Aeroplane Aviation Archive — Issue 33 The World’s Fastest Aircraft

(Jacob Rumans) #1

(^10) FRANCE


he SPAD XIII was the ultimate
expression of French fighter
technology in World War 1. Derived
from the highly successful Societé anonyme
pour l’Aviation et ses derives SPAD VII and
‘limited-edition’ SPAD XII, the XIII was
developed to make use of the powerful
Hispano-Suiza 8B engine, which cranked
out 200hp. The extra performance offered
by the motor allowed the designers to fit
two 0.303in Vickers guns into the XIII. It also
made it the fastest fighter of its time.
The development of improved German
fighters in the late summer of 1916, most
notably the Albatros D.II with its twin machine


guns, led ranking French ace and zealous
SPAD VII advocate Georges Guynemer to
write to designer Béchereau calling for more
power and heavier armament. After testing
the new Hispano-Suiza 8B engine in a SPAD VII,
Béchereau concluded that a larger, more robust
airframe would be required to accommodate
it. In addition to its size, the SPAD XIII.C1, which

was ordered into production in February
1917, had rounded wingtips, inversely tapered
ailerons, forward-staggered cabane struts with
a frontal bracing wire and, most significantly, it
was armed with twin 0.303in Vickers machine
guns with 380 rounds each.
However, a combination of manufacturing
problems and chronic engine reliability
drastically slowed the delivery process, and of
the 2,200 XIIIs promised by SPAD for completion
by March 1918, just 764 had been built, of
which only 300 were in operational service!
Although the SPAD XIII could attain a
commendable maximum speed of 124mph
and climb to 13,000ft in 11 minutes, the aircraft

Below: Ranking American ace of World War 1
Capt Edward V. Rickenbacker poses with his
SPAD XIII S4523 ‘Old Number 1’ of the 94th Aero
Squadron at Rembercourt on 18 October 1918.
Note the fighter’s ‘star-spangled’ wheel covers.
Rickenbacker scored victories 7 through to 26 in
this machine.
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