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RAF B.E.3 / B.E.4 / B.E.7

Страна: Великобритания

Год: 1912

RAF - B.E.2/B.E.2a/B.E.2b - 1912 - Великобритания<– –>RAF - F.E.2 (1911/1913 version) - 1912 - Великобритания

P.Hare Royal Aircraft Factory (Putnam)


   The third in the Factory's series of tractor designs, the B.E.3 was originally conceived as being essentially similar to the B.E. 1/2 but powered by a rotary engine, to enable its performance to be compared with that of the stationary-engined aircraft. However, the final design, for which John Kenworthy was responsible, differed quite considerably in detail. Its two-bay wings inherited their construction and planform from the previous design, and retained warping for lateral control, but were heavily staggered. The tailplane was similar to that of earlier B.E.s but the rudder, while very similar in shape, was mounted with its shorter axis vertical and with a small area forward of its steel-tube pivot to provide an aerodynamic balance. This enabled an undivided elevator to be fitted. The fuselage was broader than in previous models, the increase being necessitated by the diameter of the rotary engine, and was mounted clear of the lower wing in the mid-gap position. As in the predecessors, the undercarriage incorporated lengthy skids, but was simplified by the elimination of a strut on each side.
   A Paulhan Biplane, serial F2, of unusual and not entirely successful design, had been sent to the Army Aircraft Factory by the Air Battalion in February 1912, presumably for repair. Yet again O'Gorman sought permission to reconstruct the machine along more conventional lines. Such permission was readily granted but, as before, only its engine, a 50hp Gnome, was actually used in the new aeroplane. An alternative and unconventional control system, in which the warping mechanism for lateral control was operated by the pilot's feet, was fitted for a brief period but removed again before its effectiveness could be fully evaluated because, for some reason which is not now apparent, the machine was urgently needed by the RFC.
   The B.E.3 made its first flight on Friday 3 May 1912, with Geoffrey de Havilland, at that time the Factory's only test pilot, at the controls. Later the same day, as was then common practice, he took up several passengers, including Factory personnel and members of the recently formed Royal Flying Corps.
   On the following Monday de Havilland took the B.E.3 up again, the rudder having been adjusted to increase the available movement and the wings re-rigged to increase the amount of wash-out. Although he reported that it was now 'flying better', he broke two undercarriage struts and the propeller in a heavy landing. By 10th May the damage had been repaired, the skids being replaced and the front undercarriage struts moved slightly to the rear in an effort to strengthen the assembly and prevent a recurrence of the damage.
   These modifications were clearly considered satisfactory, as on the following Monday, 13 May 1912, the B.E.3 was handed over to the RFC. That only ten days had elapsed since its first flight might be taken as confirmation that it was wanted in a hurry. It was given the serial 203, together with the nickname Goldfish, and served with No 3 Squadron until early in 1914, occasionally returning to the Factory for minor repairs.
   The B.E.3 took part in a wide range of signalling experiments, not only with wireless, but with electric lamps and flags. At some stage it was fitted with an experimental four-bladed propeller with alternate acute and obtuse angles between the blades.
   Following the crash of its sister aircraft, the B.E.4, in March 1914, which was believed to have been caused by the rudder post breaking, the B.E.3 was fitted with new vertical tail surfaces. These comprised a B.E.l/2-type rudder mounted above the fuselage, so as to be clear of the undivided elevator, and hinged behind a new triangular fin, the whole design being clearly inspired by the tail of the H.R.E.2.
   The B.E.3's flying career ended soon after it received its new fin and rudder, and it became a ground instructional airframe. It was last recorded at Farnborough at the end of 1914 but, like many other early aeroplanes, its eventual fate is not known.

   Powerplant: 50 hp Gnome rotary
   Span 39ft 6in;
   Chord 5ft 6in;
   Length 27ft 3in.


