Tag Archives: Royal Flying Corps

18 August 1911

Geoffrey de Havilland, 1913. (FLIGHT, 22 February 1913, Page 207))

18 August 1911: At 6:30 a.m., the Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2 prototype took off with its designer, Geoffrey de Havilland,¹ at the controls. He made the short flight from Farnborough to Laffan’s Plain where he made a series of takeoffs and landings.

The airplane was a single-engine, two-place, two-bay biplane with a pusher propeller. The crew, a pilot and an observer/gunner, were in an open nacelle, with the engine aft, and an open tail boom.

The F.E.2 was 28 feet (8.5 meters) long with a wing span of 33 feet (10.0 meters). The total wing area was 340 square feet (31.6 square meters). It weighed 1,200 pounds (544 kilograms), loaded, and had a maximum speed of 47.5 miles per hour (76.4 kilometers per hour). The F.E.2 prototype, in its original configuration, was powered by an air-cooled Gnome 7-cylinder rotary engine which produced 50 horsepower.

Royal Aircraft Factory F.E. 2 with Maxim gun (RAF Museum)

In 1913, the F.E.2 prototype was redesigned and rebuilt with an air-cooled Renault V-8 engine, rated at 70 horsepower, driving a four-bladed fixed-pitch propeller. The wings were identical to those of the the B.E.2A. The Renault-powered F.E.2 variant was 30 feet, 0 inches (9.144 meters) long with a wingspan of 42 feet, 0 inches (12.802 meters). The wings had a chord of 6 feet, 4 inches (1.930 meters). The wing area increased to 425 square feet (39.5 square meters). The gross weight was now 1,865 pounds (846 kilograms). The F.E.2 (Renault) had a maximum speed of 67 miles per hour (108 kilometers per hour) and a service ceiling of 5,500 feet (1,676 meters).

At about 11:45 a.m., Monday, 23 February 1914, test pilot Roland Campbell Kemp (R.Ae.C. Aviator’s Certificate No. 80) was flying the F.E.2 at about 500 feet (152 meters). Also on board was a passenger, Ewart Temple Haynes. The wind was estimated at 30 miles per hour (13 meters per second). After about five minutes, the prototype entered a steep—but not heavily banked—right-hand spiral descent and crashed near Wittering, Chichester. The airplane “was completely wrecked.” Haynes was killed. Kemp was seriously injured and had no memory of the day.

The Accidents Investigation Committee of the Royal Aero Club was “of the opinion that there is no positive evidence to show why the accident occurred, but such evidence as is available points to the conclusion that the most probable cause was that the pilot’s foot slipped over the rudder bar, and that he thus lost control.” ²

After another redesign, the first production variant of de Havilland’s biplane was the F.E.2A, a three-bay biplane with a water-cooled Green six-cylinder inline engine, rated at 100 horsepower. This airplane was 32 feet, 3 inches (10.135 meters) long, with a wingspan of 47 feet, 8 inches (14.529 meters). The chord was decreased to 5 feet, 6 inches (1.676 meters). The F.E.2A’s gross weight was 2,680 pounds (1,216 kilograms). It had a maximum speed of 75 miles per hour (121 kilometers per hour) and ceiling of 6,000 feet (1,829 meters). Twelve F.E.2As were built.

Modified for a 120 horsepower Beardmore 6-cylinder engine with a 9-foot-diameter propeller (2.7 meters), the airplane was designated F.E.2B, or Fighter Mark I. The wingspan increased 1 inch to 47 feet, 9 inches (14.554 meters). The airplane had an overall height of 12 feet, 7½ inches (3.848 meters). The wings had a 3° 30′ angle of incidence and were not staggered. There was 4° dihedral. Gross weight increased to 2,827 pounds (1,282 kilograms). Its maximum speed was 73 miles per hour (117 kilometers per hour), and the service ceiling was 9,000 feet (2,743 meters). These were first used in France during World War I.

The B.E.2B was also built with a 160 horsepower Beardmore engine. The series continued with the F.E.2C and a Rolls-Royce powered F.E.2D. Dimensions remained constant, though the angle of incidence was increased to 4°.

The F.E.2 and F.E.2.A were armed with Maxim machine guns. The B.E.2B and later models had one or two .303-caliber Lewis guns.

A total of 1,939 F.E.s were built.

Three-view illustration of the Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2B, Fighter Mark I. (FLIGHT and Aircraft Engineer, No. 2290, Vol. LXII, Friday, 12 December 1952, at Page 726)

The Royal Flying Corps initially used the F.E.2 (most sources say that “F.E.” stood for Farnham Experimental, ³ meaning that it was a pusher configuration) as a scouting and reconnaissance airplane.

On 16 October 1912, Geoffrey de Havilland was appointed Second Lieutenant (on probation), Royal Flying Corps, Military Wing, antedated to 2 September 1912. He was promoted to Lieutenant, 5 August 1914. Captain de Havilland was appointed  Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.), 7 June 1918. He was awarded the Air Force Cross, 1 January 1919.

