The Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.8 was the first single-seat fighter aircraft of the Royal Aircraft Factory and at the same time the last pusher propeller aircraft, which was still brought to the front.
Development and construction:
In mid-1915, Royal Aircraft Factory under the direction of J. Kenworthy began the development of a single-seat fighter aircraft. In doing so, Kenworthy based on the basic design of the Airco DH.2 and the Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2, which were already built and used.
Since at this time there was no machine gun synchronized with the motor gearbox, the F.E.8 was again based on the principle of the pressure propeller. This should allow the pilot as large a field of fire as possible, but not the engine and the propeller restricted the field.
What was unusual about the aircraft was that the gondola was made of steel tubes framed with duralumin. This should protect the pilot from enemy fire significantly better than the otherwise used fabric and wooden covers.
The F.E.8 was armed with a 7.7 mm Lewis machine gun, which was initially mounted movable. In later missions, however, showed that it was hardly possible for the pilot to operate the machine gun freehand. This was locked in the course of production and the whole aircraft was used for targeting.
On October 15, 1915, the prototype was flown by the test pilot Frank Gooden for the first time. Subsequently, the transfer to the Central Flying School in Upavon, who also tested the aircraft several times. After being described as stable, manoeuvrable and easy to land, the second prototype was brought to France for testing at the front.
After some adjustments, the production of the first series began in May and June 1916 could be delivered. By the end of the war, a total of 295 aircraft of this type were built.
Use in the First World War:
In June 1916, the 29th Squadron received the first two Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.8 aircraft. Since the Squadron was already equipped with the new Airco DH.2, a direct comparison could be drawn. The F.E.8 was slightly faster compared to the DH.2 and the pilot's view was better. However, the DH.2 was easier to fly.
In August 1916, the 40th Squadron was equipped exclusively with the F.E.8 aircraft, followed in October by the 41st Squadron.
At this time, however, the Germans began to use their new Halberstadt and Albatross fighters. These were the F.E.8 clearly superior, so that they were considered obsolete shortly after their introduction at the front.
This inferiority was particularly evident on 9 March 1917 when the F.E.8 aircraft of the 40th Squadron encountered the Albatros D.III aircraft of the German Jagdstaffel 11. 4 F.E.8 aircraft were shot down, four more seriously damaged. One caught fire on landing and was also destroyed. Thereafter, the F.E.8 aircraft were exchanged for the newer Nieuport 17.
The 41st Squadron was the only one to retain these aircraft, but only used them to combat ground targets.
|Designation:||Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.8|
|Mass:||406 kg empty|
|Engine:||A Le Rhône or Gnôme Monosoupape 9-cylinder rotary engine with 110 or 100 hp|
|Maximum speed:||151 km/h|
|Reach:||Max. 2 hours and 30 minutes|
|Armament:||A 7,7mm Lewis machine gun|