   Structurally identical to the B.E.3, the fourth aeroplane in the Factory's tractor series was alleged to be a 'reconstruction' of Bristol Boxkite number F9, which at least provided the new machine with its 50hp Gnome rotary. The B.E.4 was test-flown by Geoffrey de Havilland on 24 June 1912 and, following the usual brief period of trials and adjustments, was handed over to the Royal Flying Corps on 8 August. After a short period with the designation 'B.E.4' on its rudder, it was given the serial 204.
   An engine failure brought about a forced landing which caused some damage, and 204 was returned to the Factory at the beginning of September for repairs. While there, its previously hardworked engine was replaced by a new Gnome, this time of 70hp.
   Two other examples, serials 416 and 417, are known to have been built by private contractor, at least one being fitted with dual controls for use at the Central Flying School (CFS). It is possible that a further example was also built and was given the serial 303.
   On 11 March 1914 204 crashed on Salisbury Plain with the tragic death of its crew. The subsequent enquiry offered the opinion that the rudder shaft had become crystallized and had snapped, one of the first suggestions of metal fatigue. While this could not be conclusively proved, it raised sufficient doubt regarding the safety of the B.E.3/4 rudder for a new unit to be developed and fitted to the remaining machines with commendable rapidity. The new unit comprised a B.E.2-type rudder mounted above the undivided elevator and behind a triangular fin, its obvious origins in the H.R.E.2 clearly accounting for the speed with which it was designed. Thus equipped, 416 and 417 continued to serve at the CFS, and are believed to have ended their respective careers in the almost inevitable training crashes.

   50hp Gnome rotary
   70hp Gnome rotary
   span 39ft 6in;
   chord 5ft 6in;
   length 27ft 3in.


   Designed by John Kenworthy about July 1912, the B.E.7 was, essentially, a high-powered version of the B.E.3/4. It used the same wings and tail surfaces as the earlier types, but had its forward fuselage shortened by one bay to compensate for the increased weight of the 140hp two-row Gnome rotary selected as its powerplant. The undercarriage was also similar to that of the B.E.3/4, but with the skids suitably shortened to match the new fuselage.
   Construction was completed early in 1913, the first flight taking place on 28 February with Geoffrey de Havilland at the controls. It was apparently judged to be faultless as built, for it was handed over to the Royal Flying Corps later the same day.
   The B.E.7 was given the serial 438, although there is some evidence to suggest that it bore the number 408 for a brief initial period. This may have been due to a simple error, as that identity had been given to a Bristol Boxkite. Alternatively, it is possible that it was done deliberately to create the impression that the B.E.7 was a reconstruction of the Bristol, which had been grounded late the previous year.
   On 2 May the B.E.7 achieved an altitude of 8,400ft piloted by Maj Gerrard, who was accompanied by two air mechanics who shared the forward cockpit, thus establishing a new British record.
   The B.E.7 continued to serve at the Central Flying School, where it was regarded as 'very satisfactory', until November 1913, with a brief visit to the Factory in June, presumably for repairs. It was struck off charge when it was discovered that flames from the engine exhaust ports had burnt, and seriously weakened, the engine bearers.

   Powerplant: 140hp two-row Gnome rotary.
   span 39ft 6in;
   chord 5ft 6in;
   length 27ft 3in

M.Goodall, A.Tagg British Aircraft before the Great War (Schiffer)

Deleted by request of (c)Schiffer Publishing

P.Lewis British Aircraft 1809-1914 (Putnam)

