Tag Archives: Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés

7 February 1920

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe. (FAI)

7 February 1920: Joseph Sadi-Lacointe was the first pilot to set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Speed Record after the end of World War I. At Villacoublay, France, Sadi-Lecointe flew an Avion Nieuport—Type Gordon Bennett 1920 ¹ over a 1 kilometer (0.621 mile) course at an average speed of 275.86 kilometers per hour (171.41 miles per hour).²

Joseph Sadi-Lacointe in his Nieuport-Delage 29.
Joseph Sadi-Lecointe in the cockpit of his Nieuport-Delâge 29V racer, after winning the Gordon Bennett Trophy, at Orleans/Etampes, 28 September 1920.

Sadi-Lecointe’s Ni-D 29V was one of three racing variants of the highly successful single-engine, single-seat Ni-D 29 C.1 biplane fighter, which was the fastest in the world at the time.

Like the chasseur (fighter), the Ni-D 29V was a single-bay biplane. It was 6.200 meters (20 feet, 4.1 inches) long, with a wing span of just 6.000 meters (19 feet, 8.2 inches), shortened from the 31 feet, 10 inch (9.703 meters) wingspan of the standard production airplane. The airplane’s height was 2.500 meters (8 feet, 8.4 inches). It weighed 936 kilograms (2,064 pounds), empty. Maximum fuel capacity was 160 kilograms (353 pounds).

The airplanes were altered over time, with variations in wing span. For example, for one speed record attempt, the engine output was increased to 330 horsepower; the two Lamblin radiators were removed to reduce aerodynamic drag; and fuel capacity was restricted to just 40 kilograms (88 pounds). The resulting speed was 302.313 km/h (187.849 miles per hour).³

Avion Nieuport—Type Gordon Bennett 1920 (Nieuport-Delâge NiD 29V) flown by Joseph Sadi-Lecointe. (L’ANNÉE AÉRONAUTIQUE 1920–1921, by L.Hirschauer and Ch Dollfus/Musée Air France)

The airplane was powered by a water-cooled, normally aspirated, 18.473 liter (1,127.265-cubic-inch displacement) right-hand tractor Hispano-Suiza 8Fb single overhead cam (SOHC) 90° V-8 engine with a compression ratio of 5.3:1. The production engine was rated at 300 cheval vapeur at 2,100 r.p.m. The Ni-D 29V engine modified to increase its output to 320 horsepower. This was a direct-drive engine, and turned a two-bladed-fixed pitch propeller. The engine was 1.32 meters (4 feet, 4 inches) long, 0.89 meters (2 feet, 11 inches) wide, and 0.88 meters (2 feet, 10½ inches) high. It weighed 256 kilograms (564 pounds).

Engine cooling was provided by Lamblin cylindrical radiators mounted under the lower wing.

The standard airplane had a top speed of 235 kilometers per hour (146 miles per hour), a range of 580 kilometers (360 miles) and a service ceiling of 8,500 meters (27,887 feet).

Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V as modified in 1922. Note the shorter upper wing. (L’Aérophile 30° Année —N°. 19–20—1st–15 Octobre 1922 at Page 293./BnF Gallica)

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe learned to fly in 1910. The Aero Club de France awarded him its license number 431 on 10 February 1910.

Joeseph Sadi Lecointe

He joined the Service Aéronautique (the original form of the French Air Force) as a mechanic in October 1912, and was designated pilote militaire nº375, 20 September 1913. He served as a pilot during World War I, flying the Blériot XI-2, Morane LA and Nieuprt X, then in December 1915 became a flight instructor at l’Ecole de Pilotage d’Avord. Sadi-Lacointe was promoted from the enlisted ranks to sous-lieutenant, 17 September 1917, and was assigned as a test pilot at BlériotSociété Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés, where he worked on the development of the famous SPAD S.XIII C.1 fighter.

After the War, he was a test pilot for Nieuport-Delâge, and participated in numerous races and set a series of speed and altitude records with the company’s airplanes.

Sadi-Lecointe returned to military service in 1925 and participated in the Second Moroccan War. Then in 1927, he returned to his position as chief test pilot for Nieuport-Delâge. From 1936 to 1940, he served as Inspecteur général de l’aviation civile (Inspector General of Aviation) for the French Air Ministry. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Lieutenant Colonel Sadi-Lecointe was again recalled to military service as Inspector of Flying Schools.

With the Fall of France, Sadi-Lacointe joined La Résistance française, and operated with the group, Rafale Andromède. He was captured and tortured by the Gestapo at Paris, and died as a result, 15 July 1944.

