• Looking For A Spad VII

    Looking For A Spad VII

    By Alejandro Hurtado (3 August 2008)

    Having reviewed a WWII plane, a Vietnam War plane and a 1960's commercial plane, we still have many years and planes to look for.

    This time we are going to analyze a WWI plane, one of the "great war" planes. A very advanced one, by the way. In February 1915, Swiss designer Marc Birkigt modified his famous Hispano-Suiza V8 automobile engine for use on aircraft, resulting in a 330 lb engine capable of producing 140 hp at 1,400 rpm. Further refinement of the engine brought the available power to 150 hp by July 1915. Given the engine's excellent reputation, French officials ordered that production be set up as soon as possible and called upon aircraft designers to create a new high-performance fighter around the engine, called the Hispano-Suiza 8A. Today, a fighter can take more than twenty years, and a bunch of computer drawings and instrumented prototypes, to finish it. In 1915, all that was necessary was a full size sheet of paper, a recently invented tool called ballpoint pen and an inspired designer. By April 1916 the new plane was ready, less than a year after the requirement. I'm not sure, but I fell that Stuart Green took more or less this time to make his excellent FS2004 model.


    Stuart Green is a CFS2 and FS2004 models designer, with many WWI and WWII planes. The one we are going to test will be found in the FlightSim.Com library and is called sg_spad.zip. You can see the rest of his work at http://www.domicilium.com/peveril/hangar/hangar.htm.

    The plane is easy to install, including a special effects file, four textures, sounds, 2D and 3D panel. There are no future refinements like flaps, brakes, lights, radios, but you can use a recently discovered control called throttle. Sadly, there is no speed gauge, climb gauge or artificial horizon.

    Instead of all this future and unnecessary stuff, you have a very realistic cockpit, leather and wood finished, with tachometer, tank selector and a barometer graduated like an altimeter. Looking around you can see a detailed wing and tail views, with all the wires and moving ailerons. Of course, the front view is totally blinded by the engine, but, remember, you can always put your head out of the cockpit, and get all the engine's oil in your face.

    Looking from outside the plane is very detailed, with working radiator cowl flaps, moving surfaces and all the wires and struts. If you use the spoiler key then you'll see a detailed view of the engine. There are over 100 individually "handcrafted" louvres in the fuselage. About the cooling, all the Spad VII, but specially the English-built ones, had overheating problems. Many covers where redesigned, holed, cut or removed to fix this complication. Of course, our virtul plane doesn't have this problem, lucky us.

    The four textures belong to four famous WWI aces: Cpl. Jacques Roques, Cpl. Eugene J. Bullard, Sgt. Georges Guynemer and 1Lt. Paul F. Baer. The surfaces are big and well detailed, allowing us to make repaints very easily, with all the joinings well depicted.

    The ground handling... well, to be honest, the ground handling was easy: three soldiers, one carrying the tail, two more carring a wingtip each. As the landing field was usually a great square of mud and grass, there were no brakes, but the steerable tail skid gives good control. The real ones had problems steering over concrete or asphalt but our virtual plane works fine.


    So once you get aligned with the wind, apply full power, push the yoke to raise the tail (don't break the tailskid with some stone) and once the plane is horizontal, pull the yoke to climb. All this takes ten veeery looong blinded seconds.

    Once airbourne, the plane is very agile, a pleasure to fly. It climbs, dives and turns in seconds. Well, to be honest, its roll rate is 45 degrees per second. Very far off the 326 per second roll rate of the F-16. But for a straight wing biplane, with ailerons only in the upper wing, it was fine.

    Our famous wikipedia says:

    • 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)

    I obtained 112 mph and 5,680 ft in four minutes, so the flight model is accurate with the real one. I don't have the patience to wait almost two hours to check the range, so I'm going to believe that this data is true too. Don't try to fly inverted, because it was a dishonor and a cowardy to wear parachutes in combat.

    After the test, the only last thing to do is to find visually some flat ground, preferably an airport, and land. Once the wheels touch the floor, cut the engine. The tail will fall slowly, the front view will be lost and... do you remember about the lack of brakes? Well, the plane will be rolling and rolling until it likes... unless something stops it before, like some high grass. With luck, the sudden stop will not capsize the plane.

    Alejandro Hurtado
    [email protected]

    Download Stuart Green's Spad
    Download other Stuart Green original aircraft
    Download repaints and modifications

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