17 June 1916 – New RE8 flies

The new Royal Aircraft Factory RE8 took its first flight today. Two prototypes have been constructed (7996 and 7997) and the former was flown by test pilot Frank Gooden.

The aircraft has been in development since late 1915 as a replacement for the BE2 types which are currently the mainstay of British reconnaissance aircraft. Despite that its development has been contemporaneous with the BE12 and BE2e.

The prototype RE8 7996

This has led to an aircraft that is conceptually very similar to the BE2 types and in fact shares many of the same parts. It’s probably best considered more of an evolution and the cynical might suggest that the RE8 name is about distancing the design from the much criticised BE2s, as it bears little resemblance to previous aircraft in the RE series

For example, the single bay, unequal span wings are identical to those of the BE2e, although the span (and thus the wing area) was increased slightly by the use of a wider upper centre section, and lower stub wings to match. The tailplane was also the same as the B.E.2e. The entirely new parts of the design are confined to the fuselage aft of the engine firewall, and the vertical fin and rudder.

The installation of the 150 hp (112 kW) Royal Aircraft Factory 4a air-cooled V12 engine closely resembles that of the BE12, with the same large air scoop and similar vertically mounted exhausts protruding over the upper wing to carry the fumes clear of the crew.

It is however a more powerful motor intended to the feeble speed and climb of the B.E.2, and in to allow a better payload which will allow the aircraft to operate as a true two-seater – without having to leave the observer behind when bombs or a full fuel load are carried.

The increased power also allows the observer to be seated directly behind the pilot for better communication and in the proper position to operate a defensive machine gun. It also allows for the pilot to have a forward firing gun, although the short supply of sychronsiing gears means that the prototype does not have one.

Other new features include a wheel to adjust the tailplane incidence in flight, and a form of primitive rudder trim is provided to alleviate the constant pressure necessary to counteract the torque of the propeller. Very basic flight controls are installed in the observer’s cockpit –folded out of the way when not in use – to give the observer a fighting chance of landing the aircraft if the pilot was killed or incapacitated.

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