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe, Commandeur Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur, was awarded the Croix de Guerre in three wars. He was posthumously awarded the Médaille de la Résistance. The Aéro-Club de France awarded him its Grande Médaille d’Or de l’Aéro-Club de France. During his flying career, Sadi-Lecointe set seven World Records for Speed, and three World Records for Altitude.

MORT POUR LA FRANCE

The Cross of Lorraine was the symbol of La Résistance française during World War II. (© Ray Rivera)
The Cross of Lorraine was the symbol of La Résistance française during World War II. (© Ray Rivera)

¹ The Avion Nieuport—Type Gordon Bennett 1920 is also known as the Nieuport-Delâge NiD 29V

²  FAI Record File Number 15467

³ FAI Record File Number 15499

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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1 November 1918

Sous-Lieutenant Paul-René Fonck. (Agence Meurisse)

1 November 1918: At 2:20 p.m., Lieutenant Paul-René Fonck, Escadrille 103,  Aéronautique Militaire, shot down a Luftstreitkräfte Halberstadt C, east of Vouziers, France. Its pilot, Gefreiter W. Schmidt of Flieger-Abteilung 297b, was killed.

This was the 75th confirmed enemy aircraft which Fonck had destroyed. (As many as 52 aircraft claimed by Fonck, including another Halberstadt C over Semuy, fifteen minutes later, were not confirmed.) Lieutenant Fonck was the highest-scoring Allied fighter pilot of World War I.¹

Lieutenant René Fonck with a SPAD S.XVII, 1918. (Photo SHD section Air de Vincennes transmise par Jon Guttman)

The chasseur flown by René Fonck on this date was a Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés SPAD S.XVII, Nº. 682. The S.XVII was an improved S.XIII, with stronger wings and fuselage, additional bracing wires and a more powerful engine. Its more closely-spaced longerons gave the fuselage a more circular cross-section and a bulkier appearance.

The S.XVII had the same length, wing span and height as the S.XIII, but was heavier. Its empty weight was 687 kilograms (1,515 pounds) and the gross weight was 942 kilograms (2,077 pounds).

The S.XVII was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 18.473 liter (1,127.265 cubic inch displacement) Société Française Hispano-Suiza 8Fb single-overhead camshaft (SOHC) 90° V-8 engine. This was a right-hand-tractor, direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 5.3:1, and was rated at 300 cheval vapeur (296 horsepower) at 2,100 r.p.m. The Hispano-Suiza 8Fb was 1.32 meters (4.33 feet) long, 0.89 meters (2.92 feet) wide and 0.88 meters (2.89 feet) high. It weighed 256 kilograms (564 pounds).

Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés (SPAD) S.XVII C.1 (flyingmachines.ru)

The S.XVII had a maximum speed of 221 kilometers per hour (137 miles per hour) at 2,000 meters (6,562 feet). It could climb to 2,000 meters in 5 minutes, 24 seconds, and to 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) in 8 minutes, 20 seconds. Its ceiling was 7,175 meters (23,540 feet).

Armament consisted of two water-cooled, fixed Vickers 7.7 mm (.303 British) machine guns above the engine, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc. The guns’ water jackets were left empty.

The SPAD S.XVIIs were delivered to Escadrille 103 in June 1918. It is believed that 20 were built.

Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés (SPAD) S.XVII C.1 (aviafrance)

Paul-René Fonck was born 27 March 1894 at Salcy-de Meurthe, the first of three children of Victor Felicien Fonck, a carpenter, and Marie Julie Simon Fonck. His father was killed in an accident when he was four years old, leaving Mme. Fonck to raise Paul-René and his two sisters. He was sent to an uncle who placed him in a religious boarding school in Nancy. He was a good student. After six years, he returned to live with his mother and finished his education in a public school.

At the beginning of World War I, Fonck joined the French Army. He was assigned to an engineering regiment, building roads and bridges and digging trenches. In February 1915 Corporal Fonck was transferred to flight school at St. Cyr. He received his military pilot rating 15 May 1915 and was assigned to Escadrille C47, an observation squadron, where he flew the twin-engine Avion Caudron Type G. 4.

Caudron G.4 en vol, 1915. Les avions utilisés durant les premières années du conflit ne sont pas spécifiquement conçus pour l’observation. C’est le cas du Caudron G.4, mis au point pour le bombardement mais affecté à la reconnaissance quelques mes après sa mise en service en 1915. (© Droits réservés / Coll. musée de l’Air et de l’Espace–Le Bourget, noº MA 23532.)

