The high performance of the French SPAD S.VII aircraft

With approximately 6,000 examples produced, the SPAD S.VII was a crucial asset for Allied pilots during the First World War. The rugged fighter was controlled by several famous flying aces, including Italian Francesco Baracca and Frenchman George Guynemer. It was the country of this last pilot who made the successful biplane.

World War I veteran

Société pour l’aviation et ses dérivatives (SPAD) was a French aircraft manufacturer founded in 1911. In 1913, the company was acquired by Blériot Aéronautique, which retired the brand in 1921. The S.VII was designed by Plou , Dear-born Louis Béchereau, who proposed a smaller version of the 1915 SPAD SA


The SPAD V would first fly in April 1916. However, there were several variants and experiments of the S.VII, including the UK-built edition, which first flew in 1917. The UK model has was built with a gun fairing supported by a strong cowl access panel.

Well equipped for battle

Cole Palen’s Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in Red Hook, New York is home to a reproduction of the VII. The site points out that the aircraft was SPAD’s first successful production aircraft. It was backed up by the Hispano-Suiza 150 hp water-cooled V-8, which allowed it to be more powerful than the Nieuport aircraft flown by the Allied forces. It was equipped with a single Vickers .303 machine gun, which made it difficult to confront the German forces.

The aircraft was able to reach a maximum speed of 193 km/h (120 mph) at sea level. Later models were produced with the 180 HP “Hisso”. Eventually, the development was expanded and advanced, making way for SPAD XIII, which was especially prevalent during the final years of World War I. The XIII had a total of 8,472 units built.

Old Rhinebeck adds color to the SPAD VII with the following:

“Airfield SPAD markings are those of Lieutenant George Turnure of Lenox, MA. In January 1918, he was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the 103rd Aero Squadron (formerly the Lafayette Escadrille) of the United States Air Service. He served ended the war with three confirmed victories – including two heavily defended observation balloons. It is decorated with the Legion of Honor and the Croix de guerre with three palms and a star. This machine is a reproduction and is the last aircraft built by the prolific Carl Swanson, who died shortly before its completion in 2000. It is powered by a modern 150 hp Lycoming 0-320-E2D engine.The airfield is very grateful to Poplar Grove Airmotive for their generous contribution to the overhaul of the SPAD VII engine.

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Lots of action

Even though the aircraft was very successful in combat, there was room for improvement. As Georges Guynemer, the second French ace with 54 victories in World War I, said in a letter to Béchereau at the end of 1916:

“The 150 hp SPAD is no match for the Halberstadt. Although the Halberstadt is probably not faster, it climbs better and therefore has the overall advantage. More speed is needed – perhaps – be that the propeller could be improved.”

It was not only European forces that trusted the aircraft. Army outfits in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, Japan, Siam, and the United States have all taken on the S.VII.

Overall, although it suffered from poor forward and downward views from the cockpit, the SPAD S.VII was tough and hard to hit and helped its masters to victory during one of the most influential periods of air combat.

What do you think of the SPAD S.VII? What do you think of the overall story of the plane? Let us know what you think of the aircraft and its operations in the comments section.

Source: Former Rhinebeck Airfield; The Aerodrome

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