In 1914 Louis Bleriot became president of the aircraft company Société pour les Appareils Deperdussin. One of his first moves was to change the name to the Société Pour Aviation et ses Derives, keeping the SPAD initials. He then helped turn the company into one of France's leading manufacturers of combat aircraft, and what was to become one of the most famous aircraft manufacturers of the First World War.

In 1916 Louis Bechereau, with the Swiss engineer, Marc Birkigt, designed the Spad S.VII. The 175 hp Hispano-Suiza engine was both reliable and fast. The French military officials who watched its maiden flight were so impressed that they ordered 268 straight away. The initial versions were not without teething problems but the initially underpowered design which was prone to over-heating and radiator problems was vastly improved by the Hispano-Suiza engine. The SPAD VII still followed the French tradition of small single gunned fighters and it would not be until the arrival of the SPAD XIII in 1918 that France would finally gain a two gun fighter nearly a year after the British and 2 years after the German Air forces were operating such fighters.

By August 1916 front line units began to receiver the SPAD VII C1 with the C1 classification indicating that it was a single seat Chasseur or fighter aircraft. It replaced the Nieuport 17 aircraft in French service and was to become the primary French scout aircraft. It was also adopted into British Service but proved far less successful in British service possibly due to the difference in air tactics employed by the two allies. Despite having poor forward and lower cockpit visibility the SPAD VII soon gained a reputation as being fast, reliable, and able to sustain considerable damage and still survive. At some point in their careers nearly all the French Aces flew SPADs and the Irish Ace William Cochrane-Patrick made 18 kills while flying a SPAD. Georges Guynermer was one of the first Aces to fly the SPAD VII and at first was not impressed but scored his 15th victory on 4th September 1916. The SPAD suited Guynermer’s reckless offensive flying style as it  was much more forgiving than the Nieuport and he was to score 39 of his 53 victories while flying a SPAD. One victory he achieved in a SPAD without firing a shot - while testing an aircraft with no gun sight  Guynermer came across a 2 seat Albatross fighter. He so frightened the crew that they landed at a French airfield and surrendered. Guynemer's SPAD survives as perhaps the most authentic WWI aircraft in existence. After his death it was displayed bedecked with flowers at the  French Army Museum, remaining there until 1982 when its deteriorating condition led to a move to le Bourget and a major restoration project was undertaken to preserve the fabric skin of the aircraft.

In 1918 the SPAD XIII made an appearance. Based on the SPAD VII air frame it had twin guns and a larger 235 hp Hispano-Suiza engine with an endurance of around two hours. The SPAD XIII was fast and quick to climb but hard to fly. It became a favourite of fighter aces such as Guynermer (whose last victory was the first to be scored in a SPAD XIII), Rene Fonck, Charles Nungesser and Eddie Rickenbacker. Some authors attribute the reason for Allied dominance of the air above the Western Front in 1918 to the SPAD XIII. A total of 8472 were built during the war.





180hp Hispano

235hp Hispano

Wing Span






Max Speed

193 kph



X1 Vickers Machine gun

X2 Vickers Machine guns

SPAD VII Aces of World War I, Jon Guttman. .The SPAD VII was one of the most important fighter aircraft of the First World War. It was a mainstay of the French air force from the middle of 1916 and through 1917. This book covers the SPAD VII's career in French service, as well as its use by Britain, the United States, Belgium, Italy and Russia. [read full review]
cover cover cover

SPAD XII/XIII Aces of World War I, Jon Guttman . The SPAD XIII was the faster more powerful successor to the SPAD VII. It saw the first signs of a change in fighter tactics, with the evolution of the "bounce" tactic used against slower but more manoeuvrable aircraft. The SPAD XIII was the mainstay of the French air force in 1918, and was used in large numbers by the Americans. [read full review]
cover cover cover

Air War Index - Air War Links - Air War Books

How to cite this article: Dugdale-Pointon, T (26 April 2007), SPAD VII and SPAD XIII,

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us - Privacy