Tag Archives: Chasseur

15 May 1918

Packard Lepère L U.S.A. C. II in flight.

15 May 1918: The prototype Packard Lepère L U.S.A. C.II made its first flight.

The Packard Lepère L U.S.A. C. II was a single-engine, two-place, two-bay biplane chasseur which was designed by a French aeronautical engineer, Capitaine Georges Lepère, who had previously designed the Section Technique de l’Aeronautique Dorand AR.1 reconnaissance airplane for the Aéronautique Militaire, the military air service of France. The new airplane was built in the United States by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan. It was a two-place fighter, or chasseur, light bomber, and observation aircraft, and was armed with four machine guns.

A contemporary aviation publication reported:

Flying Qualities—The machine exhibits excellent flying qualities, with ready response of all controls. Longitudinal, lateral and directional stability of the machine is good. In taxying, starting and landing it is entirely satisfactory, and on landing it does not roll more than 300 or 400 ft. [91.4–121.9 meters] All stunt maneuvers can readily be performed, and in general, from a pilot’s point of view, the machine is excellent.

The range of vision is very good, the controls well placed, and instruments so arranged that the pilot need only move his eyes.

AVIATION AND AERONAUTICAL ENGINEERING, Vol. VI, No. 8, 15 May 1919, at Page 426, Column 1.

Packard Lepère L U.S.A. C. II, P 54, S.C. 42138 (U.S. Air Force)

The Packard Lepère was 25 feet, 3⅛ inches (7.699 meters) long. The upper and lower wings had an equal span of 41 feet, 7¼ inches (12.681 meters), and equal chord of 5 feet, 5¾ inches (1.670 meters). The vertical gap between the wings was 5 feet, ⅝-inch (1.527 meters) and the lower wing was staggered 2 feet, 15/16-inch (0.633 meters) behind the upper wing. The wings’ incidence was +1°. Upper and lower wings were equipped with ailerons, and had no sweep or dihedral. The height of the Packard Lepère, sitting on its landing gear, was 9 feet, 7 inches (2.921 meters). The Packard Lepère had an empty weight of 2,561.5 pounds (1,161.9 kilograms) and its gross weight was 3,746.0 pounds (1,699.2 kilograms).

The fuselage was a wooden structure with a rectangular cross section. It was covered with three layers of veneer, (2 mahogany, 1 white wood) with a total thickness of 3/32-inch (2.38 millimeters). The fuselage had a maximum width of 2 feet, 10 inches (0.864 meters) and maximum depth of 4 feet, 0 inches (1.219 meters).

Packard fuselages under construction. (NARA)

The wings were also of wooden construction, with two spruce spars and spruce ribs. Three layers of wood veneer covered the upper surfaces. Heavy bracing wires were used. These had an airfoil cross-section and actually provided additional lift. The interplane struts were unusual in that they were fully-framed units.

The Packard Lepère was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,649.336-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) Liberty L-12 single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine with a compression ratio of 5.4:1. The Liberty produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The L-12 as a right-hand tractor, direct-drive engine and it turned turned a two-bladed, fixed-pitch wooden propeller. The Liberty 12 was 5 feet, 7.375 inches (1.711 meters) long, 2 feet, 3.0 inches (0.686 meters) wide, and 3 feet, 5.5 inches (1.054 meters) high. It weighed 844 pounds (383 kilograms).

The engine coolant radiator was positioned horizontally in the center section of the Lepère’s upper wing. Water flowed through the radiator at a rate of 80 gallons (303 liters) per minute.

Major Rudolph W. Schroeder flying P 53, a Packard Lepère L U.S.A. C. II,  A.S. 40015, over McCook Field, Ohio, 24 September 1919. (U.S. Air Force)

The Packard Lepère had a maximum speed of 130.4 miles per hour (209.9 kilometers per hour) at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), 127.6 miles per hour (205.4 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), 122.4 miles per hour (197.0 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters), 110.0 miles per hour (177.0 kilometers per hours) at 18,000 feet (5,486 meters) and 94.0 miles per hour (151.3 kilometers per hour) at 20,000 feet (6,096 meters). Its cruising speed was 112 miles per hour (180 was kilometers per hour). The airplane could climb to 5,000 feet in 4 minutes, 24 seconds, and to 20,000 feet in 36 minutes, 36 seconds. In standard configuration, the Packard Lepère had a service ceiling of 20,200 feet (6,157 meters). Its range was 320 miles (515 kilometers).

