RAF FE2b (Windsock Datafile 18)
By J. M. Bruce
Publisher: Albatros Productions Limited 1989 31 Pages
PDF 19 MB
The FE2b was one of the most remarkable yet perhaps least appreciated aircraft of the 1914-18 war. Structurally and aerodynamically it owed nothing to the original FE2, which first flew on August 18 1911, underwent various modifications, and was seen a year later with a Maxim gun mounted on the prow of its nacelle. It was soon succeeded by an entirely new design that retained the FE2 designation but had a 70-hp Renault engine and utilized BE2 mainplanes on extended centre-sections. This reconstructed FE2 was intended to have a Vickers automatic 1-pdr. gun, but it was wrecked on February 23 1914 and probably never flew with its intended armament.
A further revised design was drawn up at about the time of the outbreak of war, with the designation FE2a. This had the 100-hp Green engine and a capacious nacelle in which the pilot sat high with reasonable protection, the observer below and in front of him with virtually none. The mainplanes were standard BE2c wing panels, the upper centre-section had a full-span flap that could be lowered to serve as an air brake, and the RAF oleo undercarriage with small nosewheel was fitted.
The first of 12 FE2as was completed by January 22 1915 and, piloted by Frank Goodden, flew for the first time on January 26. It was soon recognised that the aircraft was underpowered, and an alternative to the Green was found in the 120-hp Austro-Daimler, which was in production with William Beard-more & Co and became better known as the 120-hp Beardmore. The first installation of this power unit was made in the third FE2a, which went to the Central Flying School for official trials on March 20 1915. The aircraft was favourably reported on; production was desired, but output of the Beardmore engine was slow and did not pick up until October 1915.
The twelve FE2as were delivered more or less one at a time, and all served in France at one time or another. Last to be completed was the eleventh (numerically), which acquired the official serial number 5648. It had been delayed by modifications, for it had a new centre-section without air brake, its wings had a new aerofoil section, and it had a plain V-strut undercarriage. More than any other aircraft, it could be regarded as the prototype of the FE2b.