Quick Facts


Popular, Formidable WWI Dogfighter 

EARLY FLIGHT/WWI  |  Kit, homebuilt & civilian

Gift of Robert F. Byrne

Located in the Flight Innovation Center, Main Gallery  

The Société Pour L'Aviation et ses Dérivés introduced the SPAD VII to the French Air Service in late August 1916. Key to its success, the aircraft was the first to use the new Hispano-Suiza 8Ab liquid-cooled V8 engine producing 180 horsepower. Used by all allied air services, the SPAD VII became one of the more famous pursuit aircraft of WWI. Its popularity led to the production of about 3,500 models by the end of 1918.   

Although disadvantaged by poor forward and downward cockpit-based visibility and the limitations of a single Vickers machine gun, the SPAD VII remained fast, durable, and difficult to shoot down. The SPAD’s sturdy construction allowed it to withstand the aggressive maneuvers and steep dives critical to air combat without the threat of structural failure. These valuable traits made the SPAD VII a formidable dogfighter.   

On display at the Air Zoo: SPAD VII

Carl Swanson of Swanson Aero built this full-scale SPAD VII reproduction in 1978. Painted to represent an aircraft from the 103rd Aero Squadron, our model features a 200 horsepower Lycoming engine, modern instruments, and disc brakes to help with use on modern airfields. Robert F. Byrne donated the aircraft to the Air Zoo in 1999.  


An American Ace Flew a SPAD VII: First Lieutenant Paul Baer  

Fort Wayne, Indiana’s Paul Baer (1894-1930) worked for the Cadillac Automobile Company in Detroit, Michigan before joining the French Foreign Legion in 1917. That same year, Paul transferred to the aviation unit and flew with the French Escadrille SPA80 through January 1918. A month later, the United States Air Service (USAS) reassigned Paul to the 103rd Aero Squadron.   

On March 11, 1918, Paul scored his first victory. In the process, he gave the USAS its first victory. The brave pilot and First Lieutenant earned a total of nine victories and became the first American ace in U.S. service. Shot down on May 22, 1918, Paul crashed-landed his SPAD VII. Captured, Paul remained a P.O.W. until the end of the war.   



Virtual Cockpit