The Lublin R-XVI was an air ambulance that was produced in small numbers in the mid 1930s and that was still in Polish service when the Germans invaded in 1939.
The R-XVI was developed as a replacement for the Junkers-F 13 civil light transport. It was the second Lublin design produced with that in mind, following on from the R-XI, a somewhat chunky looking high winged monoplane four or five seat transport with an elliptical wing. The R-XVI was a high wing cantilevered monoplane, powered by a 220hp Wright radial engine, produced under licence in Poland by Skoda. The elliptical wings of the R-XI were replaced with tapering wings. The pilot’s cockpit was mounted between the wings, with the top of the cockpit level with the top of the wings. The four seat passenger compartment was behind and below the cockpit. The fuselage was built around chrome-molybdenum tubes, making the prototype the first Polish aircraft to use that material. The fixed undercarriage was connected to the wings by long vertical struts, with smaller struts connecting the wheel to the base of the fuselage. The aircraft was designed by Jerzy Rudlicki.
The prototype made its maiden flight in February 1932, and then went to Warsaw for airworthiness trials. In the summer of 1932 went to the Polish airline P.L.L. ‘Lot’ for operational trials. It performed perfectly well, but didn’t quite meet the airline’s requirements for payload. Unfortunately for Lublin the rival P.W.S.24 did meet those requirements, and so the P.W.S. aircraft received the production order.
This wasn’t the end for the R-XVI. In the summer of 1932 the Polish Red Cross and the Medical Aviation Research Centre were looking for a suitable air ambulance, and chose the R-XVI. Lublin modified the prototype to carry two stretcher cases, one medical attendant and first aid equipment. The modified prototype flew in the spring of 1933, and then flew to Spain to take part in the International Congress of Military Medicine and International Congress of Medical Aviation, which were being held side by side in Madrid. It won the Raphael Cup for the best air ambulance at the event, beating a Potez 29 and a Ford Trimotor.
The success of the prototype led to an order for five production R-XVIB air ambulances. These had a deeper fuselage, modified undercarriage and new windscreen and pilot’s cockpit. The prototype and all five production aircraft were still in service as air ambulances when the Germans invaded in 1939.
The R-XVIB used the same chrome-molybdenum tube structure as the prototype, covered with fabric. The wing was built around a two spar wooden structure with a plywood covering, and was built in one piece, which was then bolted to the top of the fuselage. The cockpit had room for the pilot and a mechanic. A luggage compartment was located below the pilot’s cockpit. The main cabin was rearranged to carry two stretchers, one above the other, with a large flap in the starboard side to move the stretchers in and out. The cabin was heated, ventilated and carried a wash-stand with running water, a first aid kit and the medical attendant’s seat.
Engine: Polish Skoda Works (Wright) Whirlwind J.5 nine cylinder air-cooled radial engine
Crew: Pilot, engineer, medical attendant
Length: 33ft 1.25in
Height: 9ft 8.75in
Empty Weight: 2,535lb
Loaded Weight: 3,593lb
Maximum Speed: 118mph at sea level, 104.4mph at 13,123ft
Climb rate: 3,280ft in 6min 30sec
Range: 497 miles