Polskie Linie Lotnicze "Lot" (1958-1989 - The Jet Age)
In the last two decades of "real socialism", Polskie Linie Lotnicze LOT
experienced periods of ups and downs. Decade of 1970s started with major change on top of Poland's political leadership, that resulted in efforts of modernization and opening towards the West (with associated further relaxing of foreign travel restrictions). Due to various reasons, however, they ended in economical collapse and political turmoil that marked the 1980s. First of these decades was a period of impressive growth for LOT
, especially it's network of international routes. Already in 1968 lines to Leningrad and Kiev were opened and in 1969 to Istanbul. New decade started with opening lines to Geneva and Madrid in 1970 and to Hamburg and Baghdad in 1972. New chapter in LOT
's history begun in 1973 with opening of transatlantic line to New York (giving a direct link between several million strong Polish-American minority and their relatives in the Old Country). In the 1974 lines to Cologne, Algier and Tunis were opened, in 1975-1976 to Lyon, Montreal and Benghazi, and in 1977-1978 long-distance lines to Dubai, Bombai and Bangkok (via Kuwait). Year 1978 was a peak period in LOT
's history during "real socialism" with 1 813 000 passengers transported, 83 000 kilometers of lines (77 000 of it international - excluding semi-regular charter flights to such popular at the time - and political realities - tourist destinations like Constanta in Romania and Varna and Burgas in Bulgaria) and 45 aircraft in its fleet (18 jet and 27 turboprop).
Economic downturn of late 1970s led to social dissent and creation of independent Solidarność
trade movement that practically challenged the rule of the communist party, which in turn (due to possibility of Soviet intervention had these issues wouldn't be "solved with domestic means") led to introduction of Martial Law on 13th december 1981 (that lasted formally until 22nd july 1983, but was suspended already on 31st december 1982 with most restrictions being lifted gradually during the 1982). For the LOT
it initially meant a suspension of all flights, with domestic services reinstated in the early 1982. By mid 1980s most of the lines were again in operation, although on somewhat smaller scale due to general economical circumstances. In 1984 flights to USA were resumed (after a period of total ban) - initially as charters to New York and Chicago, and from 1985 as regular connections. At the same time new long-distance lines were opened: to Beijing and Delhi and in 1986 semi-regular charters to Detroit and Los Angeles. In 1988 the then-longest line was opened - Warsaw-Singapore (with a total length of lines over 100 000 kilometers). In the late 1980s LOT
's fleet was becoming increasingly aging, and several accidents prompted authorities to allow a purchase of new aircraft from the Western manufacturers.
entered the jet age relatively late for a flag carrier of a quite sizeable country - in 1968, with the delivery of two Tupolev Tu-134 medium-range planes (SP-LGA, -LGB) followed by three more next year (SP-LGC, -LGD and -LGE). In 1973 LOT
purchased more Tu-134's, but in lenghtened version Tu-134A. First three (SP-LHA, -LHB, -LHC) arrived in the same year, and two more in 1974 (SP-LHD, -LHE). In the 1977 and 1978 two more Tu-134A's joined LOT
(SP-LHF, -LHG), transferred from the Air Force, although this transfer was mostly formal and these two planes continued their service as VIP carriers. One more (SP-LHI) was temporarily transferred from the Air Force between 1988 and 1991. The only relatively serious accident of LOT
's Tu-134 occured in 1980 when SP-LGB got damaged during landing in Warsaw, but nobody was hurt and plane was subsequently scrapped. Remaining four Tu-134's of the first series were sold to Aeroflot
in 1982. Tu-134A's were in use until 1992-1994, when they were either sold or scrapped (SP-LHA become a training device for GROM
special forces unit, SP-LHB ended in museum in Kraków, SP-LHC become a training device for Police AT units, SP-LHD was initially transported to engineering school in Wrocław, but in 2002 was scrapped, SP-LHE ended in museum in Łódź, SP-LHG and SP-LHI become restaurants in tourist towns and SP-LHI was sold to Aeroflot
Poland, Tupolev Tu-134, Tu-134A
Since 1974 LOT
was leasing from the Air Force Antonov An-26 planes for mail transport. These planes wore no LOT
markings, but only standard military ones, therefore they won't be shown here, but (hopefully) sometime in the future together with other post-war military planes of Poland.
