The P.Z.L. L.2 was an observation and liaison aircraft designed for the Polish Air Force but that was only produced in small numbers after losing out to a Lublin design.
The L.2 was designed in response to a Department of Aeronautics requirement for a observation/ liaison aircraft issued in 1928. It was designed by Jerzy Dabrowski and Jerzy Kott, soon after they joined the newly formed P.Z.L.
The L.2 was a high wing monoplane, with large struts supporting the wings. It had a duralumin and steel structure and was to be powered by a 200-300hp radial engine, starting with a 220hp Wright Whirlwind radial engine that was then being built under licence at the Polish Skoda works. The wings were given Handley Page slots on the leading edge and flaps on the trailing edge, one of the first aircraft to combine both of these features. The wing was carried just above the fuselage on an inverted V cabane. The fuselage had a rectangular cross-section, with rounded tops and bottoms. The forward part was covered with sheet duralumin, the area behind the cockpits with fabric. There were two open cockpits arranged in tandem. The observer’s cockpit could carry dual controls, a camera and radio, and a flexibly mounted 7.7mm Lewis gun.
Wind tunnel tests were carried out in April-May 1929, and they were followed by an order for two prototypes and a static-test airframe. The static tests were completed successfully by 15 April 1930. The first prototype made its maiden flight early in 1930, and after competitive trials against the Lublin R-X and P.W.S.5, an order for five L.2a liaison aircraft was placed. This was soon increased to 30.
In June 1930 one L.2 was sent to the Bucharest Fighter Contest, to escort the P.Z.L. P.1. The second prototype appeared at the Paris Salon later in 1930.
The L.2 was most famous for a tour of Africa carried out in 1931 to demonstrate the reliability of Polish built aircraft. The first production L.2 was given extra fuel tanks, which raised the capacity from 32.9 gallons to 138.5 gallons. The crew was made up of Captain Stanislaw Skarzynski, the originator of the idea and Lt Andrzej Markiewicz. The aircraft left Warsaw on 1 February 1931 and despite poor weather in southern Europe reached Cairo on 18 February. A damaged piston caused problems on the flight south to Khartoum, but this was soon fixed and the aircraft flew south through modern South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda then west across the Congo to Gabon and north via Dakar and Casablanca. It then flew back to Warsaw, arriving on 5 May after covering 16,012 miles at an average speed of 108.9mph.
Back in Poland a twin float version of the L.2 had been submitted to the Polish Navy as the P.Z.L.9, but it lost out to the Lublin R-XIII (the designation was soon reused on the P.Z.L. P.9). The Air Force contrast was stopped after 20 aircraft, again in favour of a Lublin aircraft, this time the R-X and R-XIII.
In 1931 a low wing floatplane version of the L.2 was designed for the Polish Navy, as the P.Z.L.15. This would have been powered by a 220hp Wright/ Skoda radial, and combined the forward section from the L.2 but with the rear fuselage removed and replaced by twin booms. Once again it lost out to the R-XIII.
Those L.2a that were completed were delivered in 1931. Most were used as the personal aircraft of senior officers or as VIP transports or couriers.
Engine: Polish Skoda Works (Wright) J.5 Whirlwind nine-cylinder radial engine
Span: 43ft 11.75in
Height: 8ft 10.5in
Empty Weight: 1,966lb
Normal Loaded Weight: 2,826lb
Maximum Speed: 113.7mpg at sea level,
Climb rate: 4min 20 sec to 3,280ft, 10min 5sec to 6,561ft
Guns: One flexibly mounted 7.7mm Lewis gun