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RAF’s early fighter — Blériot Experimental BE-2C

8 June 2012

RAF’s early fighter —  Blériot Experimental BE-2C

The Blériot Experimental BE-2C was Britain’s entry fighter in 1914, the beginning of WW I. The RAF aircraft was innovative with true ailerons, as opposed to the Wright’s wing warping philosophy, and staggered wings. The aircraft was stable and easy to fly — precisely wrong for a fighter as things turned out since stability results in slow turns. The German Air Force soon deployed fighters as we’ve come to know them but the BE-2C soldiered on in reconnaissance and light bombing roles where the rear gun position was more than useful — as well as interception duty against dirigibles over Great Britain.

The BE-2C pictured in this post is in the U.S. Army Aviation Museum (paste the name into the search window to find more about the museum and other exhibits there) and is a replica constructed by Mr. Gerold Burr of Nova Scotia in 1980.

The Blériot Experimental BE-2C  as flown by the RAF on display in the U.S. Army Aviation Museum — photo by Joseph May

The BE-2C was crewed by two positioned in tandem — photo by Joseph May

This view best illustrates the staggered wings and ailerons in each wing, innovations at the time — photo by Joseph May

Skids to help prevent propeller damage in the event of tipping over — photo by Joseph May

8 Comments leave one →
  1. 8 June 2012 06:50

    I can’t even imagine the craftsmanship it took to make that propeller! ….DEFINITELY a work of ART! A beautiful ship overall too. Interesting too, the “ADVANTAGES” and “DISADVANTAGES” that war produces…..

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      8 June 2012 07:54

      Cannot agree with you more.

  2. 8 June 2012 14:37

    Sadly, the B.E. 2c betrayed its origins as an artillery observation and photographic reconn. machine. Far too stable to fend off attacks by opposing fighters they were lost in huge numbers. To make matters worse, the observer sat over the centre of gravity in the FRONT seat, making it almost impossible for him to wield a Lewis gun effectively. With complete air superiority the B.E. 2 could survive – just!

    There were successful fighter versions, but these were flown as single-seaters, with a primitive almost Schräge Musik – like arrange of a Lewis gun firing up at an oblique angle. These were used against Zeppelins by Home Defence squadrons. Indeed, Captain William Leefe Robinson won a Victoria Cross in B.E.2c when he shot down a German airship in September, 1916!

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      9 June 2012 10:06

      Yes, I see what you mean with the gunner forward he would have had very little arc of fire. Of course, I assumed the gun position was in the rear but I now see the elevator control linkage on the fuselage is outside the rear cockpit. One has to ask what they were thinking!

      So, it appears that WW I quickly showed that fighters had to be less stable for increased agility which was not the B.E. 2c’s forte. I thought it was interesting how it was repurposed to Zeppelin hunter. Would that make it the world’s first intercepter, per chance? Thanks for the lead on Leefe Robinson and I also had no idea about the Schräge Musik invention during WW I 🙂

  3. 11 June 2012 16:04

    The Schräge Musik idea might even be taken on stage further, in that all S.E.5 ‘scouts’ had a fixed Vickers firing through the propeller, and a Lewis gun above the upper wing. This gun could be brought down on a curve rail (called a Foster mounting) to change the 97-round drum OR fire upward at an angle into the belly of an opponent! Naval versions of the Camel (the 2F.1) also had an overwing version of the Lewis mounting, as did Camels modified as nightfighters (both Vickers removed, and twin Lewis over the upper wing).

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      11 June 2012 20:15

      I’m a bad student as you have mentioned the Foster mount and I had forgotten. When I get into shape I’ll drop and give you twenty 😉

  4. 15 September 2012 21:52

    Reblogged this on Alex Gill Blog.

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