'Necessity is the mother of Invention', so goes the old saying. Add
to that the impetus on design that wartime necessisty brings and you have
some of the most brilliant inventions of the last 100 years. However for
every excellent design there are those that should never have left the
drawing board. Such is the first of the SPAD fighters - the SPAD A.2 and
the 'improved' A.4.
The need was for a forward firing gun that could fire straight ahead,
but that would not hit the propellor. The solution was to take three basic
strategies: affix the gun to the upper wing of a tractor biplane as on
the Nieuport 11; develop a means to fire through the propellor as on the
Fokker Eindecker (and most subsequent designs); the third method was to
utilize the pusher design in which the engine was behind the pilot in
a small nacelle and the tail was carried by a pair of booms. The SPAD
A.2/4 was none of the above. It placed a nacelle AHEAD of the engine and
put a gunner in this very perilous location. The nacelle was hinged to
the front of the undercarriage and attached to the upperwing with a pair
of fasteners. The British developed a similar design in the RAF BE9, nicknamed
'the Pulpit'. However, unlike the BE9, the SPAD A.2/4 actually entered
service and was flown in combat by the French and Russian Air Services.
It must be mentioned that the excellent SPAD VII was developed from
the SPAD A.2/4 .. so all was not a complete loss.
Recently released by Spin Models, the SPAD A.2 and the SPAD A.4 share
many of the same components but have different wings, armament and decals
as appropriate to each variant. The A.2 has a shorter, two piece upperwing
(molded in one piece), while the A.4 has a longer, three-piece wing. Skis
and wheels are included for the A.4
Both kits are molded in a light yellow resin and also contain an extensive
photo-etch fret. The resin is very nicely cast with the fuselage halves
exhibiting fine stringer detail. The wings are extremely thin and have
very fine trailing edges. The two kits have very few air bubbles that
are easily dealt with using filler.
resin parts include nacelle halves; engine; struts; Lewis or Madsen machine
gun; wheels and/or ski undercarriage; control panel; floor; seat.
PE fret is included which contains: firewall; screen to prevent the gunner
coming into contact with the propellor; screens for the nacelle; seatbelts;
fairing. Both PE samples are coated in some grey material, whether it
is a result of the etching process or it serves some other purpose I know
not. This gives it the feel of masonry and will need to be dealt with
in one way or another. Hopefully a wash in lacquer thinner will help.
(printed by MPD) for both kits are familar to those who have the FMP French
or Russian books. The SPAD A.2 is S.19 "Ma Jeaane" (which was
also the subject of my first article for OTF), while the A.4 is the ski--equipped
S.79, or the wheeled S.54. Both are from the Russian Air Service.
Instructions for both contain exploded views of the entire kit, as well
as the interior. there are also basic drawings showing markings placement.
For a relatively little-used design, there are other interesting options
for the two kits. One I will have to do on an ALPS is the A.2 from the
XIXth squadron of the IRAS. This featured their famous skull and crossbones
insignia on the rudder.
The reputation Spin gained with the earlier Bristol M.1, led me to want
to see for myself the quality of their kits I am not disappointed.
The only thing I am worried about is the coating on the PE. We shall have
to see how the kit builds up to answer this question.