In 1917, Fonck was transferred to Escadrille 103. He flew the SPAD S.VII, S.XII, S.XIII and the S.XVII.

For his military service during World War I, René Fonck was awarded the Croix de Guerre avec 28 Palmes, Croix de Guerre (Belgium); and Great Britain awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, Military Cross and Military Medal.

René Paul Fonck died in Paris 23 June 1953. He was buried at the Saulcy-sur-Meurthe Cemetery, near the place of his birth.

René Fonck with a SPAD S.XII Canon fighter. The stork painted on the fuselage is the insignia of Escadrille 103, “Les Cignones.” (Historic Wings)

¹ Rittmeister Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, Luftstreitkräfte, had 80 confirmed victories and was the leading fighter ace of World War I. Captain (Acting Major) William George Barker, Royal Air Force, is credited with 50. Count Maggiore Francesco Baracca, of Italy’s Corpo Aeronautico Militare was officially credited with 34 before being killed 18 June 1918. Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker, Air Service, American Expeditionary Force, shot down 20 airplanes and 6 balloons. Alexander Alexandrovich Kazakov was the leading ace of Imperial Russia with 20 confirmed victories (another 12 were not officially credited).

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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27 October 1918

Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan, Air Service, United States Army (FAI)
Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan, Air Service, United States Army (FAI)

27 October 1918:

MAUGHAN, RUSSELL L.

First Lieutenant (Air Service), U.S. Army
Pilot, 139th Aero Squadron, American Expeditionary Forces
Citation:
Distinguished Service Cross

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to First Lieutenant (Air Service) Russell L. Maughan, United States Army Air Service, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with 138th Aero Squadron, U.S. Army Air Service, A.E.F., near Sommerance, France, 27 October 1918. Accompanied by two other planes, Lieutenant Maughan was patrolling our lines, when he saw slightly below him an enemy plane (Fokker type). When he started an attack upon it he was attacked from behind by four more of the enemy. By several well-directed shots he sent one of his opponents to the earth, and, although the forces of the enemy were again increased by seven planes, he so skillfully maneuvered that he was able to escape toward his lines. While returning he attacked and brought down an enemy plane which was diving on our trenches.

General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 46 (1919), Amended Supplement 1
Action Date: October 27, 1918
Officers of the 139th Aero Squadron, at Belrain Aerodrome, France, November 1918. 1st Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan is at the center of the photograph, kneeling, in the second row. (U.S. Air Force)
Officers of the 139th Aero Squadron, at Belrain Aerodrome, France, November 1918. 1st Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan is at the center of the photograph, kneeling, in the second row. (U.S. Air Force)

Maughan is credited with four enemy aircraft destroyed while flying a SPAD S.XIII C.I fighter.

Russell Lowell Maughan was born at Logan, Utah, 28 March 1893. He was the sixth of eight children of Peter Weston Maughan, an accountant, and Mary Lucinda Naef Maughan. He attended Utah Agricultural College in Logan and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1917.

Maughan was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Officers Reserve Corps, 28 May 1917. He was promoted to first lieutenant, 8 January 1918. This commission was vacated 10 September 1920 and he was appointed a first lieutenant, Air Service, United States Army, retroactive to 1 July 1920.

On 14 August 1919, Maughan married Miss Ila May Fisher at Logan, Utah. They would have three children, but divorced sometime after 1940. His son, Russell L. Maughan, Jr., would become an cadet at the United States Military Academy (West Point) and be commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Air Force.

Following the War, Lieutenant Maughan became a test pilot at McCook Field, Ohio. In 1921, he was reassigned to the 91st Observation Squadron, based at the Presidio of San Francisco.

On 14 October 1922, Rusell Maughan won the Pulitzer Trophy Race at Selfridge Field, near Mount Clemens, Michigan, before a crowd of 200,000 spectators. He set two World Speed Record during the race with his Curtiss R-6: 330.41 kilometers per hour (205.31 miles per hour) over a distance of 100 kilometers,¹ and 331.46 kilometers per hour (205.96 miles per hour) over a distance of 200 kilometers).² On 29 March 1923, he set another World Speed Record, 380.75 kilometers per hour (236.587 miles per hour),³ again flying a Curtiss R-6.