Four-engine, long-range Ilyushin Il-62's were initially a pride of LOT
and their crews were considered elite, due to use of these planes on highly prestigous transatlantic lines. First two were delivered in 1972 (SP-LAA "Mikołaj Kopernik", SP-LAB "Tadeusz Kościuszko"), third in 1973 (SP-LAC "Fryderyk Chopin"), two more in 1974 (SP-LAD "Kazimierz Pułaski", SP-LAE "Henryk Sienkiewicz"), one in 1976 (SP-LAF "Adam Mickiewicz") and final, seventh one in 1977 (SP-LAG "Maria Curie-Skłodowska"). In the 1979 LOT
's fleet was joined by modified Il-62M (SP-LBA "Juliusz Słowacki"). Good times of Poland's Il-62's ended on 14th march 1980 when SP-LAA crashed during approach to Warsaw-Okęcie airport with 87 (all) fatalities. That crash revealed fatal design flaws both in the NK-8 engines (that were also characterized by faulty manufacturing) and of the planes itself, which lacked the redundant steering equipment (on a note: Soviets steadfastly claimed that both their designs and manufacture are perfect and need no modifications).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LOT_Polish ... Flight_007
Because the purchase of non-Soviet long range passenger aircraft was at the time impossible both for political and economical reasons, LOT
decided to replace all of it's Il-62's (of the first series) with Il-62M's with D-30 engines, even though both plane and engines shared the same design flaws that were cause of SP-LAA's demise. Newly bought planes were (in addition to SP-LBA purchased already before): SP-LBB "Ignacy Paderewski", SP-LBC "Joseph Conrad-Korzeniowski", SP-LBD "Generał Władysław Sikorski", SP-LBE "Stanisław Moniuszko", SP-LBF "Fryderyk Chopin", SP-LBG "Tadeusz Kościuszko", SP-LBH and SP-LBI. Older planes were re-sold to Soviet Union. Unfortunately, fatal flaws of engines and steering didn't allow to be forgotten - on 9th may 1987 SP-LBG "Tadeusz Kościuszko" crashed during emergency approach to Warsaw-Okęcie airport with 183 (all) fatalities, being the largest air disaster in Poland's history, with causes of the disaster being virtually identical to those of SP-LAA.
After the disaster of SP-LBG, Il-62's in public consciousness became flying coffins (even though - suprisingly - it's total worldwide hull-loss rate was twice lower than of B707 or DC-8), and despite the deep modernization applied to all LOT
's Il-62's, like redundant steering and improved safety devices, the decision was made to replace them with Western-built planes. All remaining Il-62M's were sold to Ukraine in 1991 and 1992.
Poland, Ilyushin Il-62, Il-62M
Short range Yakovlev Yak-40 jets were used in Poland mostly by the Air Force, however first user of the type was civilian Instytut Lotnictwa
(IL, Institute of Aviation
) - aerospace research institution, which obtained single plane in 1972, registered as SP-GEA. In 1980 it was put on a long-term least to LOT
for use on domestic and charter flights, that lasted until 1994 when it was sold to Russia. Between 1985 and 1994 IL
was using another Yak-40 (SP-PGA), but it was former Air Force aircraft. More Yak's joined LOT
in 1988, when 5 Air Force planes were transferred on a long-term lease (SP-LEA, -LEB, -LEC, -LED, -LEE) until 1991.
Poland, Yakovlev Yak-40
Tupolev Tu-154M airplanes were purchased by LOT
as a replacement for smaller Tu-134 and partially Il-62's. First three (in the Tu-154B) were leased from the Soviet union between 1985 and 1988 (and used with LOT
markings, but Soviet registration numbers). In 1986 14 Tu-154M's were ordered, with first two being delivered in 1986 (SP-LCA, -LCB), and two more in 1987 (SP-LCC, -LCD). Last of these four was significantly modified (radionavigational and rescue equipment, seating configuration and catering equipment) to a standard used also for all subsequent Polish Tu-154M's (and retrofitted to first three planes during their refits). Next four planes were delivered in 1988 (SP-LCE, -LCF, -LCG, -LCH), three in 1989 (SP-LCI, -LCK, -LCL), two in 1990 (SP-LCM, -LCN) and final one in 1991 (SP-LCO). Change of political orientation that occured in Poland after 1989 caused newly-built Tupolev's to become "politically incorrect" and in 1993 removed from scheduled service (remaining for three more years in use for charter flights) and sold (1995-1997) to countries of former Soviet Union, with the exception of SP-LCO which was transferred in 1994 to Air Force, where (as "102") it joined Tu-154M-Lux (tragic "101") purchased already in 1990.
Many thanks to ALVAMA for his Tupolev Tu-154M. I allowed myself to make certain changes to it, mainly in the wing and engines area.
Poland, Tupolev Tu-154M
EDIT - 5 July 2014:
After the crash of Il-62M SP-LBG in 1987, scheduled flights of "Lot"'s Ilyushins were suspended. To keep at least some long-distance connections during this period, between 1987 and 1988 an DC-8-62 was leased from US-based Arrow Air (together with pilots and maintenance specialists).
Poland, Douglas DC-8-62
EDIT - 27 October 2013:
Because of the insufficient production capacity at the Voronezh aircraft factory, Polish aviation industry had a share in manufacture of Il-86 airliners, producing complete tails and parts of wings (around 16% of the plane). There were plans to move whole production of wings to Poland (and potentially further elements (up to 50% of the plane), namely to Mielec, but due political disturbances that started in 1980 we fell out of favor and these plans weren't realized.
As part of the deal, PLL LOT
was to receive four Il-86's (with possibly more as part of further contracts) and in the beginning of 1980s a model in LOT
's livery was presented. Poland's serious economic situation in early 1980s, combined with political issues led to shelving of this project for a time being, and when it was back on the table, it was already late 1980s and by the time it was decided to buy Boeing 767's instead.
Poland, Ilyushin Il-86