Subject: Spad SVIILocation:Musée d'lair et de l'espace, Le Bourget, Paris, 2015.
Comments: The SPAD S.VII was the first of a series of highly successful biplane fighter aircraft produced by Société Pour L'Aviation et ses Dérivés (SPAD) during the First World War. Like its successors, the S.VII was renowned as a sturdy and rugged aircraft with good climbing and diving characteristics. It was also a stable gun platform, although pilots used to the more manoeuvrable Nieuport fighters found it heavy on the controls. It was flown by a number of the famous aces, such as France's Georges Guynemer, Italy's Francesco Baracca and Australia's Alexander Pentland.The French Aviation Militaire had been sufficiently impressed by the performance of the SPAD V prototype to order a batch of 268 aircraft on 10 May 1916. However, teething problems soon appeared and it would be several months before the SPAD VII would serve in significant numbers on the front, the last aircraft of the initial batch only being delivered in February 1917.The introduction of the SPAD VII was not enough to change the balance of the air war but it allowed both pilots and mechanics to familiarize themselves with the new fighter. Many pilots found the SPAD lacked maneuverability and some even returned to the nimbler Nieuports. New tactics based on speed were developed to take advantage of the SPAD's power, and to compensate for its lack of maneuverability. The aircraft's capacity to dive safely up to 400 km/h (249 mph) permitted the pilot to break from combat when the situation demanded it.With early problems solved and production shared between several manufacturers, the SPAD VII was finally available in large numbers at the front in early 1917. By mid 1917, some 500 were in front-line service, having largely replaced the Nieuport. It gained a reputation for being stronger than its predecessors. Its principal shortcoming was its one machine gun armament at a time when the opposing Albatros D.III fighters were equipped with two. The SPAD VII was gradually replaced by the improved SPAD XIII in front line units but remained in use as a trainer aircraft with Aviation Militaire throughout the war and it remained as the standard pilot certification test aircraft until 1928.