Fairly sturdy and easy to fly, the Avro 504 was used by the Royal Naval Air Service to conduct bombing raids into German territory at the beginning of the war. The first plane to strafe troops on the ground, it was also the first British plane to be shot down by enemy ground fire. Better aircraft soon replaced the Avro 504 in combat, but it remained the standard British trainer for the duration of the war.
The Blackburn Type L was a single-engine, two-seat biplane built for the 1914 Daily Mail Circuit of Britain seaplane race of 1914.
All six of Robert Blackburn's previous aircraft had been monoplanes and had suffered no structural problems, but during 1912 in both the UK and in Europe there had been enough monoplane structural failures for the RFC to ban them from service. There was a move to biplanes which Blackburn followed. The Type L, his first biplane and a seaplane was built specifically as a candidate for the Circuit of Britain Race, sponsored by the Daily Mail with a £5,000 winner's prize.
Assembled at Blackburn's Olympia Works in Leeds (a former skating rink), the Type L was a two-seat tractor seaplane. It had two bay wings without stagger, the upper plane having a span of 14 ft 6 in (4.4 m) greater than the lower, outward-sloping struts connecting the two extremities. The upper plane carried long ailerons extending over 70% of the span. The wings and the square-section fuselage were wooden frames with fabric covering, though the fuselage decking was aluminium. The pilot's seat was just behind the wing trailing edge with the second seat under the wing. Tail surfaces were conventional, apart from the rudder horn balance positioned under the rear end of the fuselage. The floats were attached to the fuselage with six ash struts and separated by a pair of parallel spreader bars fore and aft. The hydrodynamics of floats was still evolving at the time and those on the Type L were unusual in having a step close to the nose, followed by an arched, flat-bottomed underside aft to the second step. There was a small float under the tail.
Power was provided by a cowled 130 hp (100 kW) Salmson 9 nine-cylinder radial, licence built by Dudbridge Iron Works Ltd at Stroud. Most unusually for a radial, this type was water-cooled and needed two narrow radiators, one either side of the front seat. There were two fuel tanks in the fuselage.
The Circuit of Britain race was due to start from Calshot on 14th August 1914. There were nine competitors, who were on their way to the start when the First World War was declared on August 4th. All the aircraft were impounded by the Admiralty.
The Type L was based at Scalby Mills just north of Scarborough on the English North-East Coast, an area attacked during 1914 by the German Navy. Here it was used for off-shore reconnaissance. During this time, some modifications were made to it, aimed at cooling and control problems: the engine cowling was removed and the long-span ailerons replaced with much shorter surfaces near the wing tips, protruding well behind the wing trailing edges. A wider chord propeller was also added. At some point, it carried a 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine gun, before being lost in a crash on the cliff top at Speeton early in 1915.
The Bristol T.B.8 was an early (1913-14) British biplane built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company, which was produced in significant numbers (54 were built) for the time. While mainly used as a trainer, T.B.8s were briefly used as bombers at the start of the First World War by the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).
Henri Coanda, chief designer of the Bristol Aeroplane Company, developed the T.B.8 as a biplane development of his earlier Bristol-Coanda Monoplane to meet an order from the British Admiralty, the first aircraft, a conversion of a Bristol-Coanda monoplane, flying on 12 August 1913 . This aircraft was tested with both wheeled undercarriage and floats.
The T.B.8 was a single engined, two seat biplane, with two bay wings and a slender fuselage. While early T.B.8s used wing warping, later production aircraft were fitted with ailerons. They were normally fitted with a distinctive four wheel undercarriage. T.B.8s were powered by a variety of rotary engines, including Gnome and Le Rhône engines with power ranging from 50 hp Gnomes to 100 hp Gnome Monosoupape engines . T.B.8s were produced both by conversion of Coanda Monoplanes, and by new production.
One T.B.8 was fitted with a prismatic Bombsight in the front cockpit and a cylindrical bomb carrier in the lower forward fuselage capable of carrying twelve 10 lb (4.5 kg) bombs, which could be dropped singly or as a salvo as required . This aircraft was displayed at the Paris Salon de l'Aéronautique and evaluated by the French military before being purchased by the RNAS.
