Wednesday, April 16, 2008

35 years of LOT Polish Airlines flights to New York


On Wednesday, April 16, it has been 35 years since LOT launched a direct connection between Warsaw and New York City.

An anniversary plane (flight LO 011) was scheduled to land in Newark this Wednesday at 4:50 PM. On April 16th 1973 after lenghty negotitaions between authorities of USA and communist Poland first soviet-made Il-62 arrived at the Kennedy airport. The planes were manufactured in the Soviet Union and bought by LOT from the Soviets at the beginning of the 70. They could fit 168 passengers and were equipped with 4 jet engines. Their flying speed was 510 mph, cruising altitude 42650 feet, and max. range was 4427 miles.

But owning a long-haul jet plane wasn't enough to fly onto the US territory. FAA demanded that all planes flying into the US had to be equipped with the latest radio-navigation systems required to fly safely over the oceans. However, sale of such equipment to any of the Eastern bloc states was embargoed at that time. The problem was somehow solved during the US-Polish negotiations.

The inaugural flight on a plane named "Mikolaj Kopernik" was attended by then LOT Polish Airlines director and also by an ambassador of India. The plane had to make an intermediate landing and to be refueled in Amsterdam. The IATA controller boarded the plane there as well. The Polish plane was greeted upon arrival by New York City representatives and a crowd of New York's Polish community.

The same "Mikolaj Kopernik" heading from New York to Warsaw crashed upon approach close to Warsaw airport on 14 March 1980. Half-mile away from runway. 77 passengers (among them 22-person US amateur boxing team) and 10-person crew were killed. An engine construction failure was to blame.

Photo by Wojtek Kubik

LOT anniversary flight arriving in Newark-Liberty International Airport.