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Flying school that trained Battle of Britain aces still producing Poland’s Top Guns

On the anniversary of the outbreak of the Battle of Britain, which saw Polish fighter pilots shoot down 12 percent of German planes, TFN travelled to the school where future flying aces are still being trained.
Marta Serafin/Lotnicza Akademia Wojskowa

Dęblin, a small nondescript town on the Vistula 60 miles south of Warsaw, is where Poland’s future Top Guns are being trained.

Out of the thousands of applicants the Polish Air Force Academy receives each year, only 500 make it through the grueling application process, which includes both physical and psychological tests as well as a costly and intrusive medical exams.

Out of the thousands of applicants the Polish Air Force Academy receives each year, only 500 make it through the grueling application process.Marta Serafin/Lotnicza Akademia Wojskowa

‘The examinations,” says the academy’s Małgorzata Bernat, “are tough, and we only take the best.”

Once accepted, the elite cadets embark upon a five year programme of study which for military cadets include specialties such as Jet Fighter Pilot, Helicopter Pilot, and UAV Operator. 

The application process includes both tough physical and psychological tests.Kalbar/TFN

Civilian cadets who can specialize in subjects such as Avionics, Air Traffic Control and the obliquely named ‘National Security’, take three years, but the training is none the less demanding.

Those that graduate then join a long list of illustrious alumni.

Once accepted, the elite cadets embark upon a five year programme of study which for military cadets include specialties such as Jet Fighter Pilot, Helicopter Pilot, and UAV Operator.Marta Serafin/Lotnicza Akademia Wojskowa

Instructor Adam Ginalski said: “We have a great air history in Poland. The heroes of the Battle of Britain like General Skalski surround us every day, watching from the walls of the building.

“If we had a permanently full fuel tank, we would fly forever. We know the regulations but we as Polish pilots are famous for always pushing them to the limits.”

Those that graduate then join a long list of illustrious alumni, including Stanisław Skalski.Public domain

Established in 1925, seven years after Poland’s independence the “School of Eaglets” as it was then named became one of the most modern aviation schools in the world.

Following Hitler’s invasion on 1 September, 1939, the school became a prime target and was attacked the next day by a fleet of Luftwaffe bombers.

 The invasion of the Red Army on September 17 put an end to hopes of relocating the school with a part of the teaching staff murdered in Katyń and Kharkov.

Incorporated into the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, Skalski first saw action with the Polish 302 Squadron, before being assigned to the British 501st Fighter Squadron following the start of the Battle of Britain.Public domain

But the cadets and staff that survived looked for opportunities to carry on the fight.

In June 1940 with the fall of France, 30,000 Polish military personnel crossed the Channel, including about 8,500 pilots.

Churchill and Sikorski agreed to establish two Polish fighter wings; No. 302 ‘Poznan’ Squadron and No. 303 ‘Kosciuszko’ Squadron.

In total, 14 Air Force squadrons were formed within the Polish Air Force which included eight fighter, four bomber, one fighter-reconnaissance and one air observation squadron. Pictured: 305 Polish Bomber Squadron taken in 1942.Public domain

On July 10, 1940, the Battle of Britain officially began with Germans begin the first in a long series of bombing raids against Great Britain.

One of those joining the RAF in its fight against Hitler’s Luftwaffe was Stanisław Skalski, a graduate of the Air Force Academy.

Incorporated into the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, Skalski first saw action with the Polish 302 Squadron, before being assigned to the British 501st Fighter Squadron following the start of the Battle of Britain.

Lotnicza Akademia Wojskowa


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