T.B.8s were purchased for use both by the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), with the RFC's T.B.8s being transferred to the RNAS shortly after the start of the First World War . Three T.B.8s, including the aircraft displayed at Paris in December 1913, and fitted with bombing equipment, were sent to France following the outbreak of war, serving with the RNAS squadron commanded by Charles Rumney Samson. One of these T.B.8s carried out a bombing attack on German gun batteries at Middelkerke, Belgium on 25 November 1914, the only bombing sortie flown by the T.B.8 . The T.B.8 was considered too slow for front line operations, and was relegated to training operations, serving until 1916.
The T.B.8 was also used by Romania, with six Bristol-Coanda Monoplanes operated by the Romanian Military Aviation school being converted by Bristol into T.B.8s.
The Romanian government were pleased with their T.B.8s and placed an order for an improved version, for which they provided a 75 hp (56 kW) Gnome Monosoupape engine. The resulting aircraft, designated the G.B.75 was significantly different in appearance, with a streamlined front fuselage and rounded cowling enclosing the rotary engine. The characteristic Coanda fin was replaced with an unbalanced rudder plus fin. Maximum speed was up a little to 80 mph (130 km/h). It first flew on 7 April 1914 and required the removal of the spinner and an increase in stagger to adjust the centre of pressure, but was judged ready for delivery in June. It did not go to Romania, however and instead served the RFC at Farnborough, powered by a standard Gnome engine.
The Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2 (Blériot Experimental) was a British single-engine two-seat biplane in service with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) during World War One. The B.E.2 has always had a very bad press, and had become an unpopular aircraft by 1916. From 1917 onwards, the B.E.2 was mostly withdrawn from the front line but continued in use for submarine spotting and as a trainer. Before this it had already been the first effective night fighter. About 3,500 were built, used as fighters, interceptors, light bombers, trainers and reconnaissance aircraft.
In August 1912, the Blériot Experimental 2 earned the highest marks in aircraft trials at Larkhill. During the competition, the two-seater broke the British altitude record, climbing to 10,560 feet. Equipped with a more powerful engine, the unarmed B.E.2a was introduced in 1913. A Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2a of No.2 Squadron RFC was the first aircraft of the Royal Flying Corps to arrive in France on 26 August 1914, after the start of the First World War. In 1915, when air combat began in earnest, squadrons equipped with the B.E.2c suffered heavy losses to more maneuverable enemy.
The B.E.2 was designed by Geoffrey de Havilland as a development of the B.E.1, and first flew in February 1912 with de Havilland as the test pilot. On 12 August 1912 it set a British altitude record of 10,560 ft (3,219 m). It started production as a reconnaissance machine, and two years later formed part of the equipment of three squadrons - squadrons equipped with a single type of aeroplane were still to come. These were all sent to France shortly after the outbreak of war. The early B.E.2a and b aircraft were replaced during 1915 by the B.E.2c, so extensively modified as to be virtually a new type, based on research by Edward Teshmaker Busk to develop an inherently stable aeroplane. The c began to be superseded by the final version, the B.E.2e, nicknamed the "Quirk", in 1916.
Well into 1917 the last front-line B.E.2e was withdrawn, long after the type was obsolete. It continued in service throughout the war as a home defence fighter, in which role it was for a time a surprising success, and as a trainer.
The performance of the B.E.2 was inadequate to intercept the aeroplane raiders of 1917/18, and it was replaced by later types of night fighter, using techniques pioneered by the B.E.2c.
Some 3,500 B.E.2s were built by over 20 different manufacturers: an exact breakdown between the different models has never been produced, although the B.E.2c was almost certainly the most numerous.
The B.E.9 and the B.E.12 were variants designed to give the B.E.2 an effective forward-firing armament - the B.E.12 (a single seater) went into production and squadron service, but was not a great success.
By this time it had at least three serious weaknesses as a warplane. The first was that its small air-cooled inline motor made it seriously underpowered, and was unreliable even by the standards of the time. When bombs were to be carried or maximum endurance was required, the observer and his gun had to be left behind. Although the B.E.2 had a reasonable performance for 1914/15 it remained in service long after much more powerful aircraft had become available to the enemy.
The second weakness stemmed from this. As it was often flown as a single-seater, it was necessary to have the observer's cockpit over the center of gravity, in front of the pilot. In this awkward position, he was hampered by the struts and wires supporting the center section of the top wing , and at best had to shoot back over his pilot's head.
