THE 1912 B. E. (BRITISH EXPERIMENTAL)
In 1912 the British Government, realizing the importance of the airplane as a war-machine for scouting purposes, established the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farmborough, with Geoffrey de Havilland, one of the early British experimenters, as designer. Machines of his invention have been called D. H.’s. His 1912 airplane, the B.E.2, contained some of the ideas embodied in the Avro, Breguet, and the Nieuport. The machine had the lightness of a Nieuport, the streamline of a Breguet, and the stability of an Avro. It was very light for its size and capacity, and with a 70 horse-power Renault engine it attained a speed of about 70 miles an hour, and responded in the air and on the ground in a manner never before attained. It was the prototype of a long line of Royal Aircraft Factory (R.A.F.) designs, through all the range of B. E.’s on to the R. E. series and the S. E. series.
It was in production at the outbreak of war, and was promptly employed. But, it was already two years old. (In the early days of aviation, airplanes evolved very, very rapidly, rather like the pace of modern cell phones.) So the B.E.2 was outclassed by its German adversaries: slow, lightly armed, and not very maneuverable. The start of the war found the B.E.2a serving with three squadrons of the R.F.C., widely used as reconnaissance and light bombing. However the B.E.2a was not even equipped with a machine gun, and was easy prey for almost any armed German plane.
[ad#ad-1] Specs for B.E.2a:
Top Speed: 59 m.p.h.
Manufacturer: Royal Aircraft Factory
Engine: 70 h.p. Renault 8-cylinder inline
Wingspan: 35 feet
Weight: 1,600 lb.
The initials B. E. originally stood for Bleriot Experimental, as M. Bleriot was officially credited with having originated the tractor-type aeroplane. Later B. E. was understood to indicate British Experimental.
The subsequent development into R. E. indicated Reconnaissance Experimental, these being large biplanes with water-cooled engines and more tank capacity, intended for long-distance flights.
S. E. indicates Scouting Experimental, the idea being that fast single-seaters would be used for scouting. They were, however, only used for fighting.
Another R. A. F. series is the F. E. or large pusher biplane, descended from the Henry Farman. The initials stood originally for Farman Experimental, but later stood for Fighting Experimental, the type being variants of the Vickers Gun Bus.
The complete B.E. 2 series was:
* B.E.2 – Prewar version
* B.E.2a – (shown here) Built in small numbers from late 1912 – still a standard type at the outbreak of war in late 1914
* B.E.2b – Basically the same as the “a” with higher sides to the cockpits, late examples used ailerons instead of wing warping
* B.E.2c – Extensively redesigned – really a new aeroplane. The most produced version 1914 – 1916
* B.E.2d – Essentially a “c” variant with a larger gravity fuel tank
* B.E.2e – The final version, with new wings – expected to be a great improvement on the “c”, it was a major disappointment. Nicknamed the “Quirk”.