Major General Mason Patrick, Chief of the Air Service, with Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan, 8 July 1924. (Library of Congress)

On 23 June 1924, Lieutenant Maughan flew a Curtiss PW-8 Hawk from Mitchell Field, Long Island, New York, to the Presidio of San Francisco on the west coast of California, in an elapsed time of 21 hours, 47 minutes including refueling stops enroute. This was the “Dawn-to-Dusk Flight.” For this transcontinental flight, Maughan was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

On 1 October 1930, Maughan was promoted to captain. He served in the Philippine Islands from 1930 to 1935, acting as an advisor to the government until 1932. From 1932 to 1935, he served as the post operations officer. He and his family lived in Manila. They returned to the United States aboard SS Columbus, a Norddeutscher Lloyd passenger liner, arriving at New York City from Southampton, 18 August 1935.

Captain Maughan served as an aviation advisor to the governor general of the Philippine Islands, from 1935 to 1939. On 16 June 1936, Captain Maughan was promoted to major (temporary). That rank was made permanent 12 June 1939. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel, 11 March 1940. Just prior to World War II, Lieutenant Colonel Maughan was sent on a survey tour to identify suitable locations for airfields in Greenland.

During World War II, Lieutenant Colonel Maughan commanded the 60th Troop Carrier Group, a Douglas C-47 unit, 1941–42, and then, with the rank of colonel, he commanded the 51st Troop Carrier Wing during Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa.

On 25 October 1946, Colonel Maughan married Lois Rae Roylance at Las Vegas, Nevada. She was 21 years his junior. They lived in Portland, Oregon.

Colonel Maughan later commanded Lemoore Army Airfield, California, and Portland Air Force Base, Oregon.

Maughan was discharged from the U.S. Air Force, 30 November 1947, at the U.S. Army Hospital at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. He died at the U.S. Air Force Hospital, Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, 21 April 1958, at the age of 65 years. He was buried at the Logan City Cemetery, Logan, Utah.

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

The Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés SPAD S.XIII C.1 was a single-seat, single-engine, two-bay biplane designed by Technical Director Louis Béchéreau. The chasseur was first flown by René Pierre Marie Dorme, 4 April 1917. It was constructed of a wooden framework and covered with doped fabric. Sheet metal panels covered the engine and cockpit.

The SPAD S.XIII was 20 feet, 4 inches (6.198 meters) long with the wings having an equal span of 26 feet, 3¾ inches (8.020 meters). It had an overall height of 7 feet, 6½ inches (2.299 meters). The total wing area was 227 square feet (21.089 square meters). The wings each had a chord of 4 feet, 7-1/8 inches (1.400 meters) with 0° dihedral and 1¼° stagger. The vertical gap between the upper and lower wings was 3 feet, 10½ inches (1.181 meters). The upper wing had a 1½° angle of incidence; the lower wing had 1° angle of incidence. There were ailerons on the upper wing only. They had a span of 7 feet, 3½ inches (2.222 meters) and chord of 1 foot, 7½ inches (0.495 meters). The horizontal stabilizer span was 10 feet, 2 inches (3,099 meters. Its maximum chord was 1 foot, 8¾ inches (0.527 meters). The vertical fin height was 2 feet, 7/8-inch (0.876 meters) and it was 3 feet, 11¼ inches (1.200 meters) long at the base. The rudder was 3 feet, 10-5/8 inches (1.184 meters) high with a maximum chord of 2 feet, 2 inches (0.660 meters).

The airplane had fixed wheeled landing gear which used rubber cords (bungie cords) for shock absorption. The wheel track was 4 feet, 10¾ inches (1.492 meters). A fixed skid was used at the tail.

The the S.XIII had an empty weight of 1,464 pounds (663 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 1,863 pounds (845 kilograms).

The SPAD S.XIII C.1 was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated 11.762 liter (717.769-cubic-inch-displacement) left-hand tractor ⁴ Hispano-Suiza 8B single-overhead-cam 90° V-8 engine, with a 5.3:1 compression ratio. The engine drove a fixed-pitch two-bladed laminated wood propeller through a 0.75:1 gear reduction. The Hispano-Suiza 8B was rated at 235 cheval vapeur (231.8 horsepower) at 2,300 r.p.m. It 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 (520.3 pounds).
The SPAD’s main fuel tank was behind the engine, with a gravity feed supply tank in the upper wing. The total fuel total capacity was about 30 gallons (114 liters). This was sufficient for two hours endurance at full throttle at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), including climb.
The SPAD XIII had a maximum speed at Sea Level of 131.5 mph (211.6 kilometers per hour) at 2,300 rpm; and 105 mph (169 kilometers per hour) at its service ceiling of 18,400 feet (5,608 meters), at 2,060 r.p.m. The airplane’s absolute ceiling was 20,000 feet (6,096 meters).
The fighter was armed with two fixed, water-cooled, .303-caliber Vickers machine guns, or two air-cooled .30-caliber Marlin M1917 or M1918 aircraft machine guns, with 400 rounds of ammunition per gun, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc.
According to a report by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration,
“. . .the SPAD XIII had the most favorable power loading of any of the aircraft considered and a high (for its day) wing loading. These characteristics coupled with a relatively low zero-lift drag coefficient and low drag area gave the SPAD the highest speed of any of the aircraft listed in the table. As shown by the data in figure 2.18, the climb characteristics of the SPAD were bettered only by three of the Fokker aircraft.”

