Nieuport-Delage NiD 29
Fighter / Racing Aircraft
Despite its French origins, the NiD 29 saw service in greater numbers with the Empire of Japan during her operational tenure.
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World War 1 had been raging in Europe since 1914 and aircraft technology had advanced ten-fold by 1918. The French firm of Nieuport-Delage looked to deliver yet another fighter platform to the French Air Force and developed their NiD 29. The Nieuport name itself was already associated with several top-flight fighter aircraft during the war years. First flight of an initial prototype form of a new fighter occurred on August 21st, 1918 and the system achieved desirable enough results in the process. However, in her current arrangement, she maintained a operational ceiling limit that was deemed inadequate and forced Nieuport-Delage engineers back to work on a revised form. This produced a second prototype that appended the original design with longer wings that could help it surpass the ceiling limit. The aircraft was evaluated by the French Air Force and formally accepted into production by way of a procurement contract numbering 250 aircraft in 1920. However, deliveries of the new machine would not begin reaching French units until 1922. At the time of its inception, the NiD 29 was the fastest aircraft of its type, placing the French air arm at the forefront of military aviation. Her speed would remain a great asset to her service for years to come, catching the attention of other world air forces looking to upgrade their inventories. Over 850 examples were ultimately produced in the post-World War 1 world.
Design of the NiD 29 series was highly conventional. She was a of a equal-span biplane wing arrangement sporting dual bays and parallel strut support. The engine was housed in a compartment at the extreme forward of the streamline fuselage and spun a two-bladed propeller. The pilot sat aft and below the upper wing assembly in an open-air, single-seat cockpit placement with relatively good views to the sides, above and the rear of his aircraft. He was protected from the front by a short wrap-around windscreen and a raise fuselage spine behind his head. The fuselage tapered off to a rounded vertical tail fin and applicable horizontal tailplanes. The undercarriage consisted of a fixed pair of single-wheeled legs and a tailskid at the rear. Power for the NiD 29 was delivered by the Hispano-Suiza 8Fb V-8 piston engine of 300 horsepower. This fitting allowed for a maximum speed of 146 miles per hour, an operational range of 360 miles and a service ceiling nearing 28,000 feet. She maintained a running length of over 21 feet, a height topping 8 feet and a wingspan of 31 feet, 10 inches. Armament centered around 2 x 7.7mm Vickers machine guns fixed in their mounts to fire forward and synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blade. Some combat-ready versions were fitted to carry a small external bomb load.
There were several notable variants in the NiD 29 lineage. The basic "NiD 29" designation marked initial production quality aircraft while NiD 29 B.1 represented a limited production set of developmental models with provisions to carry additional bombs. NiD 29 C.1 was a designation utilized by the French. The NiD 29D fitted a supercharger for improved performance, particularly at higher altitudes and was utilized for an altitude record attempt. The NiD 29 E.1 was fitted with a Hispano-Suiza engine of 180 horsepower and 1 x Vickers machine gun and used as a dedicated combat pilot trainer. The NiD 29bis was a trial prototype with smaller wings and a positional tailskid for improved ground performance. The NiD 29G were prototypes fitted with varying engines (Gnome and Hispano-Suiza types) and subsequently used for seaplane racing. The NiD 32RH was a "one-off" modification to sell the NiD 29 as a carrier-capable mount but this design was not furthered. The NiD 29 SHV was another modified racing airframe again fitted with smaller wings though only two were eventually completed. The NiD 29V was still another racer mount with smaller wings and a Hispano-Suiza engine of 320 horsepower to which three examples were completed. The NiD 29Vbis was a single prototype with an enclosed cockpit and improved performance but was eventually lost to an accident.
In operational service, the Nieuport-Delage design proved something of a winner globally. When she was not earning the respect of her French air men, she was winning the admiration of the aviation-loving public in her aerial racing displays. She was an exceptional aircraft to fly with strong characteristic and earned the respect of many-a-burgeoning airmen during the Golden Age of Flight. She was fast, exhibited a healthy operating ceiling and was relatively reliable. Her major design caveat became a tendency to enter into what is known as a "flat spin" in the world of aviation - a sometimes dangerously unrecoverable event in which an aircraft's center of gravity was shifted aft of center, forcing the airframe to spin on its belly downwards with the nose above the horizon. Regardless, the type was evolved by the Nieuport-Delage firm to compete in several air races and record breaking attempts to which the aircraft garnered her owners at least eight such aviation records. In terms of its combat use, the NiD 29 was utilized by the French and Spanish to put down rebellious forces in respective North African colonies.
The Empire of Japan license-produced the NiD-29 as the Nakajima Ko-4 of which some 608 were delivered - making Japan the largest operator of the mount. Similarly, Italy's Macchi produced 95 airframes for the Regia Aeronautica and SABCA netted 87 aircraft for Belgium. Other operators ultimately included Argentina, Belgium, Spain, Sweden (as the "J 2") and Siam (Thailand). Spain was the first foreign operator of the NiD 29 followed by Belgium.
An NiD 29 was crowned winner of the Gordon Bennet Trophy of air racing in a 1920 event.