B.E.3, B.E.4, B.E.5, B.E.6, B.E.7

   During 1912 an off-shoot of the B.E.2 series appeared from the Royal Aircraft Factory in the guise of the B.E.3. The machine was the first of several to be built incorporating Gnome rotary engines of varying power, receiving for itself the 50 h.p. version. The B.E.3 was numbered 203, and also had bestowed upon it "The Goldfish" as a nickname.
   Two-bay staggered wings were fitted with the fuselage suspended between them. The engine was fully cowled and one large cockpit encompassed the pair of tandem seats. Lateral control was by wing-warping and a fin was dispensed with, directional control being by rudder alone. A single pair of wheels and twin skids, supported by two pairs of struts, formed the undercarriage. The general lines of the aircraft were quite pleasing to the eye. The B.E.3 was flown on the strength of No. 3 Squadron, R.F.C., which likewise received in 1912 the 80 h.p. Gnome B.E.4 No. 204. This was similar in appearance to the B.E.3 except that a four-bladed propeller was fitted instead of the earlier machine's two blader. No. 417 was a second example of the B.E.3/4 design with minor modifications incorporated and dual controls.
   The B.E.4 was followed in the same year by the fourteen-cylinder, two- row 140 h.p. Gnome-powered B.E.5 No. 408. Both the B.E.4 and B.E.5 were tested during the summer of 1912 at Farnborough by Geoffrey de Havilland. The 140 h.p. Gnome was fitted to two further examples, the B.E.6 - No. 416 and the B.E.7 - No. 438, which appeared in 1913. The B.E.6 was fitted with a vertical tail reminiscent of that of the H.R.E.2.
   The designations B.E.3 to B.E.7 were not at first representative of a class comprising several aeroplanes under each number, but were given separately to the single machine constructed under each one.

P.Hare - Royal Aircraft Factory /Putnam/
The B.E.3 with Geoffrey de Havilland in the cockpit.
M.Goodall, A.Tagg - British Aircraft before the Great War /Schiffer/
RAF BE.3 was the first of a small number of rotary-powered aircraft supplied to the RFC in 1912-1913.
P.Hare - Royal Aircraft Factory /Putnam/
The B.E.3 after hand-over to the RFC, most probably at Hendon in September 1913.
P.Hare - Royal Aircraft Factory /Putnam/
B.E.3 number 203 with four-bladed propeller, date and location unknown.
P.Lewis - British Aircraft 1809-1914 /Putnam/
Making the B.E3 ready at Hendon after handover to the RFC for Lt. A.G.Fox's take-off on 21st September, 1913.
P.Lewis - British Aircraft 1809-1914 /Putnam/
Lt. A. G. Fox taking-off at Hendon in the B.E.3 on 21st September, 1913.
Журнал - Flight за 1912 г.
Lieut. Fox, on Army biplane No. 203, just about to start for a flight at the London Aerodrome, Hendon, last week-end. Inset the same machine is seen in flight.
P.Lewis - British Aircraft 1809-1914 /Putnam/
RAF B.E.4 No. 204 was structurally identical to the B.E.3.
P.Hare - Royal Aircraft Factory /Putnam/
A B.E.4 on Farnborough Common with the Factory buildings, including the newly extended airship shed, in the background.
P.Hare - Royal Aircraft Factory /Putnam/
A B.E.4 prepares to take off, observed by a group of senior officers, one of whom appears to be HM King George V.
Журнал - Flight за 1912 г.
Lieut. Gordon Bell, on Army biplane No. 204, with Capt. Dawes as passenger, just at the moment before leaving the London Aerodrome, Hendon, on Saturday last en route for Farnborough. Note the mechanic in front, who has just swung the propeller.
P.Lewis - British Aircraft 1809-1914 /Putnam/
B E.4 No. 417.
Журнал - Flight за 1912 г.
A couple of snapshots of Mr. de Havilland and one of the Army biplanes, BE 4, showing the machine from the side and from behind.
P.Hare - Royal Aircraft Factory /Putnam/
Ill-fated B.E.4 204, which crashed, killing its crew, on Farnborough Common, together with other RFC machines including a Breguet and several Farmans.
Журнал - Flight за 1913 г.
AIRCRAFT ON LAFFAN'S PLAIN FOR THE "FLY PAST" ON THE KING'S BIRTHDAY THIS WEEK. - In the parade there were four BE type (from the left, B.E.3, B.E.4, B.E.2 and B.E.1), six Maurice Farmans, and two Henry Farmans. (Summer of 1913)
Журнал - Flight за 1913 г.
The ubiquitous pilot, Gordon Bell, when he was flying one of the BE's with Capt. Dawes.
A.Jackson - De Havilland Aircraft since 1909 /Putnam/
de Havilland in the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.3 at Farnborough in 1912.
P.Hare - Royal Aircraft Factory /Putnam/