The fighter’s armament consisted of two fixed M1918 Marlin .30-caliber aircraft machine guns mounted on the right side of the fuselage, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc, with 1,000 rounds of ammunition, and two M1918 Lewis .30-caliber machine guns on a flexible mount with 970 rounds of ammunition.

The Air Service had ordered 3,525 of these airplanes, but when the War ended only 28 had been built. The contract was cancelled.

The third Packard Lepère, S.C. 42130, under construction at the Packard Motor Car Co., Detroit, Michigan. (NARA)

Six Packard Lepères were used for flight testing at McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio, assigned project numbers P 44, P 53, P 54, P 65, P 70 and P 80. One of these, flown by Major Rudolph W. Schroeder, set two Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Altitude at 9,455 meters (31,020 feet), 18 September 1918.¹ On 6 September 1919, Schroeder flew a Packard Lepère to 8,616 meters (28,268 feet) while carrying a passenger. This set two more World Altitude Records.² Flying P 53, A.S. 40015, he set a fifth FAI altitude record of 10,093 meters (33,114 feet), 27 February 1920.³ On 28 September 1921, Captain John A. Macready flew P 53 to an altitude of 40,800 feet (12,436 meters). On 13 October 1922, 1st Lieutenant Theodore J. Koenig flew P 53 to win the Liberty Engine Builders’ Trophy Race at Selfridge Field, near Mount Clemens, Michigan. Koenig completed ten laps of the triangular racecourse in 2:00:01.54, at an average speed of 128.8 miles per hour (207.3 kilometers per hour).

The only Packard Lepère in existence, serial number A.S. 42133, is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Packard Lepère L U.S.A. C. II, S.C. 42133, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
Packard Lepère L U.S.A. C. II, right profile

¹ FAI Record File Numbers 15463 and 15671

² FAI Record File Numbers 15464 and 15675

³ FAI Record File Number 8229

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 April 1917

SPAD S.XIII C.1, s/n 16594, built October 1918 by Kellner et ses Fils, Paris (U.S. Air Force)
SPAD S.XIII C.1, s/n 16594, built by Kellner et ses Fils, Paris, October 1918. (U.S. Air Force)
Sous-Lieutenant Rene P.M. Dorme, Escadrille No. 3
Sous-Lieutenant René Pierre Marie Dorme, Escadrille No. 3, Aéronautique Militaire.

4 April 1917: Sous-Lieutenant René Pierre Marie Dorme of the Aéronautique Militaire (French Air Service) made the first flight of the famous World War I fighter, the SPAD S.XIII C.1.

Lieutenant Dorme was an ace with 18 confirmed victories. In the next seven weeks, he shot down another five enemy aircraft.

Designed by Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés Technical Director Louis Béchéreau and manufactured by SPAD as well as eight other companies, this was an improved and slightly larger version of the earlier SPAD S.VII C.1. It used a more powerful Hispano-Suiza 8Ba engine instead of the S.VII’s 8Aa, with an increase of 50 horsepower. (Later versions used  8Be engines.) Armament was increased from a single .303-caliber Vickers machine guns to two.

The SPAD was faster than other airplanes of the time and it had a good rate of climb. Though a product of France, it was used by both the Royal Flying Corps and the U.S. Army Air Service. In France, the airplane type now considered a “fighter” was called a chasseur (“hunter”). The letter “C-” in the SPAD’s designation reflects this. The “-.1” at the ending indicates a single-place aircraft.

SPAD S.XIII at Air Service Production Center No. 2, Romorantin Aerodrome, France, 1918. (U.S. Air Force)
SPAD S.XIII at Air Service Production Center No. 2, Romorantin Aerodrome, France, 1918. (U.S. Air Force)

The SPAD S.XIII C.1 was a single-seat, single-engine, two-bay biplane constructed of a wooden framework with a doped fabric covering. Sheet metal covered the engine and cockpit.

The S.XIII was 20 feet, 4 inches (6.198 meters) long.¹ The upper and lower wings had equal span and chord. The span was 26 feet, 3¾ inches (8.020 meters) and chord, 4 feet, 7-1/8 inches (1.400 meters). The vertical spacing between the wings was 3 feet, 10½ inches (1.181 meters), and the lower wing was staggered 1¼° behind the upper. Interplane struts and wire bracing was used to reinforce the wings. The wings had no sweep or dihedral. The angle of incidence of the upper wing was 1½° and of the lower, 1°. Only the upper wing was equipped with ailerons. Their span was 7 feet, 3½ inches (2.222 meters), and their chord, 1 foot, 7½ inches (0.495 meters). The total wing area was 227 square feet (21.089 square meters).

