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Aces of Aviation

SPAD XIII of Edward Vernon Rickenbacker

SPAD XIII of Edward Vernon Rickenbacker

SPAD XIII piloted by Captain Edward Vernon Rickenbacker from the 94th Aero Squadron, in France, in September 1918.

Wingspan: 8.87 meters.

Length: 6.20 meters.

Height: 2.30 meters.

Engine[s]: Hispano-Suiza 8 B-A of 220 horsepower.

Maximum speed: 215 kilometers/hour.

Service ceiling: 6645 meters.

Range: 2 hours.

Armament: Two Vickers 0.303-inch machine guns.

Born in Columbus, Ohio, the 8th October 1890, Eddie Rickenbacker had earned a notorious reputation as racing car driver in United States when he began to feel interest in flying during a visit to England in 1917. After a brief time as chouffeur of General Pershing in France, after United States had entered the First World War, he was transferred to the United States Army Air Service and, not without frustration, he found himself destined as chief in the engineering office in Issoudun, where the 94th Aero Squadron was based.

However, during his spare time, Rickenbacker completed flight and shooting courses and, in due course, he was sent to the 94th Aero Squadron, the famous "Hat in the Ring", commanded by Raoul Lufbery, taking part in the first air patrol which overflew the enemy lines the 19th March 1918. In that time, the 94th Squadron flew Nieuport fighters and on such aircraft Rickenbacker destroyed his first German airplane, an Albatros, the 29th April. The 30th May he downed his fifth enemy aircraft, qualifying so as an ace, but an ear infection kept him on land for the following three months, during which the 94th Squadron was re-equipped with SPAD XIII fighters.

The sixth and seventh victims of Rickenbacker, both Fokker, fell the 14th and 15th September. Ten days later he was promoted as Captain and awarded the command of the 94th Squadron, which then operated over the Verdun sector during the Argonne-Meuse Offensive. His airplane, which had a prominent "1" painted in the fuselage and the wings, was decorated with red, white and blue strips painted around the struts of the landing gear, increasing the number of strips parallely to the number of his victories.

In his first sortie as commander of the squadron, the 25th September, Rickenbacker scored his first double victory when destroying a Fokker and a Halberstadt during a single morning patrol. In the late October his record amounted 26 victories, including twelve Fokker, five Albatros and four Zeppelin, the highest record achieved by an American pilot during the First World War. Later he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and remained active in the field of aviation and automotion business, being promoted to President of Eastern Airlines in 1953.

Edward Vernon Rickenbacker