The scientific tourist #321 — SPAD XIII

Brought to you by the Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, Arizona — it’s a SPAD XIII fighter:

SPAD XIII

From the placard:

The fast and rugged SPAD XIII, with its wooden airframe and fabric-covered wings and body, was among the most successful fighters of World War I. It was flown by some of the most famous flying aces — in particular, by Arizona native Frank Luke, Jr., the first aviator awarded the United States Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award.

The SPAD XIII made its first flight on April 4, 1917, and by the end of the following month, the aircraft was arriving at the front. It was noted for its sturdy construction, good handling qualities and, especially, its ability to dive at high speeds. These features made it one of the best dog-fighting airplanes of the war.

The United States entered the war in 1917 without a combat-ready fighter. But over the course of the war the U.S. Army Air Service obtained 893 SPAD XIIIs from its French allies. By 1918, almost every French and American fighter squadron was equipped with SPADs, and 8,472 SPADs of varying models had been produced and deployed. Surprisingly, only four or five survive today.

This SPAD XIII was pieced together from three aircraft and is 80% original. In honor of Frank Luke, Jr., the SPAD XIII has been painted with his squadron’s colors and markings.

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