The horizontal stabilizer had a span of 10 feet, 2 inches (3.099 meters) with a maximum chord of 1 foot, 8¾ inches (0.527 meters). The height of the vertical fin was 2 feet, 7/8-inch (0.876 meters) and it had a maximum length of 3 feet, 11¼ inches (1.200 meters). The rudder was 3 feet, 10-5/8 inches high (1.184 meters) with a maximum chord of 2 feet, 2 inches (0.660 meters).

The SPAD S.XIII C.1 had fixed landing gear with two pneumatic tires. Rubber cords (bungie cords) were used for shock absorption. The wheel track was 4 feet, 10¾ inches (1.492 meters). At the tail was a fixed skid.

The airplane had an empty weight of 1,464 pounds (664 kilograms), and gross weight 2,036 pounds (924 kilograms).

Initial production SPAD XIIIs were powered by a water-cooled 11.762 liter (717.769-cubic-inch displacement), La Société Hispano-Suiza 8Ba single overhead cam (SOHC) left-hand-tractor 90° V-8 engine. It was equipped with two Zenith down-draft carburetors and had a compression ratio of 5.3:1. The 8Ba was rated at 150 cheval vapeur (148 horsepower) at 1,700 r.p.m., and 200 cheval vapeur (197 horsepower) at 2,300 r.p.m. It drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch, wooden propeller with a diameter of 2.50 meters (8 feet, 2.43 inches) through a 0.585:1 gear reduction. (The 8Be engine had a 0.75:1 reduction gear ratio and used both 2.50 meter and 2.55 meter (8 feet, 4.40 inches) propellers.) The Hispano-Suiza 8Ba was 1.36 meters (4 feet, 5.5 inches) long, 0.86 meters (2 feet, 9.9 inches) wide and 0.90 meters (2 feet, 11.4 inches) high. It weighed 236 kilograms (520 pounds).

SPAD S.XIII C.I, right profile. (Unattributed)
The SPAD S.XIII C.1 was developed from the earlier SPAD S.VII C.1. This is Capitaine Georges Guynemer’s SPAD S.VII C.1, N° S 254, “Vieux Charles,” at the Musée de l’Armee. The flowers on the landing gear are a tribute the the fighter ace following his death, 11September 1917. Today, this airplane is in the collection of the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace at Le Bourget Airport.

The airplane had a main fuel tank behind the engine, with a gravity tank located in the upper wing. The total fuel capacity was 183 pounds (83 kilograms), sufficient for 2 hours, 30 minutes endurance at full throttle at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), including climb. There was also a 4.5 gallon (17 liters) lubricating oil tank.

The SPAD S.XIII had a maximum speed of 135 miles per hour (218 kilometers per hour) at 6,560 feet (2,000 meters) and a service ceiling of 21,815 feet (6,650 meters).

The chasseur was armed with two fixed, water-cooled, .303-caliber (7.7 mm) Vickers Mk.I machine guns with 400 rounds of ammunition per gun, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc. Because of the cold temperatures at altitude, the guns’ water jackets were not filled, thereby saving considerable weight.

The SPAD S.XIII was produced by nine manufacturers. 8,472 were built. Only four are still in existence.

Instrument panel of SPAD S.XIII C.1 16439 at NMUSAF. (U.S. Air Force)
Instrument panel of a SPAD S.XIII C.1 at NMUSAF. (U.S. Air Force)

The airplane in the photograph above is SPAD S.XIII C.1, serial number 16594. It was built in October 1918 by Kellner et ses Fils, an automobile manufacturer in Paris, France. It did not see combat, but was shipped to the United States at the end of the War and was stationed at San Diego, California. The airplane was restored by the National Museum of the United States Air Force and is painted in the markings of the airplane flown by Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker, commanding officer of the 94th Aero Squadron, American Expeditionary Forces. It is on display at NMUSAF, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

First Lieutenant Edward V. Rickenbacker with his SPAD XIII C.1, 94th Aero Squadron, France, 1918. (U.S. Air Force)
First Lieutenant Edward V. Rickenbacker with his SPAD XIII C.1, 94th Aero Squadron, American Expeditionary Forces, France, 1918. (U.S. Air Force)
Captain Arthur Raymond Brooks, U.S. Army signal Corps
Captain Arthur Raymond Brooks, U.S. Army Signal Corps

The airplane in the photograph below is another SPAD S.XIII C.1, serial number 7689, also built by Kellner et ses Fils, in August 1918. It was sent to the 22nd Aero Squadron at Colombey-les-Belles and assigned to Lieutenant Arthur Raymond Brooks. Brooks’ fiancée attended Smith College and he named the SPAD Smith IV in her honor. With this airplane, Lieutenant Brooks shot down six enemy airplanes. Other pilots also flew it to shoot down another five.