A total of 8,742 S.XIII C.1 fighters were built by nine different manufacturers. Only one, Société Kellner Frères Constructeurs serial number 4377, the oldest existing original airplane, is in flyable condition. It is in the collection of the Memorial-Flight Association at L’aérodrome de La Ferté-Alais (LFFQ)

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)
The same type fighter flown by Lt. Maughan on 27 October 1918, this is 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)

¹ FAI Record File Number 15195

² FAI Record File Number 15196

³ FAI Record File Number 15194

⁴ The propeller rotates clock-wise, as seen from the front of the airplane.

© 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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25 July 1909

Starting the Anzani engine of Louis Blériot’s Type XI monoplane, 25 July 1909. (Library of Congress)

25 July 1909: At 4:41 a.m., Louis Charles Joseph Blériot took of from the hamlet of les Baraques,¹ near Sangatte, Pas-de-Calais, France, in his own Type XI single-engine monoplane, and flew across the English Channel (la Manche) to Dover. He landed at Northfall Meadow, near Dover Castle, Kent, England.

Feet wet: Blériot crossing the shoreline, outbound, on the morning of 25 July 1909. (Flight)

The airplane did not have a compass, so for a visual reference. Blériot used a 26-knot Pertuisane-class torpedo boat destroyer, Escopette, which was sailing toward Dover.  After passing the ship, visibility deteriorated and he was only able to see the water below him.

A Marine Nationale Pertuisane-class torpedo boat destroyer (contre-torpilleur). This is the same class as Escopette. (Marius Bar)

Blériot flew on and after about ten minutes was able to see the coastline ahead. He realized that the wind had blown him to the east of his intended course, so he flew along the shoreline until he recognized a signal marking the landing point. The wind was gusty near the cliffs and he landed harder than intended, slightly damaging his airplane.

A contemporary aviation news publication reported:

. . . Accounts differ as to the exact moment of departure and descent, and as a matter of fact it is doubtful if any reliable timing was made since M. Bleriot started without a watch as well as without a compass. The distance of the flight was about 31 miles, and hence the speed was in the region of 45 miles an hour. During the crossing he flew at an altitude of 150 ft. to 300 ft., and thus kept much nearer the water than Mr. Latham did on his attempt.

Flight: First Aero Weekly in the World. Vol. I, No. 31, 31July 1909, at Page 458, Column 2.

Louis Blériot with his Type XI monoplane at mid-Channel, 25 July 1909. (Library of Congress)

This was the first time an airplane had been flown across the English Channel, and brought Blériot international acclaim. He was appointed Chevalier de la légion d’honneur, by France. A London newspaper, the Daily Mail, awarded him a £1,000 prize.

Very quickly, orders for his Type XI were coming in. Between 1909 and 1914, approximately 900 were sold.

Louis Bleriot’s Channel-crossing Type XI monoplane was donated to the Musée des arts et métiers in Paris by the newspaper Le Matin, in October 1909. It remains in the museum’s permanent collection.

Louis Charles Joseph Blériot and his Type XI airplane at Northfall Meadow, Dover, shortly after arriving from France at 0517 a.m, 25 July 1909. (Library of Congress)
Louis Charles Joseph Blériot, Chevalier de la légion d’honneur. (Library of Congress)

Louis Charles Joseph Blériot was born 1 July 1872 at Cambrai, Nord, Pas-de-Calais, France. He was the son of Louis Charles Pierre Alexander Blériot and Clémence Marie Eugenie Candeliez Blériot. In 1882 Blériot was sent to l’Institution Notre-Dame de Grâce, a boarding school in Cambrai, and then, to a high school in northern France. He next studied at the Collège Sainte-Barbe in Paris. After a year there, he transferred to the École Centrale Paris, at Châtenay-Malabry, in southwest Paris.

