The RWD 17 was an aerobatic training aircraft that was ordered by both the Polish Navy and Army, but that hadn’t entered service when the Germans invaded in 1939.
The RWD 17 was designed to solve a specific problem – many Polish aviation clubs had the RWD 10 aerobatic monoplane, but by 1936 there were only 20 club pilots qualified to fly it, and the only way to get qualified was to take a course using the air force’s P.W.S. 16bis biplane. L.O.P.P., the organisation that organised much of Poland’s civil aviation scene, asked L.W.D. to develop a suitable aircraft in 1936. This aircraft was to be slightly smaller than the RWD 8, but with a more powerful engine and more responsive controls. It had to be more agile than the RWD 8 trainer but less agile than the RWD 10 aerobatic aircraft, so it could be used to train pilots in the various aerobatic manoeuvres. The prototype and first ten aircraft were funded by public subscriptions to the memorial fund for Zwirko and Wigura, who had been killed with an earlier RWD aircraft had crashed soon after winning a major aviation contest in Berlin in 1933.
The RWD was a parasol wing monoplane, with slightly swept back wings.
The prototype, powered by a 130hp P.Z.Inx Major inline engine, made its maiden flight in July 1937. It proved to be a bit too stable, and difficult to spin, so it was given larger horizontal tail surfaces to make it more controllable. Deliveries of the civil aircraft began in the autumn of 1938.
Both the Polish Navy and Army were soon interested in the type. The Navy wanted a twin float floatplane, powered by a 160hp Bramo Sh 14A4 engine and that could be used as a two seat basic primary trainer or a single seat aerobatic trainer. In November 1938 the first prototype of the naval version began trials, although with wheels instead of floats, before early in 1939 it was moved to the Puck naval base where it was given two Edo single-step duralumin floats. A second civil RWD 17 may also have been given floats. A initial order was placed for six floatplanes, to be delivered by the end of July 1939, but problems with the floats meant that they weren’t delivered before the German invasion. A second batch of six aircraft had also been ordered, but were presumably at an early stage of construction in September 1939.
The army tested the RWD 17 and decided to order it in large numbers to replace the P.W.S.26 biplane. The Army wanted their version to be more agile, so a new smaller wing was developed, to allow it to carry out aerobatic moves more quickly. It was also changed in shape, with the outer part of the wing having a straight trailing edge, so the outer portion of the wing tapered. By August 1939 orders had been placed for 120 RWD 17 Series II monoplanes and funding authorised for the first fifty. However by the time the Germans invaded the first production prototype hadn’t yet been competed.
Weights and Performance figures are for RWD 17 Series I aerobatic version
Engine: P.Z.Inz Major four-cylinder inverted air-cooled engine
Span: 32ft 9.75in
Length: 25ft 3.25in
Height: 7ft 6.75in
Empty Weight: 1,146lb
Loaded Weight: 1,676lb-1,786lb
Maximum Speed: 121.1mph at sea level
Climb rate: 4min 10sec to 3,280ft
Range: 423 miles