After the War came to an end, 7689 was shipped to the United States and used in a Liberty Bond fund-raising tour. In December 1919, the United States Army gave the fighter to the Smithsonian Institution. It was restored at the Paul E. Garber Center, 1984–1986, and remains in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum.

SPAD S.XIII C.1 serial number 7689, Smith IV, after restoration at the Paul E. Garber Center, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)
SPAD S.XIII C.1 serial number 7689, Smith IV, after restoration at the Paul E. Garber Center, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

René Dorme fought 120 aerial engagements, many while flying a SPAD S.VII C.1. He is officially credited with 22 victories, and may have shot down as many as 59 enemy aircraft. His personal airplane was marked with a green Cross of Lorraine. He was a Chevalier de la légion d’honneur, and had been awarded the Médalle Militaire and the Croix de Guerre with 17 Palms. Dorme was killed in action 25 May 1917 when his SPAD VII was shot down by Oberleutnant Heinrich Kroll of Jasta 9 at Fort de la Pompelle near Reims.

Sous-lieutenant René Pierre Marie Dorme, Aéronautique Militaire, Chevalier de la légion d’honneur.

¹ Dimensions, weights, capacities and performance data cited above refer to SPAD S.XIII C.1 serial number 17956 (A.S. 94101), which was tested at McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio (Project Number P-154), 1921.

© 2017 Bryan R. Swopes

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13 October 1922

1st Lieutenant Theodore J. Koenig, Air Service, U.S.  Army, 1924.

13 October 1922: Air races were a extremely popular event in the early days of aviation. An estimated 200,000 spectators watched the opening race at the National Air Races, held at Selfridge Field (now, the Selfridge Air National Guard Base) near Mount Clemens, Michigan, from 8 to 14 October.

First Lieutenant Theodore Joseph Koenig, Air Service, United States Army, won the Liberty Engine Builders’ Trophy Race, a race for observation-type aircraft powered by the Liberty 12 engine. This race was Event No. 4, on Friday, October 13.

Flying a Packard Lepère L USA C.II, Air Service serial number A.S. 40015, Koenig completed ten laps of the triangular racecourse in 2:00:01.54, at an average speed of 128.8 miles per hour (207.3 kilometers per hour).

In addition to a trophy, cash prizes were awarded to the competitors for first, second and third place finishes. First place received $1,200.00 (about $16,747 in 2017); second place, $600.00; third place, $200.00.

The Packard-Lèpere L USA C.II flown by Lieutenant J.T. Koenig to win the Liberty Engine Builders Trophy Race, 13 October 1922. It was also flown by Lieutenant John Macready to set an altitude record of 40,800 feet, 28 September 1921. (U.S. Air Force)

The race course was designated as:

“2. Distance

“Approximately 240 miles [386.2 kilometers]—ten times around a closed course of approximately 24 miles [38.6 kilometers], starting at Selfridge Field, thence to Packard Field, from there to Gaukler Point on Lake St. Charles, and thence back to Selfridge Field.”

Aviation, 9 October 1922, Vol XIII, No. 15, at page 449.

Koenig flew the same Packard Lepère L USA C.II biplane, A.S. 40015, that had been flown by Lieutenant John A. Macready to set altitude record of 40,800 feet (12,192 meters), 28 September 1921.

Lieutenant Koenig varied not more than two miles an hour in any lap from his average speed for the ten laps. The first three laps he made at 130 miles an hour, the next five at 129 miles, the next five at 128 miles and the last lap at 129 miles an hour. On the last leg of his last lap, while he was over Lake St. Clair, his air pressure feed, which forces gasoline to the carburetor from the tanks went wrong and he was compelled to resort to an emergency gas tank for fuel.

Aerial Age, Vol. 15, No. 20, November 1922, at Page 535.

