In late 1916, French WWI ace Georges
Guynemer lobbied for an improved version of the successful but
quickly outdated SPAD VII fighter.
The Société Pour L'Aviation et ses Dérivés developed the
SPAD XIII and it first flew on April 4, 1917. The XIII featured a
geared Hispano-Suiza 8B 220 horsepower engine.
With a water cooled V-8 engine the aircraft had a unique
sleek appearance that featured a radiator with cooling shutters
just aft of the propeller. The
construction was all wood with wire and turnbuckle bracing.
They were produced by many different manufactures across
France and featured subtle differences between manufacturers.
The color schemes were multicolored green and brown
camouflage from the factories and then personal markings were
applied by the pilots.
Many pilots became aces while flying the SPAD XIII.
The aircraft that the museum is recreating was flown by
Charles J. Biddle, commander of the 13th Aero Squadron,
the Grim Reapers. The squadron insignia, which was painted on the
sides of all of the aircraft, was called the “Oscar” and was a
skeleton swinging a scythe. Each pilot displayed a different
number on their aircraft for identification, Biddle’s aircraft
carried the number "0" to signify that he was the
The project underway in the
workshop will offer a true and correct outward appearance as the
original, but it will differ significantly internally.
The wood and wire braced fuselage is being replaced with a
lighter and stronger welded steel type.
An original Hispano-Suiza engine is very difficult and
expensive to obtain so a more modern Continental O-470 six
cylinder 230 horsepower engine was acquired.
The aircraft will be much more reliable than the original
and will be very capable of flying to away locations very safely.
The current goal for completion is the fall of 2015.