Archive digitization



Aviation and Diplomacy

Frank Piasecki

NATO 1949-2009 Projekt ekspozycji w Muzeum Lotnictwa Polskiego w Krakowie



Polish Aviation Museum

31-864 Kraków,
al. Jana Pawła II 39
phone: (12) 640 99 60,
(12) 642 40 70
e-mail: info@muzeumlotnictwa.pl



Malopolska Region


Patronage

Kraków Airport







Aeroplane: Pieniążek "Kukułka"

Pieniążek
Poland
homebuilt aircraft
1971



  • Technical data


Span 8.0 m
Length 5.4 m
Take-off weight
Maximum speed 159 km/h
Ceiling 3352 m
Range
Armament
Powerplant :
Continental A-65 rated at 48 kW (65 KM)

 

An inconspicuous aeroplane with a history that epitomizes what aviation is all about.

Eugeniusz Pieniążek is an amateur aircraft designer. By the end of Sixties when he worked at the Gliding Centre in Leszno, he demonstrated in-flight Polish glider types in Sweden and got in touch with Swedish pilots. Because of this he was harassed by the secret police after having returned to Poland. Therefore he decided to leave the Polish People’s Republic. As he had no chances whatsoever to obtain a passport and leave the country in an “official” way, neither he wanted to steal a plane from an aero club, he decided to build his own aircraft to defect from Poland.

The concept for the aircraft was based on a British experimental single-seater, the Turbulent. Components for the construction of Pieniążek’s aeroplane came from a crashed SZD-8 Jaskółka glider (modified wings and cockpit canopy), a SZD-24 Foka glider (tail section), a SZD-31 Zefir glider (joystick) and a Continental A-65 engine and landing gear from a Piper Cub.

Building the aircraft took place mostly in Pieniążek’s flat on a block’s third floor in a room of 8 m2 space. The already finished components were lowered on a line through the window (as they were too long to be taken out through the staircase). The final assembly took place on the Leszno airfield. The airplane’s name, "Kukułka" (English: cuckoo), was suggested by E. Pieniążek's seven years' old daughter Iza. The airplane was first flown in spring 1971 and as the first Polish experimental airplane received the SP-PHN registration. Some months in 1971 Eugeniusz Pieniążek made demonstration flights of Kukułka all over Poland, training some 44 pilots, including 5 woman pilots.

In the morning of 13 September 1971, Pieniążek flew his Kukułka on a route from Bielsko-Biala to Krosno (southern Poland, near the Czechoslovakian border). He was supposed to return that afternoon. After taking off for the return flight to Bielsko, having flown for a few kilometers, he turned South. Three hours later, after a low-altitude flight over Czechoslovakia and Hungary, in a thunderstorm and torrential rain and facing a serious threat of engine seizure because of low oil low pressure, he successfully landed in Subotica, Yougoslavia. In Poland he was pronounced missing.

In Yougoslavia he spent 7 months in jail (learning Serbo-Croatian language in the meantime). Later, he was pardoned and allowed to cross illegally the Austrian border. From there, in 1972, he left for Sweden, where he settled down as an immigrant, receiving Swedish citizenship (while still keeping the Polish one). With the help of his Swedish colleagues, he brought his wife and daughter to Sweden. To make it legal, one of the Swedes formally married Pieniążek's wife. In 1973 Mr. and Mrs. Pieniążek made a sentimental journey back to Subotica, to bring the Kukułka to Sweden. Initially, the Yugoslavs would not give it back, finally they released the plane after Pieniążek had paid 1200 dollars storage fee. With that money the Yugoslavs made a binge-drinking party. The Kukułka was then towed behind a VW Beetle with the wings on the roof of the car.

After coming back to Sweden, the Kukułka was stored for 17 years in a hangar at Eskillstuna. In 1990 the plane was brought back to flying condition. However, after some time it became evident that engine and undercarriage replacement became necessary. The old powerplant was replaced with the more powerful Continental A-90 engine and new landing gear struts made of laminate were fitted. For several years the Kukułka flew over Sweden. The engine appeared to be defective and Pieniążek had to buy a new one. In 1993, he shipped the airplane to Poland and in 1996 registered it again in Poland, initially as SP-FKU. Later, the original registration returned: SP-PHN. In 2005, the Polish television network TVN made a documentary series entitled “The Great Escapes”, dedicated to famous defections from the communist Poland. One of the episodes was dedicated to Pieniążek’s escape on the “Kukułka”.

On 13 September 2005, on the 34th anniversary of his flight to Yugoslavia, Eugeniusz Pieniążek donated the plane to the Polish Aviation Museum in Krakow. Unfortunately, bad weather made it impossible to land on the Museum’s historical runway at Rakowice-Czyżyny. Instead, the ceremony took place on the Krakow Aero Club airfield at Pobiednik Wielki. On 25 June 2006, during the III Malopolska Air Picnic, a test pilot Bogusław Mrozek flew the airplane to the Museum. Eugeniusz Pieniążek himself has kept in the business of aircraft construction in the early Nineties, he established No 991 Experimental Aviation Association which has since managed to build flying replicas of 1930s Buecker Jungmann and RWD-5.

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Dofinansowano ze środków Ministra Kultury i Dziedzictwa Narodowego
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