Kit No. 48009
Decals: Three versions by Cartograf — two French, one Italian, all World War I aces
Comments: Engraved panel lines, resin cockpit including sidewalls, resin upper cowling section, two vacuform windshields
The SPAD S.VII was the first of a series of highly successful single-seat bi-plane fighters produced by Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés (SPAD) during the First World War, and designed around the powerful Hispano-Suiza engine of 150 horsepower. Like its successors, the S.VII was renowned as a sturdy and rugged aircraft with good climbing and diving characteristics. It was fast but less manueverable than its Allied and German contemporaries, and some pilots preferred the more nimble Nieuport. What the Spad lacked in manueverability it made up for in speed, and it could break and run from a dogfight at will. It was also a stable gun platform, although pilots used to the more manoeuvrable Nieuports 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 was sufficiently impressed by the performance of the SPAD V prototype to order a batch of 268 aircraft on May 10, 1916. The Spad VII prototype first flew in July 1916. It had a top speed of 105 mph (170 km/hour) and could climb to 9,842 feet (3000 meters) in 9 minutes. However, teething problems soon appeared and it was several months before the SPAD VII would serve in significant numbers on the front, with the last aircraft of the initial order being delivered in February 1917. The lack of sufficient engine cooling was the biggest problem, giving rise to the trademark abundance of cooling vents around the Spad’s cowling.
In spite of these delays, some aircraft were delivered to frontline units as early as August 1916. They complemented the Nieuport fighters which by that time, together with the British DeHavilland D.H. 2, had been able to regain air superiority after the infamous “Fokker scourge” arising from the advantage in the air war passing temporarily to the Germans with the development of synchronizing gear allowing machine guns to fire through a propeller’s arc. By the second half of 1916, new types of more powerful German fighters threatened to give Germany mastery of the skies again. It was hoped the new SPAD VII would be a match for the latest German fighters. The first aircraft delivered to a frontline unit was S.112 flown by Lt. Sauvage of N.65, followed by S.113, assigned to Georges Guynemer of N.3. Guynemer was already credited with 15 victories at the time, but it was Armand Pinsard of N.26 who was the first to score an aerial victory in a Spad on 26 August, flying S.122. By August 1917 495 Spads had been delivered, equipping 50 Esacadrilles.
Quite a few pilots thought the SPAD lacked maneuverability and some even reverted to the nimble Nieuports they were accustomed to while waiting for the aircraft to become more reliable, but most were quick to realize its combat potential. René Fonck, France’s leading ace of World War I with 75 victories, said of the introduction of the SPAD that “it completely changed the face of aerial warfare.” New tactics were developed, taking advantage of the SPAD’s speed, and to compensate for its relative lack of maneuverability. The Spad’s ability to dive safely up to 400 km/h (249 mph) was a superb advantage that permitted it to leave combat rapidly without fear of pursuit if the situation demanded it.
With early problems solved and production shared between several manufacturers, the SPAD VII finally began appearing in large numbers at the front in early 1917. By mid 1917, some 500 SPADs were in front-line service, having almost completely replaced the Nieuport. The Spad was a solid performer in combat and could cope with most of its opponents. It also acquired a reputation of being able to absorb far more damage than its flimsier predecessors. Its principal shortcoming was firepower: its one machine-gun armament at a time when most opposition fighters were equipped with two. The SPAD VII was gradually replaced by the improved SPAD XIII in frontline units but remained an important asset of the Aviation Militaire throughout the war, being latterly used as a trainer aircraft. It was also used as the standard pilot certificate test aircraft until 1928. Other nations flying the SPAD, some newly created by the war, included Britain, the United States, Russia, the Ukraine, Serbia, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Poland, and Czechoslovakia.
Length: 6.08 m (19 ft 11 in)
Wingspan: 7.81 m (25 ft 8 in)
Height: 2.20 m (7 ft 2 in)
Wing area: 17.85 m² (192 ft²)
Empty weight: 510 kg (1,124 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 740 kg (1,632 lb)
Powerplant: 1 × Hispano-Suiza 8Aa inline engine, 112 kW (150 hp)
Maximum speed: 192 km/h (119 mph)
Range: 360 km (225 mi)
Service ceiling: 5,335 m (17,500 ft)
Time to altitude: 4.5 min to 2,000 m (6,560 ft)
Armament: One .303-cal. Vickers machine gun
Special Hobby’s Spad VII C1 is injection molded in gray and consists of 41 plastic and 10 resin parts, as well as a photo-etch fret providing cockpit and rigging details, including seat straps. The resin parts comprise the cockpit, including a pilot’s seat and rear bullkhead (cast as a single part), sidewalls, floor, instrument panel and frame — all of which assemble into a tub with resin detail parts. Cyanoacrylate glue will be required, particularly to join the lower wings to the fuselage, an assembly which is not aided by spars or inserts of any kind. There is a small, smooth area for the wing join on both sides of the fuselage, devoid of pins or anything else to help secure the wings in place. The Spad’s only armament, a single Vickers .303 machine gun, has a reasonable amount of detail, and features a photo-etch gun sight. There is a choice of propellers, and although two cowlings are provided the instructions direct the modeler to disregard one of them. There is a nice fabric-over-frame effect on the fuselage and wings, and Special Hobby faithfully recreates the Spad’s trademark cooling vents around the engine. Putty and sanding will be required for a part which covers the pilot’s bay and fits into the top of the fuselage. There is good detail in the landing gear and dual engine exhaust pipes. Only a very rudimentary rigging diagram is included, and it makes no reference to the rigging for the landing gear, but the box illustration is sufficiently detailed to compensate for this.
The markings are by Cartograf and are thin and perfectly in register, although the red for both the French and Italian roundels seems a bit dark — although this may be mitigated somewhat by the relative brightness of the creme camouflage scheme called for in the instructions for all versions. The kit is advertised as the Spad of French and Italian aces: the first version of the markings, Red 2, is for French ace Sgt. Georges Guynemer, Escadrille 115, September 1916, and bears the words “Vieux Charles” (Old Charles) on the fuselage along with a red swallow in flight and a diagonal red, white and blue stripe; the second is for Adjutant Maxime Lenoir of Escadrille 116, October 1916, and bears an image of a red-skinned man’s head and neck below the word “Le,” together with the words “Trompe La Mort’ which translates into “Cheat Death” or “Cheating Death”; and the third version is for Capitano Fulco Ruffo di Calabria, 91st Squadriglia, Summer 1917, and bears a large black skull and crossbones superimposed over the Italian roundels on the fuselage. The bottom wing of Capitano di Calabria’s Spad is painted in three sections of red, white, and green representing the Italian tri-color; otherwise the paint scheme of all three versions is an identical overall creme color save for the differences in color between the French and Italian tri-colors on the rudders.
A well-detailed kit of an important World War I fighter. Highly recommended.
- Classic World War I Aircraft Profiles: Volume 1: Cerberus Publishing Limited; Bristol, United Kingdom; Copyright 2002
- Special Hobby instructions