Of the nine racers, six completed the race. Major Follet Bradley placed second in his DH.4B with an average speed of 126.4 miles per hour (203.4 kilometers per hour). Third place went to Lt. William L. Boyd, who also flew a DH-4B. “He flew a perfect race, averaging 122 miles an hour in every one of the ten laps. Army men said this was a remarkable achievement.

Lieutenant Theodore Joseph Koening, Air Corps, United States Army, 1926. (Unattributed)

Theodore Joseph Koenig was born at Elmira, New York, 24 July 1892, the first of two children of John B. Koenig, a blacksmith, and Caroline Linberger Koenig. He attended the University of Michigan, 1913–14. He was a member of the Scalp and Blade club, the members of which were from Buffalo, New York.

Koenig was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant of Infantry (Officers Reserve Corps), 27 November 1917, and trained at Fort Niagara, New York. In January 1918, Lieutenant Koenig was assigned to Kelly Field, Texas for flight training, and then to the 652nd Aero Squadron (Supply). He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant, Air Service, 1 July 1920. On 20 September 1920, Lieutenant Koenig was discharged from the Officers Reserve Corps and received a commission as a second lieutenant, Air Service. He was advanced to first lieutenant, effective the same date.

On 14 December 1920,  Lieutenant Koenig married Miss Laura Helen Smith at Galveston, Texas.

Koening attended the Air Service Bombardment School in 1921.

1st Lieutenant Koenig was was the Air Service officer in charge at NAS Sand Point, Seattle, Washington, 1924. He was promoted to the rank of captain, 4 September 1929.

On 28 September 1931, Captain Koenig was involved in an aircraft accident.

Koening attended the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Alabama, 1931– 1932.

Koening was promoted to the rank of major, 16 June 1936. He was assigned as Assistant Military Attaché to the American Embassy in Berlin, Germany, under Colonel Truman Smith. He was sent to gather information about Germany’s increasing military air power and its technical progress. Colonel Smith had invited Charles A. Lindbergh to visit in Germany, and often sent Major Koenig along with Lindbergh as they toured German airfields and aircraft factories. (Lindbergh was performing a similar function for Colonel Smith.)

Major and Mrs. Koenig returned to the United States aboard the passenger liner, S.S. President Harding, arriving at New York, 27 February 1937.

 

Curtiss Y1A-8A 32-356 (U.S. Air Force)

On 5 September 1937, a Curtiss A-8A, serial number 32-356, crashed on takeoff at Holman Field, St. Paul, Minnesota, with Major Koenig on board. The airplane was written off.

Major Koening then attended the Command and General Staff School, graduating in 1938,

Major Koenig was the first commander of the newly-formed 25th Bombardment Group (Heavy), consisting of the 10th, 12th and 35th Bombardment Squadrons, and based at Langley Field, Virginia, from 1 February 1940 to 1941. The group flew the Northrop A-17A and Douglas B-18A. On 1 March 1941, Koenig was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

From 2 June to 15 October 1941, Lieutenant Colonel Koening was assigned to the General Staff Corps. He was promoted to the rank of colonel, 15 November 1941. He was again assigned to the General Staff, 10 March 1942 until 17 September 1943.

Colonel Koenig remained in the Air Force following World War II. During his military career he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and the Bronze Star for meritorious service in connection with military operations against an enemy of the United States, July 1945–February 1945 (awarded posthumously). He died while on active duty, 18 September 1949, at the age of 57 years, and is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Packard Lepère LUSAC 11 P53, left profile. The turbocharger is mounted above the propeller driveshaft.
Packard Lepère L USA C.II A.S. 40015, Wright Field project number P 53, left profile. The turbocharger’s turbine housing is mounted above the propeller driveshaft. The markings on the rudder, above the project number, P 53, are “LEPERE U.S.—” (U.S. Air Force)

The Packard Lepère L USA C.II was a World War I biplane designed by French aeronautical engineer Captain Georges Lepère and built by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan. It was to have been a two-place fighter, light bomber and observation aircraft armed with four machine guns.

The Packard Lepère was 25 feet, 3-1/8 inches (7.699 meters) long. The upper and lower wings had an equal span of 41 feet, 7¼ inches (12.681 meters), and equal chord of 5 feet, 5¾ inches (1.670 meters). The vertical gap between the wings was 5 feet, 5/8-inch (1.527 meters) and the lower wing was staggered 2 feet, 15/16-inch (0.633 meters) behind the upper wing. The wings’ incidence was +1°. Upper and lower wings were equipped with ailerons, and had no sweep or dihedral. The height of the Packard Lepère, sitting on its landing gear, was 9 feet, 7 inches (2.921 meters). The Packard Lepère had an empty weight of 2,561.5 pounds (1,161.9 kilograms) and its gross weight was 3,746.0 pounds (1,699.2 kilograms).

