SPAD S.VII Fighter Aircraft
The French SPAD S.VII proved a most capable fighter thanks to sound design and strong inherent qualities.
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The SPAD S.VII (or "S.7") was one of France's best single-seat fighters of World War 1 (1914-1918). The type epitomized the quintessential "dogfighter" in every sense of the word with its rugged qualities and solid performance figures, embodied by its appearing in extensive numbers by various air groups of the Allied powers during the conflict including those of the United Kingdom, Belgium and United States. The S.VII more or less became the first successful warplane design effort by Societe Pour l'Avions et ses Derives - otherwise known by the letters S.P.A.D. The SPAD concern was originally founded by Armand Deperdussin prior to the war in 1911 with most of its wartime designs generated by engineer Louis Becherau (including the S.VII itself), many of his aircraft serving into the 1920s and ultimately being considered "classics".
Design-wise, the SPAD VII exhibited a very conventional design layout for its time. It was a biplane design in its basic form consisting of a low wing assembly complemented by a relatively low-set high wing assembly for maximum stability, lift and visibility. The engine, powering a two-bladed wooden propeller, was set at the extreme forward end of the fuselage and covered over in light alloy. The wings and fuselage featured an internal wood structure covered over in fabric. The wings sported dual-bays with parallel struts and equal bay spans. Cabling was used extensively for both structural support and in managing the various flight control surfaces. The open-air cockpit was set just aft of the engine compartment and upper wing assembly with a simple windscreen protecting the pilot from the front. There was a short fuselage spine to help provide a headrest for minimal comfort. The open-air nature of the cockpit made for relatively excellent views despite the large complex wing arrangement allowing the pilot to raise up and peer over the aircraft sections when attempting to spot his enemy or ground target. All major internal components of the aircraft were essentially concentrated towards the front of the fuselage while the empennage was conventional with a single vertical tail fin and a pair of horizontal tail planes. The undercarriage was fixed and consisted of a pair of single-wheeled landing gear legs at the front with a simple tail skid at the rear.
The SPAD VII was armed rather modestly with a single 0.303 Vickers machine gun, proving adequate in engaging enemy aircraft. The machine gun was mounted ahead of the pilot, aft of the propeller and over the engine compartment - synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blade. This placement was quite a departure from earlier Allied aircraft which saw machine guns mounted over the upper wing assembly as no viable synchronizing feature had yet been perfected. The pilot now had access to his machine gun within relatively easy reach to help clear jams of the ammunition feed. Inline with many similar aircraft of the type, the SPAD VII fielded no other armament options.