SPAD XIII aircraft
In 1916 the next generation of German wrestlers promised to win air supremacy over the Western Front. The French aircraft company, Socit pour l’Aviation et ses Drives (SPAD), answered by developing a replacement for its very successful SPAD VII. Fundamentally a bigger version of the SPAD VII with a more potent V-8 Hispano-Suiza engine, the prototype SPAD XIII C.1 ["C" designating Chasseur (fighter) and "1" indicating one aircrew] first flew in March 1917. With its 220-hp engine, the SPAD XIII reached a maximum speed of 135 miles per hour — about ten miles per hour quicker than the new German wrestlers. It carried 2 .303-cal. The machine guns are mounted above the engine and each gun had four hundred rounds of ammo, and the pilot could fire the guns separately or together. Technical issues checked production till late 1917, but 9 different firms constructed a total of 8,472 SPAD XIIIs by the point production ceased in 1919. Since the US entered World War I without a combat-ready fighter of its own, the U.S. Military Air Service got wrestlers built by the Allies. After the Nieuport twenty-eight proved unsuited, the Air Service adopted the SPAD XIII as its first fighter. By the war’s end, the Air Service had accepted 893 SPAD XIIIs from the French, and these aircraft provided fifteen of the sixteen Yankee fighter squadrons. Today, Americans are most acquainted with the SPAD XIII because lots of our aces — like Rickenbacker and Luke — flew them during WWI. Built in October 1918 by the Kellner et ses Fils piano works outside of Paris, the museum’s SPAD XIII (S / N 16594) didn’t see combat.
With 434 other SPAD XIIIs after the truce, this aircraft went to San Diego, Calif, and a smaller, 150-hp Wright-Hispano engine replaced its Hispano- Suiza engine. The museum staff revived this SPAD XIII to its original configuration, including a 220-hp Hispano-Suiza engine. It is painted in the markings of America’s highest scoring ace of WWI with twenty-six victories, Capt. Edward V.