The BE-2, Britain's First Military Aeroplane -
Contrary to some opinions, the BE-2 was highly effective
in the role for which
it was originally created. In an era when most aeroplanes were
barely controllable, the BE was the first of its kind to be able
flown ‘hands off’. The aeroplane’s stability was
further enhanced in
1913/14 thanks to the work of pioneer aerodynamicist E. T. Busk,
replaced the wing-warping lateral control of the original models
with ailerons to create the BE-2c.
The BE-2c was also a pioneer of mass production in
factories as widespread as the
British and Colonial Aircraft Company in Bristol, Armstrong-Whitworth
Tyneside, Coventry Ordnance Works and Vickers in London. Over 4,000
examples of the
type were built between 1914 and 1917. But in service, the BE-2’s
stability and top speed of just 70 mph became major drawbacks.
With the advent of the first armed fighter aircraft
in 1915, BE-2 pilots discovered that
their machine lacked sufficient manoeuvrability to take avoiding
action. Casualties were
so great that it led to crews being named ‘Fokker Fodder’.
Life expectancy of
crews at one time was just eleven days -
yet heroically, the vital reconnaissance work went on.