Lublin R-XIII

In 1897, Emil Plage founded the Factory for Building Machines and Boilers in Bronowice, Lublin. In 1899, he formed an alliance with Teofil Laśkiewicz and the factory was renamed into Mechanical Works E. Plage & T. Laśkiewicz (Polish: Zakłady Mechaniczne E. Plage i T. Laśkiewicz, ZMPL); that was a mechanical workshop and steam boiler manufacturer. The Russian Army retreating in 1915 set their premises on fire yet those were restored.

On the initiative of the Polish Air Force, Mechanical Works E. Plage & T. Laśkiewicz in Lublin began to produce aircraft in 1920. The firm owners were engineers Kazimierz Arkuszewski and Roman Laśkiewicz. It was located in the south-western district of Lublin, at Fabryczna st., 26, near the aerodrome. Teofil Laśkiewicz was managing director, Engr. Witold Rumbowicz worked as technical director, Engr. Stanisław Cywiński headed the technical office and the production preparation office was headed by Engr. Kazimierz Kazimierczak.
The Works occupied the area of 14 ha. That territory comprised: a building housing the company’s management and construction offices, a joinery, a fitting shop, a tin shop, a tool shop, mechanical workshops, an upholstery shop and a paint shop, a propeller shop, a final assembly department, hangars, warehouses, a laboratory and a dope shop. Next to those were buildings of non-aviation departments producing boilers and, later, car bodies. In 1921, the factory employed 500 people.
On February 17, 1920, the Polish Air Force concluded an agreement with the Works for the provision of 300 aircraft: fighters Ansaldo Balilla and combat biplanes Ansaldo A.300 that would be constructed under the Italian licence within 1,5 years. In August 1920, Ludomił Rayski delivered a sample copy of Ansaldo A.300 from Italy (Turin) to Lublin by air. On June 15, 1921, the first Ansaldo A.300 built in Lublin performed a test flight and on July 21, pilot Adam Haber-Włyński running the test flight of the first Ansaldo Balilla plane died because of his too daring pilotage.
During two years since receiving the order, they only produced 100 planes. A.300 aircraft manufactured in Lublin were called ‘flying coffins’ because there were several cases when wings were torn off as they were heavier and weaker than examples built in Italy. The reasons were thicker plywood of the poorer quality used in their construction and improper execution. At the beginning of 1924, Gen. Armand Leveque suspended the production. In total, 75 Ansaldo A.300 planes and 57 Ansaldo Balilla planes had been built by then.
Irrespectively of the licensed production, the Works had to develop their own designs. In August 1921, Stanisław Cywiński created the project of a two-seater reconnaissance aircraft Arla-1 (shortened Arkuszewski and Laśkiewicz) which was later sent to the military authorities for approval. That was a monoplane with braced mid wings and 300hp engine Fiat A.12bis. The project was not realised. However, in 1923, S. Cywiń­ski built two gliders at the factory – the Lublin I and Lublin II that participated in the First Polish Glider Contest in Białka near Nowy Targ.

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In April 1924, the factory received an order from the Aviation Department of the Ministry of Military Affairs for licensed production of French combat planes Potez XV; to assist in starting the production, French engineers were brought. In September 1924, a flight of the first Potez XV led by Col. Serednicki came to Poland from France; a few among them were to be used as sample copies by aerospace manufacturers. In the middle of 1925, the first Potez XV planes of the Lublin production were ready.
Meanwhile, the firm’s board was being changed. Starnawski was managing director for a short time, Tadeusz Piasecki was his successor and, eventually, Engr. Zygmunt Zakrzewski took that position. A French engineer Rastoul became technical director and Engr. Władysław Świątecki succeeded him. Engr. Jan Dębowski acted as administrative and commercial director, Engr. Jerzy Rudlicki headed the construction office and Jan Luboiński headed the production preparation department.
In 1927, the factory started to build licensed reconnaissance bombers Potez XXV; 100 were constructed in 1928-1929 and 50 more in 1932. They produced 20 three-engine bombers Fokker F.VIIb/3m under the Dutch licence in 1929 and 11 Fokker F.VIIb/3m airliners (10 for LOT Polish Airlines and 1 for export to Belgium) in 1930. Working on Potez planes enabled them to build fuselages welded from steel pipes, while production of Fokkers allowed to construct cantilever wooden wings skinned with plywood. In addition to manufacturing, the factory also provided repairs of Potez XVs and XXVs.
Since 1927, they started working on their own prototypes. Those were designed by J. Rudlicki and his team of more than a dozen people including engineers Marian Bartolewski, Jerzy Dąbrowski, Antoni Uszacki, Janusz Lange, Jerzy Teisseyre, Witold Grabowski, Jaworski and others.

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