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Nieuport 28
Reproduction of the Nieuport 28C-1 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force[1]
Role Fighter
Manufacturer Nieuport
Designer Gustave Delage
First flight 14 June 1917
Introduction March 1918
Retired July 1918
Primary users U.S. Army Air Service
Aéronautique Militaire
Number built about 300

The Nieuport 28 (N.28C-1) was a French biplane fighter aircraft flown during World War I, built by Nieuport and designed by Gustave Delage. Owing its lineage to the successful line of sesquiplane fighters that included the Nieuport 17, the Nieuport 28 continued a similar design philosophy of a lightweight and highly maneuverable aircraft.

The SPAD XIII was standardized by the Aéronautique Militaire as the equipment of its own escadrilles de chasse (fighter squadrons) for 1918. The SPAD was also the first choice of the United States Air Service - however a shortage of SPADS led to the available production Nieuport 28s equipping four American squadrons between March and August 1918. It thus became the first aircraft to see operational service with an American fighter squadron.

Nieuport 28s saw considerable post-war service: in particular 50 "returned" to America, and as well as army and naval service these found civilian use, especially in Hollywood films.

Design and development

By the middle of 1917, it was obvious that the Nieuport 17 and its immediate developments such as the Nieuport 24bis, with only moderate performance gains, were unable to cope with the latest German fighters. The Nieuport 17 line was already being replaced in French service with the SPAD S.VII[2] as quickly as supplies of the Hispano-Suiza engine would allow.

The Nieuport 28 design was an adaptation of the concept of the lightly built, highly maneuverable rotary engined fighter typified by the Nieuport 17 to the more demanding conditions of the times. It had a more powerful engine, twin machine guns, and a new wing structure – for the first time, a Nieuport fighter was fitted with conventional two-spar wings, top and bottom, in place of the sesquiplane "v-strut" layout of earlier Nieuports. Ailerons were fitted to the lower wings only. The tail unit’s design closely followed that of the Nieuport 27, but in order to provide a more streamlined profile, the fuselage was much slimmer, so narrow that the machine guns had to be offset to the left.[3] Several prototypes were built - testing three different dihedral settings for the top wing, including a completely flat wing, and one with marked dihedral that rested very close to the top of the front fuselage. Production machines had an intermediate configuration, with a slight dihedral in the upper wing, taller cabane struts, and room for the second machine gun to be mounted under the center section.[4]

Aside from the original three variants, additional prototypes were built to test a wooden monocoque fuselage[5] and alternate engine installations including the 300 hp Hispano-Suiza 8Fb,[5] 170 hp Le Rhône 9R,[5] 275 hp Lorraine-Dietrich 8Bd[6] and 200 hp Clerget 11E.[5] The results of these tests facilitated the development of the Nieuport 29.

Nieuport 28A

In late 1918, about the time that the type was withdrawn from front line use, the U.S. Army placed an order for an additional 600 improved Nieuport 28s, which were given the American designation 28A. Although these were mainly intended as advanced trainers, early problems with the SPAD S.XIII in American service meant that the possibility of re-introducing the Nieuport fighters into squadron service was not totally discounted, and provision was made for the installation of twin Marlin guns, mounted side by side under the center section.[7] The Nieuport 28A was to feature an improved upper wing leading edge structure and a redesigned fuel system, correcting faults in the initial production batch.[8] As the Nieuport company were preoccupied with later types, production was to be undertaken by Lioré et Olivier. With the end of the war 170 Lioré et Olivier built Nieuport 28As, with parts for another 100, were purchased, the rest of the order being cancelled.[9]

Operational history

By early 1918, when the first production examples of the definitive Nieuport 28 became available, the SPAD S.XIII was already firmly established as the standard French fighter, and the Nieuport 28 was "surplus" from the French point of view.[10] On the other hand, the United States Army Air Service was desperately short of fighters to equip its projected "pursuit" (fighter) squadrons. Since the SPAD S.XIII was initially unavailable due to engine shortages, the Nieuport was offered to the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) as an interim alternative.[11]

