Text: Jan Zdiarský
Illustration: Martin Novotný
Cat. No. 8192
The Avia B.534 is one of the symbols of the determination of Czechoslovakia to stand up against the threat of Nazism that had gripped Germany, and the threat of its spread to other nations in Europe. The attempts to rip away the border regions of Czechoslovakia were obvious from the mid thirties and diplomatic rifts were the order of the day. A strong fighter force was the only way to deter German aggression from the air and to make negotiating meaningful. The Czechoslovak industry lacked the capacity to develop and especially to produce a fast, single engine fighter that could hold its own against the Bf 109 and the fast German bombers of the Luftwaffe. For this reason, the nation turned to the more multi-functional Avia B.534 biplane.
The aircraft’s prototype, designed by Frantisek Novotny, first flew in May 25, 1933. It displayed a very good rate of climb, excellent maneuverability, and, for that time, a good maximum speed, approaching 250mph. Its performance exceeded those of its competition from Praga and Letov. The initial versions had an open cockpit which later was covered, and there was an evolution in the aircraft’s armament, engine cooling system, propeller and on-board equipment. The currently available kit represents the epitome of the B.534, not including the cannon armed Bk.534 which never saw the installation of the cannon firing through the propeller hub, and so production versions were only armed with three machine guns instead of four.
The B.534 entered service at the beginning of 1935. AT the time of increasing tensions provoked by Germany, 27 aircraft were loaned by the army to border guard units.
The main acceptance of the type into service took part in the immediate pre-war years, seeing a growth in numbers from 326 at the beginning of September, 1938 to 443 in March, 1939. The family tree of the type in production can be divided into four blocks, plus the planned cannon armed Bk.534.
The B.534s played their role during both Czechoslovak mobilization periods in May and September, 1938. Their pilots were ready and willing to protect their freedom. As a result of the complete betrayal by Czechoslovakia’s legally bound allies Great Britain and France, culminating in the Munich Agreement and the dismemberment and occupation of Bohemia and Moravia, the B.534 never got the opportunity to put up a fight. In fact, the B.534 became a welcomed prize for the Germans that pressed them into service in their own units and in those of their allies. The type was used by the Luftwaffe, primarily in the advanced training role, and was supplied to Slovakia and Bulgaria, as well as to a lesser extent, Greece. The exception to this are three B.534s that were used during the Slovak National Uprising against the Germans, an event that brought about the last air to air victory to be achieved by a biplane fighter in history.
The painting by Martin Novotny takes us back to the summer of 1937, where the clear sky represents the fragile calm, but history tells us that storm clouds were gathering on the other side of the border. The aircraft bearing the serial number 534.208 was first flown on July 1, 1937 by factory test pilot Oldrich Kosar, and two days later was handed over to Air Force reps. On July 13, 1937, the aircraft was ferried to Kbely, from where it made its way to the 2nd Aviation Regiment at Olomouc, and was later assigned to the 36th Flight.
There, it served with this unit on September 6, 1937, when during a formation flight over Hostynske Vrchy at 6,500m there was a collision involving two B.534s. Jaroslav Sodek, later to become a Czechoslovak member of the RAF, collided with aircraft serialed 208 while flying aircraft B.534.035 as a result of being blinded by the sun. He collided with the second Avia from the left and from behind. The Flight Leader, flying that second plane, was Sgt. Julius Zaoral, who was able to nurse his plane back to Olomouc and land, while Sodek had to take to his chute. The damage to the aircraft flown by the Sergeant was restricted to both the upper and lower left wing and included the interwing struts. The aircraft was repaired and pressed back into service, only to be later taken over by the Germans.
Although the B.534 by 1938/39 would not have the opportunity to stand up to the aggressor, the same could not be said of its pilots. They were, to varying degrees, involved in domestic resistance, and significantly left to oppose the Germans in foreign services of allies that took them to Poland, France, Africa, the Soviet Union, the far east, and most notably, Great Britain.
That, though, leads to other events through history, with which you can get acquainted through other Eduard kits.