Another standout that year was Ensign Alexander de Seversky, who lost a leg on a 1915 bombing mission. The youngster nonetheless returned
to combat, gaining four victories in 1916 and at
least two more before the October 1917 revolution. He subsequently enjoyed a significant
career as a manufacturer in the United States.
Austria-Hungary produced a surprising 49 aces,
including two-seater pilots and gunners. They
often fought a dual war against nature, buffeted
by alpine winds above snow-capped granite edifices. More than half logged victories in 1916,
including the eventual top scorer, Haupt. Godwin von Brumowski, who finished with 35. Eight
became aces that year, led by Haupt. Adolf Hey-rowsky, a 34-year-old professional officer who
entered aviation via the airship section. Flying
Brandenburgs and Fokkers, he ended the year
with seven victories of an eventual 12, including
an Italian airship.
Although Belgium produced no aces in 1916,
the tiny Aviation Militaire Belge had two early
stars. Lt. Ferdinand Jacquet and Lt. Jan Olieslagers
began their victory strings in 1915, flying Nieu-
ports and Farmans, continuing combat over the
next two years. Jacquet was his nation’s first
ace as of February 1917, finishing with seven.
Olieslagers survived the war with six.
During WW I, a typical single-seat fighter cost
about $9,000 to $10,000, or roughly $155,000
today. Depending on how government and
industry juggle the numbers, a stealth fighter
runs at least $150 million “flyaway cost,” excluding billions of R&D. Historians may compare a
SPAD VII with a Raptor’s return on investment
and ponder which provides the greater bargain.
In any case, when F-22s and MiG-31s leave
contrails at then-undreamt-of heights and
speeds, current fighter pilots cannot escape from
the shadow of their Great War forebears and the
history-making epoch of 1916.
Acknowledgments: Peter Kilduff, author of Rudolf
Berthold’s biography, Iron Man.
The SPAD (Société Anonyme
pour l’Aviation et ses Dérivés)
VII ushered in a new series
of fighters, which was to
prove highly successful
because of its speed and
heavy armament. It became
the mount of many aces,
such as Georges Guynemer
and, later, America’s Eddie
Rickenbacker. It is shown here
wearing the colors of Italian
ace Francesco Baracca. (Photo
by Luigino Caliaro)