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

(Jacob Rumans) #1


Above: RFC SPAD XIII B6732 of No 23 Squadron.
This aircraft was piloted by Lt Doyle on
26 February 1918 when he was shot down by
Oblt Von Tutschek, north of Laon.

The sheer number of SPAD XIIIs built
made it inevitable that a large number of
French pilots would ‘make ace’  ying the
aeroplane. Aside from ‘ace of aces’ René
Fonck, Charles Nungesser (43 victories),
Georges Félix Madon (41 victories), Maurice
Boyau (35) and Michel Coi ard (34) all
achieved signi cant victory tallies with the
By 1918, the great days for the French
aces were over, as most aerial action
was now taking place over the British
sector. Consequently, most SPAD pilots
had to spend their time hunting German
observation balloons – a deadly task, as
the latter were always ringed with multiple
ack-ack batteries. Boyau and Coi ard were
particularly e ective balloon-busters, as
was American Frank Luke – he downed
14 of them. Top-ranking USAS ace Eddie
Rickenbacker scored most of his 26 kills in

Lt Charles Eugène Jules Marie Nungesser –
one of the most proli c French aces of World
War 1. His victories were scored while  ying
Nieuport 17s and 25s and SPAD XIIIs.

experienced problems with the spur reduction
gear of its Hispano-Suiza 8B engine. This
delayed the  ghter’s introduction at the front,
and would handicap the aircraft for months.
With the engine woes eventually recti ed,
production  nally began to meet demand in
the late spring of 1918, SPAD churning out
11 XIIIs a day until manufacturing ceased in

  1. By this time, more than 8,472 aircraft
    had been built (more than any other Allied
     ghter in World War 1), and aside from its use
    by no fewer than 81 French Escadrilles, British,
    Italian, Belgian and American units also saw
    action with the XIII. Indeed, some 16 pursuit

squadrons of the American Expeditionary
Force’s United States Air Service were equipped
with the French  ghter.
Despite the engine maladies, which were
never totally cured, the SPAD XIII’s  repower,
combined with its ability to lose most pursuers
in a dive – not only because of its speed, but
because of the wing cellule’s ability to hold up
to the stress – made it immensely popular with
its pilots.
The  rst aerial victory claim in a SPAD XIII,
came from the Royal Flying Corps, which had
adopted the SPAD VII in the summer of 1916
and acquired SPAD XIII S498 in late May 1917.
Given the British serial number B3479 and
tested at Candas, it exceeded expectations with
a speed of 140mph at 15,000ft, reaching that
altitude in 16 minutes and 18 seconds.
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