Starting Nieuport 28s of the 95th Aero Squadron for a patrol

A total of 297 Nieuport 28s were purchased by the Americans, with the 94th and 95th Aero Squadron receiving the initial allotments, starting in March 1918.[12] In all, four AEF pursuit squadrons: the 27th, 94th, 95th and 147th Aero Squadrons, flew Nieuport 28s operationally for various periods between March and August 1918.[13][14]

Rickenbacker with his Nieuport 28 – note offset guns

The factory shipped the Nieuport 28s to the Americans in mid-February 1918 without armament. At the time the AEF had no spare Vickers machine guns to supply to the squadrons, so that the first flights were essentially unarmed training flights for pilots to familiarize themselves with the handling and performance of the new type. When deliveries of Vickers guns to the American squadrons finally started in mid-March, and until sufficient guns had been received for all of the fighters to be fully equipped, some aircraft were flown on patrol with only one machine gun fitted.[15]

On 14 April 1918, the second armed patrol of an AEF fighter unit resulted in two victories when Lieutenants Alan Winslow and Douglas Campbell (the first American-trained ace) of the 94th Aero Squadron each downed an enemy aircraft over their own airfield at Gengoult.[16] Several well-known World War I American fighter pilots, including the 26-victory ace, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, began their operational careers on the Nieuport 28.[17] Quentin Roosevelt (the son of U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt) was shot down and killed flying the type.

The 94th and 95th had the task of dealing with the type's teething troubles.[13] Initially undercarriages failed on landing - this was corrected by using heavier bracing wire. The Nieuport 28's 160 hp Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine and fuel system proved unreliable and prone to fires.[18] Field improvements to fuel line fittings, and increased familiarity of the American pilots with the particular requirements of monosoupape engines reduced these problems, but the definitive solution adopted was simply not filling the reserve fuel tank, which drastically reduced the Nieuport fighter's range. More seriously, a structural problem emerged – during a sharp pull out from a steep dive, the plywood leading edge of the top wing tended to break away, taking the fabric with it.[19] On the whole, although the pilots of the 94th and the 95th appreciated the manoeverability and good handling of the Nieuport, and were reasonably happy with its general performance, they regarded the type as fragile and dangerous.[20]

The 27th and 147th Aero Squadrons arrived at the front three months later, starting combat operations on 2 June 1918.[21] In July 1918, the 94th and 95th Aero Squadrons received their first SPAD XIIIs and some of their surviving Nieuport 28s were then transferred to the 27th and 147th Aero Squadrons. By the end of August 1918, all four American squadrons were fully outfitted with SPAD XIIIs.[22] The pilots of the 94th and 95th Aero Squadrons welcomed the SPADs, although the 27th and 147th Aero Squadrons were much less enthusiastic about the change.[8][N 1]

U.S. Navy Nieuport 28 on specially built platform mounted above the forward turret of USS Arizona[24]

Twelve of the Army Nieuports were transferred to the U.S. Navy which equipped them with Royal Navy style hydrovanes and wing floatation gear, and flew them from launching platforms mounted above the forward turrets of eight battleships, in the same way that Sopwith Camel 2F1s were used by the Grand Fleet.[25]

File:The dawn patrol.jpg

L-R: The Dawn Patrol stars Richard Barthelmess, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Gardner James standing in front of a Nieuport 28


Postwar, approximately 50 of the Army Nieuport 28s - mostly 28As - were shipped home to the U.S.[13] During the 1920s, Nieuport 28s were also in service with various air forces; Switzerland obtained 15 Nieuport 28s while Argentina, Greece and Guatemala received a small number of aircraft.[26] Switzerland acquired its examples in 1919, and continued to fly the type throughout the 1920s, retiring their last Nieuport 28s from active service in 1930.[24]

During the same period, a number of Nieuport 28s made their way to Hollywood where they appeared in the movies, The Dawn Patrol (1930), as well as its remake in 1938, Ace of Aces (1933) and Men with Wings (1938).[27] The Nieuport 28s continued to appear in several other films depicting the period, including the Lafayette Escadrille (1958).[24]


Note: 688 Served in the Swiss Air Force for a brief period of time between 1921 and 1922; located in the Swiss Transport Museum.