The third weakness is more controversial. In 1912 and following years there was a good deal of controversy about two competing aircraft design philosophies. One, typified by the Wright Brothers, said that an aeroplane should be inherently unstable, and that deviations from straight and level flight should be corrected by the pilot. Aircraft designed on this principle tended to be agile, but required constant vigilance and attention and a fair degree of skill from the pilot. The opposing philosophy strove towards an aircraft that, while it could be steered, largely kept itself steady in the air, and diverged from straight and level flight only when its pilot wanted it to. This tendency naturally worked against desired changes in flight attitude as well as involuntary ones, and reduced manoeuverability. Since the standard of pilot training was so poor in the RFC a stable aircraft had real advantages, but it did make it difficult to escape a more aerobatic enemy, even if pilot skills had permitted it. There is however a good deal of evidence in contemporary accounts that suggests that the B.E.2 was less stable and more manoeuverable than it was supposed to have been.
The essential vulnerability of the B.E.2 became plain in late 1915, with the advent of the first German fighters. This led the British press to dub it "Fokker Fodder", while German pilots nicknamed it kaltes Fleisch ("cold meat"). British ace Albert Ball summed it up as "a bloody awful aeroplane". Unable to cope with such a primitive fighter as the Fokker E.I, it was virtually helpless against the newer German fighters of 1916-17. The aircraft's poor performance against the Fokker Eindecker and the failure to improve the aircraft or replace it caused great controversy in England, with Noel Pemberton Billing attacking the B.E.2 and the Royal Aircraft Factory in the House of Commons on 21 March 1916, saying that RFC pilots in France were being "rather murdered than killed". This prompted the setting up of a judicial enquiry, which eventually cleared the factory.
As early as 1915 the B.E.2c had been used in attempts to intercept and destroy the German "Zeppelin" airship raiders. The "interceptor" version of the B.E.2c was flown as a single-seater with an auxiliary fuel tank on the center of gravity, in the position of the observer's seat in the reconnaissance version. After an initial lack of success while using darts and small incendiary bombs to attack airships from above, a Lewis gun was mounted to fire incendiary ammunition upwards, at an angle of 45°. The tactic proposed was to attack the airship from below. This proved very effective.
The first successful attack took place on the night of 3 September 1916, when a B.E.2c flown by Captain William Leefe Robinson downed the first German airship to be shot down over Britain, winning him a Victoria Cross and cash prizes totalling £ 3,500 that had been put up by a number of individuals for the first Zeppelin kill over the British Isles.
This was not an isolated victory: five more German airships were destroyed by Home Defence B.E.2c interceptors between October and December 1916.
The Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.5 was a British two-seat reconnaissance and artillery observation biplane designed and built by the Royal Aircraft Factory for the Royal Flying Corps.
The R.E.5 was designed as a reconnaissance biplane using the experience of earlier R.E. series aircraft. It was a two-bay equal-span biplane with a fixed tailskid landing gear, with the wheels supported on skids and powered by a nose-mounted 120 hp (89 kW) Austro-Daimler engine driving a four-bladed propeller. The aircraft had two open cockpits with the observer/gunner in the forward cockpit under the upper wing and the pilot aft. The larger more capable Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.7 was a further development of the design. Some modified single-seat high altitude aircraft were built with extended-span (57 ft 2.66 in or 17.43 m) upper wings supported by a pair of outward-leaning struts. Other R.E.5s were used for experimentation with airbrakes and for test flying the Royal Aircraft Factory 4 engine.
Twenty four R.E.5s were built at the Royal Aircraft Factory for the RFC, paid for by money given to the British Army to compensate for the transfer of the army's airships to the Royal Navy.
Six R.E.5s deployed to France in September 1914, partly equipping No. 2 Squadron RFC, with further examples being by other squadrons, with no unit being completely equipped with the R.E.5. In total, eleven R.E.5s were sent to France, with a further nine being used by training units.
The R.E.5s were used for reconnaissance and bombing missions over France, although at first they were not fitted with bomb-sights or bomb racks, bombs being carried in the observer's cockpit and dropped by hand when the aircraft was over the target.
Captain John Aidan Liddell was awarded the Victoria Cross for an action on 31 July 1915, being badly wounded when flying an R.E.5 but successfully recovering the aircraft and saving his observer. The R.E.5 was gradually phased out from front-line service during that year, only two remaining at the front on 25 September 1915. Preparations for the altitude record flight on 14 May 1914
One of the aircraft with extended upper wings set a new world altitude record of 18,900 ft (5,760 m) on 14 May 1914, piloted by Norman Spratt.