Published: 10-01-2008 photo #3980 1 comments 0 votes
The SPAD VII was one of the best fighter planes of World War I. Designed by Louis Bechereau, it was a product of the Society pour l'Aviation et ses Derives, France; hence, SPAD.
It was powered by a Hispano-Suiza engine designed by Marc Birkight, the famous Swiss automotive engineer. The SPAD VII was manoeuvrable, fast and structurally the most reliable fighter of the war. Armed with a single Vickers 303 (7.62 mm) synchronized machine gun, which fired through the propeller arc, and equipped with an Aldis gun sight, SPAD VIIs served in over 50 Allied squadrons (of which 3 were American squadrons) including the famous French Lafayette Escadrille and Storke Groupe (Les Cicognes) squadrons. Many World War I aces scored victories in the SPAD VII, including French ace Georges Guynemer (54 victories) and the Allies' ace-of-aces, Rene Fonck (75 victories).
The Virginia Aviation Museum's SPAD VII (B9913), photographed here in 2006, was manufactured in 1917 by Mann Egerton & Co. Ltd. It was one of 19 British-built SPAD VIIs sent to the U.S. Army's Rockwell Field Pursuit Gunnery School in San Diego in 1918 to serve as advanced fighter trainers for the U.S. Air Service. In the 1920s B9913 was decommissioned and passed through several private owners. In May 1969 James S. Ricklef bought the remains of B9913 and, in 1973, completely restored the aircraft to its present condition featuring original British markings.
The fuselage, wings and tail-group are built of wood and plywood. Wire-in-wing and tail trailing edges gave a scalloped effect. Fabric covers the entire structure except for the front third of the fuselage, which is aluminum-covered. The aircraft has a round frontal radiator, a tailskid, no brakes, and it cannot be trimmed in flight.