In the absence of an interuptor gear, the Royal Aircraft Factory has been assessing other approaches to providing a forward firing gun. Their latest attempt to solve the problem,the BE9, had its first flight today.
The intention is to combine the higher performance of a tractor aircraft with a good field of fire for the observer’s machine gun. The new aircraft is a modification of the existing BE2c. The designers have added a small wooden box in front of the aircraft’s propeller to accommodate the observer and a Lewis gun on a trainable mount. The normal observer’s cockpit of the B.E.2c (which is in front of the pilot) has been removed, allowing the engine to be moved backwards. The wing span has also been increased.
The drawbacks of this approach are immediately obvious. The observer is in a perilous position, liable to be injured by the propeller or crushed by the engine in any kind of crash. In addition, communication between the observer and pilot, difficult at the best of time, is impossible.