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7th of August 1918

A 103 years ago on this day in aviation history, the Blériot-SPAD S.20 (initially the SPAD S.XX by André Herbermont) made its first flight. Too late to join the air effort of the 1st World War it would be used un the French Air Force in the years following the great war. They would also be used (rather successfully) for air racing and record-breaking flights.

A SPAD S.20 (S.XX)

Designed as an improved version of the SPAD S.XVIII (SPAD is an abreviation for Société Pour L'Aviation et ses Dérivés which was an aircraft builder of that era).

It was a two-crew aircraft, pilot and gunner. In principle the aircraft was of a conventional design although the upper wing had a pronounced sweep-back, connecting to the lower wing with struts. Initially, the French Government had an open contract for 300 airframes to be delivered each month to support the war effort. When the guns fell silent on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11.11 am in 1918 with the armistice the contract with SPAD was terminated, before delivery of the first aircraft. Later 95 aircraft were still ordered for and delivered to the post-war French Air Force.

Spad aircraft participated in air races of the time (one of them being the Gordon Bennett Cup), also several records were broken with the Spad S.20 (S.XX). 1918 Speed record for two-seater aircraft of 124 knots (143 mph / 230 kph)

July 1919 Altitude record by Joseph Sadi Lecointe, 29.200 ft (8.900 meters)

End of 1919 Speed record for two-seater aircraft of 134 knots (155 mph /249 kph) Speed record for two-seater aircraft of 136 knots (157 mph /252 kph)

February 1920 Speed record for two-seater aircraft of 153 knots (176 mph / 283 kph)

October 1920 Speed record for two-seater aircraft of 158 knots (182 mph / 292 kph)

November 1920 Speed record for two-seater aircraft of 167 knots (193 mph / 309 kph)

To improve the performance of the S.XX and break all these records it was extensively modified over time, a total of 8 versions took to the skies;

S.XX - original military production version (95 built)

S.XX bis - improved military version (2 built) with larger wings and tail. One sold to Mitsubishi

S.20 bis-1 - racer

S.20 bis-2 - racer with shortened wingspan

S.20 bis-3 - racer with a further shortened wingspan

S.20 bis-4 - racer with even further shortened wingspan

S.20 bis-5 - racer for Gordon Bennett cup (2 built). Radically modified wing design. (upper wing changed to gull configuration.)

S.20 bis-6 - racer with shortened cabane struts and custom-built Hispano-Suiza engine

3 Perspective drawing of the SPAD S.20 (S.XX)

Some specifications of the SPAD S.XX

  • Crew: two, pilot and gunner

  • Length: 7.30 m (23 ft 11 in)

  • Wingspan: 9.72 m (31 ft 11 in)

  • Height: 2.80 m (9 ft 2 in)

  • Wing area: 30.0 m2 (323 sq ft)

  • Empty weight: 867 kg (1,911 lb)

  • Gross weight: 1,306 kg (2,879 lb)

  • Powerplant: 1 × Hispano-Suiza 8Fb inline engine , 224 kW (300 hp)

  • Maximum speed: 217 km/h (135 mph, 117 kn)

  • Range: 400 km (250 mi, 220 nmi)

  • Service ceiling: 8,000 m (26,240 ft)

  • Rate of climb: 5.6 m/s (1,100 ft/min)

  • Armament 2 × fixed, forward-firing .303 Vickers machine guns 1 × trainable, rearward-firing .303 Lewis gun

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