It all goes back to the 1950s to the Lublin region when on the premises of the Pilot School of the Airborne and Antigas Defence League an aviation factory was built mainly to produce parts for the MIG-15 fighters. An airfield located in Świdnik was incorporated into the facility and became a company heliport for next decades. Already five years after the opening, the factory obtained a licence for the manufacture of SM-1, the first helicopter produced in Poland. Later, its modified version, SM-2, was also produced. After SM-1 and SM-2, it was the Mi-2’s turn with over 5,500 helicopters manufactured, which gave the Świdnik factory the third place in the world in terms of the number of helicopters produced.
Due to such intensive production the factory evolved and developed new competence. This facilitated the design of a truly Polish helicopter – W-3 Sokół – today the best known product of the company. Since 1988 when the Sokół was moved on to mass production, over 180 helicopters with a wide range of equipment has been delivered to the customers all other the world. The Sokół helicopters serve in the police, the boarder guard, the mountain rescue (TOPR, Tatra Volunteer Search and Rescue) and they extinguish fires. Most of these machines are used by the Polish Army, which operates, apart from a basic version, an upgraded combat support variant – W-3PL “Głuszec”. The Sokół helicopters are also produced in VIP transport configuration e.g. to transport the President of the Republic of Poland.
Following the Sokół, a truly Polish helicopter designed by the Polish engineers and produced in Poland is the single-engine SW-4. It is well known by Polish military pilots as its military variant – SW-4 Puszczyk – was selected by the Polish Ministry of National Defence as a target training helicopter in the 41th Air Training Base in Dęblin. With over 40 helicopters sold the SW-4 is also in demand on the civil market. So far it has been delivered to Brazil, Italy, South Korea, Ukraine and China.
Third European Pillar of Leonardo Helicopters
2010 saw the opening of a new chapter in the history of the factory with PZL-Świdnik joining the European family of Leonardo Helicopters (formerly AgustaWestland) and becoming one of the industrial pillars of the group in Europe next to the sites in the UK and Italy. The new owner invested in Świdnik over 900 million PLN in infrastructure, improvement of health and safety, training of staff, transfer of new technologies and intellectual property. This allowed the implementation of technologically advanced projects, which show PZL-Świdnik its way forward. An example is the SW-4 Solo optionally piloted helicopter development programme that has been already hailed by the experts as one of the most ambitious projects in the aviation industry.
Today, thanks to the extensive group of Polish co-operators comprising partners from the south-eastern Poland, including members of Aviation Valley - the largest Polish aviation cluster - and the Lublin Cluster of Advanced Aerospace Technologies, and deep involvement in the transfer of advanced technologies and know-how to Poland as well as considerable state budget revenues due to taxes and public levies, PZL-Świdnik is a key integrator of the Polish aviation sector and one of the drivers of Polish economic growth.