Along with the replicas, a number of original surviving aircraft are found in museum collections worldwide. Original airframes are located in the Fliegermuseum in Dübendorf, and the Swiss Transport Museum in Lucerne, Switzerland, a U.S. Navy Nieuport 28 at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida and the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum,[28][N 2]


Garland-Lincoln LF-1

As the supply of original Nieuport 28s began to diminish, the Garland-Lincoln LF-1 (Lincoln-Flagg-1) was built in Glendale, California specifically to reproduce a World War I Nieuport 28 fighter for movie stunt work. While similar in appearance, the aircraft is shorter, has a steel tube framework, one-piece upper wing without dihedral and is fitted with a more powerful 200 hp (149 kW) Wright J-4-B radial engine.[30] A Garland-Lincoln LF-1 (N12237) was featured in Hell in the Heavens (1934), Dawn Patrol (mixed in with authentic Nieuport 28s) (1938), and Men with Wings (1938). It was later used by Frank Tallman and Paul Mantz for other film and television work.[31][32]

The Nieuport 28 has also become a favorite subject for home-builders wishing to recreate a World War 1 fighter, as its wood construction (some replicas substitute a metal tube fuselage), light weight and availability of modern engines such as the Rotec R3600 nine cylinder radial, have led to number of replicas being offered as kits.[33]As of 2015, a number of home-built replicas have taken to the air.[34]

Reproductions are found at the San Diego Air & Space Museum, National Museum of the United States Air Force and the Stampe et Vertongen Museum in Belgium.[34] A flying replica in Eddie Rickenbaker's colors is found at the Great War Flying Museum, Brampton Airport in Caledon, Ontario, Canada.[35]


Argentine Air Force (2 aircraft)
Aéronautique Militaire
Guatemalan Air Force (1 aircraft)
Swiss Air Force (15 aircraft)
United States

Specifications (Nieuport 28)

General characteristics

  • Crew: one, pilot
  • Length: 6.50 m (21 ft 4 in)
  • Wingspan: 8.16 m (26 ft 9 in)
  • Height: 2.5 m (8 ft 0 in)
  • Wing area: 15.8 m² (169 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 475 kg (1,227 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 560 kg (1,635 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Gnome 9-N rotary, 102kW (160 hp)


  • Maximum speed: 198 km/h (123 mph) at 2,000 m
  • Range: 349 km (180 miles)
  • Service ceiling: 5,300 m (17,390 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 11.5 min to 3,000 m (9,840 ft)
  • Wing loading: 37.9 kg/m² (7.77 lb/ft²)
  • Power/mass: 0.15 kW/kg (0.09 hp/lb)


  • 2 × .303 in Vickers machine guns
  • See also



    1. The pilots of the 27th and 147th Aero Squadrons, who had been forewarned about, but not experienced the wing fabric detachment problem, were "heartbroken" in losing aircraft that they felt "performed perfectly". Author and historian Harold Hartney, in his 1940 account of the AEF, noted in his description of 147th's reaction, "... and now another catastrophe befell the squadron - they took away our beloved Nieuports and gave us 220 hp gear driven SPADs."[23]
    2. N4123A/8 (cn 1918-1958E) was donated by aviation enthusiast and entrepreneur Cole Palen, after having flown the aircraft for decades at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, a "living" museum of vintage aircraft.[29]