The fuselage was a wooden structure with a rectangular cross section. It was covered with three layers of veneer, (2 mahogany, 1 white wood) with a total thickness of 3/32-inch (2.38 millimeters). The fuselage had a maximum width of 2 feet, 10 inches (0.864 meters) and maximum depth of 4 feet, 0 inches (1.219 meters).

The wings were also of wooden construction, with two spruce spars and spruce ribs. Three layers of wood veneer covered the upper surfaces. Heavy bracing wires were used. These had an airfoil cross-section and actually provided additional lift. The interplane struts were unusual in that they were fully-framed units.

P 53 in its original configuration and camouflage. The fuselage is clearly marked A.S. 40015. (U.S. Air Force)
P 53 in its original configuration and camouflage. The fuselage is clearly marked A.S. 40015. (U.S. Air Force)

The Packard Lepère was powered by a Liberty L-12 engine. The Liberty L-12 aircraft engine was designed by Jesse G. Vincent of the Packard Motor Car Company and Elbert J. Hall of the Hall-Scott Motor Company. It was a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,649.336-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 5.4:1. The Liberty produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The L-12 as a right-hand tractor, direct-drive engine. It turned turned a two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller. The Liberty 12 was 5 feet, 7.375 inches (1.711 meters) long, 2 feet, 3.0 inches (0.686 meters) wide, and 3 feet, 5.5 inches (1.054 meters) high. It weighed 844 pounds (383 kilograms).

Major Henry H. Arnold standing beside the first Liberty 12 aircraft engine turned out for war use. “Hap” Arnold would later hold the 5-star rank of General of the Army and General of the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

This engine was produced by Ford Motor Company, as well as the Buick and Cadillac Divisions of General Motors, The Lincoln Motor Company (which was formed by Henry Leland, the former manager of Cadillac, specifically to manufacture these aircraft engines), Marmon Motor Car Company and Packard. Hall-Scott was too small to produce engines in the numbers required.

The engine coolant radiator was positioned horizontally in the center section of the Lepère’s upper wing. Water flowed through the radiator at a rate of 80 gallons (303 liters) per minute.

The Packard Lepère had a maximum speed of 130.4 miles per hour (209.9 kilometers per hour) at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), 127.6 miles per hour (205.4 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), 122.4 miles per hour (197.0 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters), 110.0 miles per hour (177.0 kilometers per hours) at 18,000 feet (5,486 meters) and 94.0 miles per hour (151.3 kilometers per hour) at 20,000 feet (6,096 meters). Its cruising speed was 112 miles per hour (180 was kilometers per hour). The airplane could climb to 5,000 feet in 4 minutes, 24 seconds, and to 20,000 feet in 36 minutes, 36 seconds. In standard configuration, the Packard Lepère had a service ceiling of 20,200 feet (6,157 meters). Its range was 320 miles (515 kilometers).

The fighter’s armament consisted of two fixed M1918 Marlin .30-caliber aircraft machine guns mounted on the right side of the fuselage, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc, with 1,000 rounds of ammunition, and two M1918 Lewis .30-caliber machine guns on a flexible mount with 970 rounds of ammunition.

The Air Service had ordered 3,525 of these airplanes, but when the War ended only 28 had been built. The contract was cancelled.

Six Packard Lepères were used for flight testing at McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio, assigned project numbers P 44, P 53, P 54, P 65, P 70 and P 80. One of these, flown by Major Rudolph W. Schroeder, set two Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Altitude at 9,455 meters (31,020 feet), 18 September 1918.¹ On 6 September 1919, Schroeder flew a Packard Lepère to 8,616 meters (28,268 feet) while carrying a passenger. This set two more World Altitude Records.² Flying P 53, A.S. 40015, he set a fifth FAI altitude record of 10,093 meters (33,114 feet), 27 February 1920.³ On 28 September 1921, Captain John A. Macready flew P 53 to an altitude of 40,800 feet (12,436 meters).

