender line and was equipped with the boxer type engine. At the beginning the plane was used for testing on land only. The new Wilga was presented at the fair in Poznań and Warsaw. These events suddenly attracted the great interest of the Polish and foreign press.

The first test flight was completed by the test pilot of WSK Okęcie Factory, Mieczysław Miłosz, on the 24th April 1962. Unfortunately, it wasn't a success. The flight parameters of the machine failed to be compliant with the engineers' guidelines. A few serious defects were found, including the weight defect (the weight of an empty plane differed from the predicted weight by as much as 309 pounds). The unsatisfactory test results of the prototype of PZL-104 forced the construction office to introduce numerous modifications.

The design works under the management of the engineer Bronisław Żurawski dealt with the reduction of the plane's weight, the improvement of aerodynamics and flight characteristics. So there appeared a brand new fuselage and cockpit. The wing and the materials from which the wing was produced was significantly changed (previously the wing was covered with linen, however in the final phase it was a metal wing). Also, there were amendments in the construction of the ailerons, flaps and part of the slots in the wing, the undercarriage, its span and functionality.

So again, this time on the 1st August 1963, the test pilot Mieczysław Miłosz held the joystick of the new version of Wilga. The encouraging result of the test flight was satisfying enough to present the machine to the civil and military authorities as early as 4 days later.

The mass production of the aircraft started in 1964 and the first “Wilga” machines were sent to Indonesia.

As a consequence of numerous minor exploitation problems there appeared the need for investment expenditures necessary to eliminate them, thus the PZL organized the event “Tour de Balkans” in 1965.

The aircraft was said to fly the distance of over 3500 kilometers through Balkans in marketing purposes. PZL-104 Wilga 2 under the registration number SP-PEB was in the center of interest of the aviation specialist in Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Hungary.

However, the event “Tour de Balkans” revealed more problems, this time related to the driving system of the applied WN-6 engine. These problems occurred so frequently, that the work on this driving unit was completely suspended.

In the second half of 1965 the nose of the plane was being redesigned in order to apply the engine of the soviet construction Al-14R, produced in Poland. And so the slender front part of the machine turned into a wide cover for the radial engine.

On the 31st December 1965 Wilga 3, a plane with a brand new nose and engine, had its test flight. The test flight turned out to be the confirmation of the efficiency of the aircraft's construction. Since that time Wilga 3 (and precisely Wilga 35) has been one of the most popular types of PZL-104 aircrafts in Poland and all over the world.

In the following years the construction of the plane was modified a dozen or so times. Some of the types worth mentioning are for example.: Turbo Wilga, Wilga on skis and on floats. The total number of the produced units of various versions of the PZL-104 plane amounts to about 1000. Among the countries which used the aircraft were: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Egypt, Estonia, Spain, Yugoslavia, Indonesia, Canada, Cuba, Lithuania, Latvia, Mongolia, Germany, New Zealand, Romania, Slovakia, Switzerland, Turkey, USA, Venezuela, Hungary, Great Britain.

And what is the opinion of the pilots? Ryszard Leja, the head of the ZUA pilots says: “I piloted Wilga in the flying club and particularly a lot in Africa. I piloted PZL-104 beneath the endless sands of Sahara many times during the action of the search for locust. I will keep my comment about these flights short and sweet – I always felt safe. Despite long time flights (4-5 hours) Wilga never tired me. It is an aircraft which is … simply felt by the pilot. I always had the feeling that in case of any danger, we would get out safe of it, but actually it had never let me down”.

So can you imagine a better plane to fly VFR over Poland than PZL-104 Wilga? I will leave the answer to the users of the VFRPOLAND.COM portal.

See also: My passion Go up
To fly and fly... with no limits, with no end... with passion... And when you fly, why not try Poland's “home made” construction? There is an aircraft, so special, and its name is Wilga.