Despite criticism from many quarters the Royal Aircraft Factory has been beavering away to come up with new designs to meet the increasing superiority of German aircraft. Its pusher designs such as the FE2b, circumvented the need for a synchronisation gear and filled a gap, but are now being outclassed by the new German fighters.
The response from the Royal Aircraft Factory is the SE5 (Scout Experimental 5) which was designed by Henry Folland, John Kenworthy and Major Frank Goodden. It has been designed to use the new 150 hp (112 kW) Hispano-Suiza 8 engine.
As is typical of Royal Aircraft Factory designs the aircraft is inherently stable and can be flown even by novice pilots. Given the length and quality of current training this is distinct advantage. Of course, it doesn’t have the dogfighting characteristics of the lighter rotary engined aircraft such as the Nieuport 17, but it makes up for that by being strong and fast.
Major Frank Goodden, the Chief test pilot at the Royal Aircraft Factory took the first prototype (A4561) up for a ten minute spin today and on landing declared “’She’s a pixie!”.
Captain Albert Ball, the RFCs leading ace, was less enthusiastic, partially as he was more used to the nimble Nieuports. He wrote:
“The S.E.5 has turned out a dud… It’s a great shame, for everybody expects such a lot from them… it is a rotten machine.“