The only Packard Lepère in existence, serial number A.S. 42133, is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Packard Lepère L USA C.II, S.C. 42133, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

 

Packard Lepère L USA C.II, P54, S.C. 42138 (U.S. Air Force)

¹ FAI Record File Number 15463

² FAI Record File Number 15671

³ FAI Record File Number 8229

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 September 1918

Second Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr., Air Service, United States Army. (U.S. Air Force)
Second Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr., Air Service, United States Army. (U.S. Air Force)

The President of the United States
in the name of
The Congress
takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor

to

FRANK LUKE, JR.

Rank and Organization: Second Lieutenant, 27th Aero Squadron, 1st Pursuit Group, Air Service.

Place and Date: Near Murvaux, France, 29 September 1918.

Entered Service At: Phoenix, Ariz. Born: 19 May 1897, Phoenix, Ariz.

G. O. No.: 59, W.D., 1919.

Citation:

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy near Murvaux, France, September 29, 1918. After having previously destroyed a number of enemy aircraft within 17 days he voluntarily started on a patrol after German observation balloons. Though pursued by eight German planes which were protecting the enemy balloon line, he unhesitatingly attacked and shot down in flames three German balloons, being himself under heavy fire from ground batteries and the hostile planes. Severely wounded, he descended to within 50 meters of the ground, and flying at this low altitude near the town of Murvaux opened fire upon enemy troops, killing six and wounding as many more. Forced to make a landing and surrounded on all sides by the enemy, who called upon him to surrender, he drew his automatic pistol and defended himself gallantly until he fell dead from a wound in the chest.”

2nd Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr, 18 September 1918. (Photograph by Sergeant C. E. Dunn, Signal Corps, United States Army)
2nd Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr., late in the afternoon of 18 September 1918. (Photograph by Sergeant C. E. Dunn, Signal Corps, United States Army)

Second Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr. shot down three enemy observation balloons along the Meuse front, on Sunday, 29 September 1918. He was apparently wounded by rifle or machine gun fire from the ground and made an emergency landing near the village of Murvaux.

Trying to evade capture, Luke walked away from his airplane toward a nearby creek. He exchanged gunfire with several German soldiers that were near, and was killed in the brief fire fight. The event was witnessed by at least thirteen of the local French villagers.

Luke’s body was buried near a village church, and was not located by graves registration personnel until several months later.

Lieutenant Frank Luke's grave at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France. (Brooks D. Simpson)
Lieutenant Frank Luke’s grave at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France. (Brooks D. Simpson)

Luke’s commander, Major Harold E. Hartney, said of him, “No one had the sheer contemptuous courage that boy possessed. He was an excellent pilot and probably the best flying marksman on the Western Front. We had any number of expert pilots and there was no shortage of good shots, but the perfect combination, like the perfect specimen of anything in the world, was scarce. Frank Luke was the perfect combination.”

Leading American ace Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker said of Luke: “He was the most daring aviator and greatest fighter pilot of the entire war. His life is one of the brightest glories of our Air Service. He went on a rampage and shot down fourteen enemy aircraft, including ten balloons, in eight days. No other ace, even the dreaded Richthofen, had ever come close to that.”

Luke is officially credited with destroying 14 observation balloons and 4 enemy airplanes during a 17 day period, 12–29 September 1918. It is probable that he shot down several more.

2nd Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr., 27th Aero Squadron, with his Blériot-built SPAD XIII C.1 fighter, Number 26 (serial number unknown), 19 September 1918. (Photograph by Lt. Harry S. Drucker, Signal Corps, United States Army)
2nd Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr., 27th Aero Squadron, 1st Pursuit Group, with his Blériot-built SPAD XIII C.I fighter, Number 26 (serial number unknown), at La Ferme de Rattentout, southeast of Verdun, France, 19 September 1918. (Photograph by Lt. Harry S. Drucker, Signal Corps, United States Army)

The airplane flown by Lieutenant Luke on the day he was killed was a new Société des Avions Bernard-built SPAD S.XIII C.I, serial number 7984. It had been assigned to the 27th Aero Squadron the previous day and had not yet been painted with any squadron markings.

The Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés SPAD S.XIII C.I was a single-seat, single-engine two-bay biplane designed by Louis Béchéreau. It was first flown by Sous-Lieutenant René Pierre Marie Dorme of the Aéronautique Militaire (French Air Service), on 4 April 1917.

