WW1 Planes
An encyclopediae of 1914-18 aircraft types

flag Société pour l'aviation et ses dérivés (SPAD)

The Fighter fabrique

The Société pour l'aviation et ses dérivés ancestor company was in 1911 the Aéroplanes Deperdussin, renamed Société de Production des Aéroplanes Deperdussin a year after. Armand Deperdussin once a travelling salesman, cabaret singer from Belgium became millionaire in the silk business. Now with the funds and fascinated by aviation since the large mediatic exhibitions of 1908, he established a small aircraft works at Laon in 1909. Not a designer he hired Louis Béchereau (born 1880), which became his technical director and designed Deperdussin but also the following SPAD fighter designs, probably the most successful and most produced French Fighter during WW1. If the first Deperdussin had an average canard configuration, the next Type A monoplane was an instant success, leading to a series of derivatives which were quite successful at export. The most common model emulated both the Blériot XI and Nieuport IV and became popular with the military before the war. The Deperdussin TT in articular sold well, to Russia (63 licence-built by Lebedev) and UK (Highgate factory) in particular. In 1911 Deperdussin inaugurated a new plant at Grenelle (Paris) and met success again with the Deperdussin Monocoque, while other establishements were created at Le Havre and Juvisy for motor boats and floatplanes, plus three flying schools to train future pilots on Deperdussin monoplanes.

Deperdussin Monocoque
The Deperdussin Monocoque was one of the most successful racer in the world by 1912

Deperdussin TT
The Deperdussin TT was in 1912 a successful fighter, also adopted by UK, Russia, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Thailand, Paraguay, Serbia and Turkey

Being well profile and powerful, thes monoplanes were quite fast and became prized sports and record planes, like the groundbreaking Deperdussin Monocoque, winner of the 1912 and 1913 Gordon Bennett Trophy races. It was the first plane worldwide to exceed 200 km/h (120 mph), setting many other records. The derived Deperdussin floatplane took by storm also the first Schneider Trophy competition in 1913 held at Monaco at 45.75 mph (about 73 km/h) lap time. However Armand Deperdussin only known a high living style which led him to be arrested on charges of fraud which went back to its activities with silk trade through the trading arm of the Comptoir Industrial et Colonial bank. He was maintained in jail and brought to trial in 1917 and sentenced to five years in prison, but was released because of his contribution to French Aviation, and later committed suicide in 1924. Meanwhile, his company had been in bankruptcy in 1913, and was run by state administration from then on as "Société Provisoire des Aéroplanes Deperdussin", and later purchased as part of a consortium led by Louis Blériot. It was renamed Société Pour L'Aviation et ses Dérivés to erase all mention of Deperdussin, later known under the acronym "SPAD".

The SPAD S.A-2 was a transitional fighter before the synchronizer arrived. The gunner was dangerously seated in front of the propeller.

Genius designer Louis gave his name to these first models called Béchereau-SPAD designs. He attempted to built two-seat biplanes with a forward-firing machine gun, right in front of the tractor propeller. The pilot sat behind the propeller and was fine, but not the unfortunate seated in the nacelle/pulpit dangerously close to the propeller. The SPAD A-series was produced nevertheless and declined into the A.1, A.2 A.3, and A.4 (60 each for France and Russia) but soon condemned by the introduction of the synchronization device, and forgotten. Next he designed a large twin-engine biplane bomber, called SPAD E, which did well on trials but was already overshadowed by Béchereau's next design, the S.VII. This legendary model which was a scaled down monoplace A.2 with a standard configuration was a development of the earlier SPAD V already produced to 268 planes. the SPAD S.VII was fast, simple and robust, well helped by its inline, liquid cooled, state of the art Hispano-Suiza V-8 engine. Although in 1916 pilots did not like its heavy handling and lack of agility (especially compared to the Nieuports), they soon adored its speed and great sturdiness and took advantage of these in combat. In fact 3,500 S.VIIs were manufactured in France only, but also 120 in UK and 100 in Russia. In fact a new factory has been established in Yaroslavl to delivered hundreds more, which remained unfinished when the revolution broke out.

The S.VII was the first mass-produced successful fighter made by SPAD. Lacking agility, it was very fast and sturdy.

Next, SPAD tried again the two-seater formula with the SPAD XI and SPAD XVI. About 1,000 of each were delivered but they never imposed themselves when compared to the Breguet 14 or and Salmson 2. The next Bécherau's fighter was the SPAD XII. It was to be fitted at first by the new geared Hispano-Suiza V-8 engine allowing to fire a 37 mm Hotchkiss cannon through the propeller hub. Georges Guynemer tested it but agreed on its formidable potential but also that it could only be given to the most skillful pilots at hand. Of the 300 ordered, many ended converted as regular SPAD fighters indeed. At least one American pilot flew this gun armed SPAD, Charles J. Biddle while from the USAAS' 13th Aero Squadron. The next SPAD S.XIII was a SPAD S.VII fitted with a geared drive Hispano-Suiza engine and about 7,300 to 8,472 according to sources were delivered and flown by many aces. In Italy, it was flown by Count Francesco Baracca (36 confirmed victories) which left his personal prancing horse emblem on the fuselage ("cavallino rampante") later to be adopted by an admirative young race pilot after the war, funded by Baracca, Enzo Ferrari. But that's another story... United States Army Air Service's Captain Eddie Rickenbacker also adored the SPAD (26 victories) and Georges Guynemer, France's preferred ace, which also flown all the other models. In 1918, the SPAD XIII was American main frontline fighter, with 900 on hands. despite this success, profits due to large industrial syndicates competing for contracts had fallen to 43% but Louis Blériot purchased became quite profitable in the end. After the war, the company still produced good fighters under the name "Bleriot-Spad". One model, the elegant Blériot-Spad 510 biplane of 1933, was still in service in regional air forces and metropolitan reserve squadrons during the battle of France.

The legendary S.XIII was largely used by the allies, American forces comprised (like here)

The S.XX was the fastest fighter in production when the war close to an end. Only a handful were delivered before the armistice.


  • Deperdussin A/B/C 1910 sport monoplane series
  • Deperdussin 1912 Racing Monoplane series
  • Deperdussin Monocoque, racing monoplane series
  • Deperdussin T racer prototype
  • Deperdussin TT fighter 1912 (400?)
  • British Deperdussin Seagull prototype 1913
  • SPAD S.A 1915 (240)
  • SPAD S.G1/G2, S.A2 based 1915 reconnaissance prototypes
  • SPAD S.V fighter prototype 1916
  • SPAD S.VII fighter 1916 (6000)
  • SPAD S.XI 2 seats reconnaissance 1916 (1000)
  • SPAD S.XII canon fighter 1916 (?300)
  • SPAD S.XIII/XVII fighter 1917 (8500)
  • SPAD S.XIV seaplane fighter 1918 (40)
  • SPAD S.XVI seats reconnaissance 1917 (?1000)
  • SPAD S.XX fighter 1918 (100, other cancelled)