In 1895–1896, Blériot served as a sous-lieutenant assigned to the 24ᵉ régiment d’artillerie (24th Regiment of Artillery) at Tarbes in the Pyrenees mountains, which divide France from Spain.

Blériot next worked as an electrical engineer and in 1896, he invented acetylene headlamps for use on automobiles. Blériot gained an interest in aviation after attending l’Exposition de Paris 1900. The income from his lamp manufacturing allowed him to conduct serious aeronautical experiments.

In 1901, Blériot married Mlle. Jeanne Alicia Védere (the marriage banns were published 2 February 1901). They would have six children, born between 1902 and 1929.

Mme. Blériot (née Jeanne Alicia Vedére) and M. Louis Charles Joseph Blériot at the House of Commons, Westminster, United Kingdom, 15 September 1909. (National Portrait Gallery, London)

Over the next few years, worked with several other pioneers of aviation, including Ernest rchdeacon,  Léon Levavasseur, Gabriel Voison, Eventually, he started his own aeronautical research and aircraft manufacturing company, Recherches Aéronautique Louis Blériot. In 1913, he bought the aircraft manufacturing company that would become Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés, designers and builders of the legendary fighter of World War I, the SPAD S.XIII C.1. His businesses in France and England manufactured airplanes, automobiles and motorcycles.

In 1930, Blériot established the Blériot Trophy, to be awarded to an aviator who demonstrated flight at a speed of 2,000 kilometers per hour (1,242.742 miles per hour) for 30 minutes. 31 years later, 10 May 1961, the three-man crew of a Convair B-58A Hustler named The Firefly accomplished that feat.

Louis Charles Joseph Blériot died 2 August 1936, in Paris. He was buried at the Cimitière des Gonards, Versailles, Île-de France, France.

Louis Bleriot flew this airplane across the English Channel 25 October 1909. It was donated to the Musée des arts et métiers by the French newspaper, Le Matin, in October 1909. (Musée des arts et métiers)

The Blériot XI was a single-seat, single-engine monoplane. It was 26.24 feet (7.998 meters) long with a wingspan of 25.35 feet (7.727 meters) and height to the top of the cabane strut of 8.0 feet (2.438 meters). It had an empty weight of 507 pounds (229.9 kilograms). (Sources give conflicting specifications for the Blériot XI, probably because they were often changed in an effort to improve the airplane. The model flown across the English Channel was described by Flight as the Blériot Short-Span Monoplane. Dimensions given here are from the three-view drawings, below.)

In its original configuration, the Type XI was powered by an air-cooled, 3.774 liter (230.273 cubic inches) Robert Esnault-Pelterie (R.E.P.) two-row, seven-cylinder fan engine (or “semi-radial”), which produced 30 horsepower at 1,500 r.p.m.,  and drove a four-bladed paddle-type propeller. The R.E.P. engine weighed 54 kilograms (119 pounds). This engine was unreliable and was soon replaced by an Alessandro Anzani & Co. W-3.

The Anzani W-3 was an air-cooled, naturally-aspirated, 3.377 liter (206.078 cubic inch) 60° (some sources state 55°) three-cylinder “fan”-type radial engine (or W-3). It was a direct-drive, right-hand-tractor engine which produced 25 horsepower at 1,600 r.p.m. The W-3 was 0.300 meters (11.811 inches) long, 0.386 meters (15.197 inches) high, and 0.694 meters (2 feet, 3.323 inches) wide. The engine weighed 65 kilograms (143 pounds). The engine turned a highly-efficient Hélice Intégrale Chauvière two-bladed, fixed-pitch, propeller which had a diameter of 6 feet, 8 inches (2.032 meters). The Anzani W-3 cost 3,000 French francs in 1909.

The Blériot XI had a maximum speed of 47 miles per hour (76 kilometers per hour) and the service ceiling was approximately 1,000 meters (3,281 feet).

A description of the Blériot Type XI appeared in Vehicles of the Air, by Victor Loughead,² Second Edition, The Reilly and Britton Co., Chicago, 1910, Figure 197, between Pages 406 and 407:

Blériot Type XI, front view.

Blériot Type XI, side view.
Blériot Type XI, top view.

¹ The village was renamed Sangatte-Blériot-Plage in 1936.

² Victor Loughead was the older brother of Allan and Malcolm Loughead, founders of the Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing Company of Santa Barbara, California, better known today as the Lockheed Martin Corporation.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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