The S.XIII was 20 feet, 4 inches (6.198 meters) long.¹ The upper and lower wings had equal span and chord. The span was 26 feet, 3¾ inches (8.020 meters) and chord, 4 feet, 7-1/8 inches (1.400 meters). The vertical spacing between the wings was 3 feet, 10½ inches (1.181 meters), and the lower wing was staggered 1¼° behind the upper. Interplane struts and wire bracing was used to reinforce the wings. The wings had no sweep or dihedral. The angle of incidence of the upper wing was 1½° and of the lower, 1°. Only the upper wing was equipped with ailerons. Their span was 7 feet, 3½ inches (2.222 meters), and their chord, 1 foot, 7½ inches (0.495 meters). The total wing area was 227 square feet (21.089 square meters).

The horizontal stabilizer had a span of 10 feet, 2 inches (3.099 meters) with a maximum chord of 1 foot, 8¾ inches (0.527 meters). The height of the vertical fin was 2 feet, 7/8-inch (0.876 meters) and it had a maximum length of 3 feet, 11¼ inches (1.200 meters). The rudder was 3 feet, 10-5/8 inches high (1.184 meters) with a maximum chord of 2 feet, 2 inches (0.660 meters).

The SPAD S.XIII C.I had fixed landing gear with two pneumatic tires. Rubber cords (bungie cords) were used for shock absorption. The wheel track was 4 feet, 10¾ inches (1.492 meters). At the tail was a fixed skid.

The airplane had an empty weight of 1,464 pounds (664 kilograms), and gross weight 2,036 pounds (924 kilograms).

This SPAD S.XIII C.1, on display at Terminal 3, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), Phoenix, Arizona, is painted to represent a fighter flown by Frank Luke. It was assembled from components of several different airplanes and restored by GossHawk Unlimited, Casa Grande, Arizona. (Wikipedia)
This SPAD S.XIII C.I, on display at Terminal 3, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), Phoenix, Arizona, is painted to represent a fighter flown by Frank Luke. It was assembled from components of several different airplanes and restored by GossHawk Unlimited, Casa Grande, Arizona. (Wikipedia)

Initial production SPAD XIIIs were powered by a water-cooled 11.762 liter (717.769-cubic-inch displacement), La Société Hispano-Suiza 8Ba single overhead cam (SOHC) left-hand-tractor 90° V-8 engine. It was equipped with two Zenith down-draft carburetors and had a compression ratio of 5.3:1. The 8Ba was rated at 150 cheval vapeur (148 horsepower) at 1,700 r.p.m., and 200 cheval vapeur (197 horsepower) at 2,300 r.p.m. It drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch, wooden propeller with a diameter of 2.50 meters (8 feet, 2.43 inches) through a 0.585:1 gear reduction. (The 8Be engine had a 0.75:1 reduction gear ratio and used both 2.50 meter and 2.55 meter (8 feet, 4.40 inches) propellers.) The Hispano-Suiza 8Ba was 1.36 meters (4 feet, 5.5 inches) long, 0.86 meters (2 feet, 9.9 inches) wide and 0.90 meters (2 feet, 11.4 inches) high. It weighed 236 kilograms (520 pounds).

The airplane had a main fuel tank behind the engine, with a gravity tank located in the upper wing. The total fuel capacity was 183 pounds (83 kilograms), sufficient for 2 hours, 30 minutes endurance at full throttle at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), including climb. There was also a 4.5 gallon (17 liters) lubricating oil tank.

During flight testing at McCook Field, Ohio, following the war, a SPAD S.XIII C.I demonstrated a maximum Sea Level speed of 131.5 mph (211.6 kilometers per hour) at 2,300 rpm, and 105 mph (169 kilometers per hour) at 2,060 r.p.m., at 18,400 feet (5,608 meters). Its service ceiling was 18,400 feet (5,608 meters), and the absolute ceiling was 20,000 feet (6,096 meters).

The chasseur was armed with two fixed, water-cooled, .303-caliber (7.7 mm) Vickers Mk.I machine guns with 400 rounds of ammunition per gun, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc. Because of the cold temperatures at altitude, the guns’ water jackets were not filled, thereby saving considerable weight.

The SPAD S.XIII C.I was produced by nine manufacturers. 8,472 were built in 1917 and 1918. Only four are still in existence.

Recommended: The Stand: The Final Flight of Lt. Frank Luke, Jr., by Stephen Skinner, Schiffer Publishing Ltd., Atglen, Pennsylvania, 2008.

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¹ Dimensions, weights, capacities and performance data cited above refer to SPAD S.XIII C.I serial number 17956 (A.S. 94101), which was tested at McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio (Project Number P-154), 1921.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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