The Special Rotorcraft Conference, which was held today in the Aviation Institute in Warsaw, inaugurated the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the launch of helicopter production in PZL-Świdnik. The event was attended among others by Jarosław Gowin, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Science and Higher Education and representatives of the Armament Inspectorate of MND, of the Polish Armed Forces and uniformed services, as well as politicians, users of helicopters made by Świdnik, veterans, entrepreneurs, experts and the media.
The conference provided an opportunity to present the history, experience and achievements of PZL-Świdnik, confirming how important pillar of the Polish defence system the Świdnik plant is. Although mainly with historical focus, the event enabled demonstration of the current position of the plant and presentation of company plans and R&D works it pursues.
„It is a great honour that so many outstanding guests decided to celebrate this very special anniversary with us. For 60 years we have been building a unique position of Poland in the global helicopter market, placing us firmly in the elite group of just five European states having complete helicopter producers within their territories. We are ready to follow up those operations for decades to come, supplying the Polish Armed Forces with top quality equipment and lend an impulse to Polish economy in the form of taxes and new technologies”, Krzysztof Krystowski, Vice President of Finmeccanica Helicopter Division, the owner of PZL-Świdnik, said during the conference.
PZL-Świdnik presently employees over 3000 people, including almost 650 engineers, and it cooperates with almost 1000 Polish enterprises, generating nearly 4500 additional jobs in Polish economy. The biggest group of those enterprises is comprised by partners from south-eastern Poland, including members of the largest Polish aviation cluster, namely the Aviation Valley, and of the Lublin Cluster of Advanced Aviation technologies. PZL-Świdnik is one of the biggest employers and taxpayers in Lublin region. Since privatisation, the company has already paid almost 570 million zlotys in public levies to the state and local government budgets. So far the company has manufactured and delivered more than 7400 helicopters to customers from over 40 countries worldwide. PZL-Świdnik is a key partner of the Polish Ministry of Defence under the biggest helicopter programmes of the Polish Armed Forces – almost 160 helicopters produced by PZL-Świdnik are in the service of the Polish Armed Forces. Almost 80% of all helicopters delivered to the Polish Armed Forces in the recent decade are machines manufactured in Świdnik (SW-4 Puszczyk, W-3PL Głuszec, W-3WA Sokół, W-3WA Sokół in VIP version for transportation of top government officials). The remaining 20% are Russian-made helicopters.
It all started in early 1950s in Lublin region. Within the premises of the Pilot School of the Air and Chemical Defence League, an aviation plant was put up with the main task as originally comprised by production of components for MIG-15 jet fighters. The airfield existing in Świdnik was merged with the manufacturing plant and for decades gained the status of in-plant airfield. Five years after the factory launch, it obtained a licence for manufacture of SM-1, the first helicopter produced in Poland. After SM-1 the time came for Mi-2, with over 5500 units produced, placing the Świdnik plant firmly in the third place in terms of the number of manufactured helicopters.
Owing to such an intensive manufacturing operations, the plant was developing and gaining new competencies. This enabled the designing of a truly Polish helicopter – today the best known product of the company, namely W-3 Sokół. Since 1988, when „Sokół” entered the phase of serial production, over 180 units with a wide range of mission equipment were supplied to customers from all over the world. Sokół aircraft are used by police, border guards, mountain volunteer rescue service (TOPR), and in fire-fighting. The largest number of those machines serve in the Polish Armed Forces, which – besides the basic version – use also the combat support version called W-3PL „Głuszec”. Sokół helicopters are manufactured in VIP version for transportation of the President of the Republic of Poland. The next truly Polish helicopter after Sokół designed by Polish engineers and produced in Poland, is the single-engine SW-4. This helicopter is well-known by Polish military pilots because its military version under the name of SW-4 Puszczyk was selected as the destination training aircraft in the Air Force Academy in Dęblin. With over 40 units sold, SW-4 enjoys popularity also in the civilian market. So far it has been delivered to Brazil, Italy, South Korea, Ukraine, and to China. Chinese market may well be the future for SW-4 as the company signed a contract with a local distributor providing for obligation to sell ten SW-4s in China.
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