    1. "Nieuport 28." National Museum of the United States Air Force. Retrieved: 4 January 2013.
    2. Cheesman 1960, p. 94.
    3. [1] National Air and Space Museum. Retrieved: 30 August 2009.
    4. Hamady 2008, Appendix B pp. 193–203.
    5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Davilla, 1997, p.407
    6. Davilla, 1997, pp.409-410
    7. Hamady 2008, pp. 112–113.
    8. 8.0 8.1 Guttman 1992, p. 10.
    9. Hamady 2008, p. 113.
    10. Cheesman 1960, p. 106.
    11. Davilla 1997, p. 502.
    12. Dorr and Donald 1990, pp. 16–17.
    13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Davilla 1997, p. 408.
    14. Guttman 1992, pp. 5, 8.
    15. Treadwell 2000, p. 68.
    16. Hamady 2008, p. 10.
    17. Treadwell 2000, pp. 68, 75.
    18. Guttman 1992, pp. 7–8.
    19. Hamady 2008, Appendix D" pp. 230–240.(This is the definitive study of the problem)
    20. Hamady 2008, p. 65.
    21. Guttman 2008, p. 31.
    22. Hartney 1971, p. 182.
    23. Hartney 1971, p. 195.
    24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Holcomb, Kevin. "The Nieuport 28." Holcomb's Aerodrome. Retrieved: 7 January 2013.
    25. Cooksley 1997, p. 48.
    26. van Leeuwen, Marcel. "Nieuport 28.", 30 December 2008. Retrieved: 30 August 2009.
    27. Hardwick and Schnepf 1989, pp. 56, 58–59.
    28. "Nieuport 28C.1." Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Retrieved: 9 January 2013.
    29. Dowsett, Barry. "James Henry “Cole” Palen (1925-1993)." Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. Retrieved: 9 January 2013.
    30. Popular Aviation, June 1937.
    31. AAHS Journal Volume 51, 2006.
    32. "Garland-Lincoln History.", 5 November 2012.
    33. Jarvis, Ray. "Airdrome Aeroplanes, Rotec powered, Nieuport 28 to Oshkosh and back." Airdrome Aeroplanes. Retrieved: 7 January 2013.
    34. 34.0 34.1 Wright, Allen. "Nieuport 28. World War I Modeling Page. Retrieved: 7 January 2013.
    35. "Nieuport 28." Great War Flying Museum. Retrieved: 9 January 2013.


    • Cheesman E.F. (ed.) Fighter Aircraft of the 1914-1918 War. Letchworth, UK: Harleyford Publications, 1960, pp. 98–99.
    • Cooksley, Peter. Nieuport Fighters in Action (Aircraft No. 167). Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1997. ISBN 978-0-89747-377-4.
    • Davilla, James J. and Arthur M. Soltan. French Aircraft of the First World War. Boulder, Colorado: Flying Machines Press, 1997. ISBN 0-9637110-4-0.
    • Dorr, Robert F. and David Donald. Fighters of the United States Air Force: From World War I Pursuits to the F-117. London: Aerospace Publishing, 1990. ISBN 978-0-60055-094-5.
    • Guttman, Jon. Nieuport 28 - Windsock Datafile 36. Berkhamsted, Herts, UK: Albatros Productions, Ltd., 1992. ISBN 0-948414-44-8.
    • Guttman, Jon. USAS 1st Pursuit Group (Aviation Elite Units). Oxford, UK: Osprey Publications, 2008. ISBN 978-1-84603-309-4.
    • Hamady, Theodore. The Nieuport 28: America's First Fighter. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, 2008. ISBN 978-0-7643-29933.
    • Hardwick, Jack and Ed Schnepf. "A Viewer's Guide to Aviation Movies". The Making of the Great Aviation Films, General Aviation Series, Volume 2, 1989.
    • Hartney, Harold E. Up And At 'Em: The War Memoirs of an American Ace (Flight, Its First Seventy-Five Years). New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1971. ISBN 978-0-40512-179-1.
    • Sanger, Ray. Nieuport Aircraft of World War One, Crowood Press, Wiltshire, 2002 ISBN 1-86126-447-X
    • Treadwell, Terry C. America's First Air War: The United States Army, Naval and Marine Air Services in the First World War. London: Airlife Publishing, 2000. ISBN 1-84037-113-7.

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