De Havilland soon founded his own aircraft design and manufacturing company, the de Havilland Aircraft Company. He would later be known as Captain Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, O.M., C.B.E., A.F.C., R.D.I., F.R.Ae.S.

¹ Many sources, including The Peerage, Person Page – 55358, identify Sir Geoffrey as “Geoffrey Raoul de Havilland.” As his son is known as Geoffrey Raoul de Havilland, Jr., that would seem reasonable, and may even be correct. However, his birth registration (England & Wales Civil Registration Birth Index, January, February, and March 1883, at Page 149, Column 1), marriage banns and certificates for both marriages, numerous announcements in The London Gazette, contemporary news articles, and his civil death registration do not include any middle name.

² Accidents Investigation Committee of the Royal Aero Club, Report No. 26

³ “Fighting Experimental” —J.M. Bruce, M.A., in Flight, No. 2290, Vol. LXII, Friday, 12 December 1952 at Page 728

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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10 August 1912

Lieutenant Colonel Sir Francis Kennedy McLean, A.F.C., 18 September 1919. (Flight)
Lieutenant Colonel Sir Francis Kennedy McLean, A.F.C., 18 September 1919. (Flight)

10 August 1912: Frank McLean (later, Lieutenant Colonel Sir Francis Kennedy McLean, A.F.C.) flew his modified Short S.33 float plane, and, according to his obituary in the London Times, 12 August 1955, “. . . created a record by flying up the Thames in a seaplane, passing between the upper and lower parts of Tower Bridge and under London Bridge without touching the water.”

The vertical distance between the upper walkways and the deck of the draw bridge is 141 feet, 0 inches (42.977 meters).

Diagram of Tower Bridge, with dimensions. (Wikipedia)
Diagram of Tower Bridge, with dimensions. (Wikipedia)

Flight reported the event:

By Hydro-aeroplane up the Thames

     ALTHOUGH London was deprived by the appalling weather of the sight of M. Beaumont piloting his hydro-aeroplane up the Thames, the visit of Mr. F.K. McClean more than compensated for the loss. Remembering an appointment in town on Saturday morning, Mr. McClean thought it would be a good idea to come up on his Short machine, and so at 6 a.m. he had it out of its shed at Harty Ferry, in the Isle of Sheppey, and after seeing everything in order he started off. Following the coast round Leysdown, Warden Point to Sheerness, he continued over the Thames. At Gravesend the smoke of various factories rather troubled the aviator but he made good progress. Approaching London Mr. McClean brought his machine lower down and negotiated the Tower Bridge between the lower and upper spans, but the remaining bridges to Westminster he flew underneath, the water just being touched at Blackfriars and Waterloo bridges. He reached Westminster about 8.30 and was taken ashore to Westminster Pier on a Port of London Launch.

The return journey on Sunday afternoon was not so successful—owing to restrictions as to rising from the water which had been imposed by the police. The bridges had all been safely negotiated, and when near Shadwell Basin Mr. McClean started to manœuver to get into the air at the point designated by the river authorities. He had made one circuit when the machine side-slipped, and either through hitting a barge or by sudden contact with the water one of the floats was damaged. The machine was then towed into Shadwell Dock, this operation being superintended by Mr. McClean from the driving seat, and dismantled for its return by road to Eastchurch.

FLIGHT, No. 190. (No 33, Vol. IV.) 17 August 17 1912 at Page759, Column 1

Frank McLean flying through the Tower Bridge, 10 August 1912. (Clan Maclean)
Frank McLean flying through the Tower Bridge, 10 August 1912. (Clan Maclean Heritage Trust)

The Short S.33 was a variant of the S.27 biplane, built specifically for McLean. It is a two-place, single-engine four-bay biplane with the engine in a pusher configuration. An elevator is forward. Although it had been fitted with two floats for operating from the water, McLean had it converted to a land plane by installing two wheels on a tube axle attached to the lower wing with four struts. Two wooden skids are also installed. The fuselage is an open rectangular framework. At the aft end is a horizontal stabilizer and elevator, and two rudders. There were two tail skids.

The Short S.33 was 36 feet, 0 inches (10.973 meters) long (following conversion) with an upper wingspan of 70 feet, 6 inches (21.488 meters). The upper wing had a maximum chord of 6 feet, 7 inches.  The outer 16 feet (4.877 meters) of the upper wing was swept aft and had a slight dihedral, as did the outer panels of the lower wings. The lower wing had a shorter wingspan and narrower chord—5 feet, 9 inches (1.753 meters)—than the upper wing. The biplane had a gross weight of 1,600 pounds (725.75 kilograms)

The S.33 was powered by an air-cooled 10.292 liter (628.048-cubic-inch-displacement) Société des Moteurs Gnome Gamma 7-cylinder rotary engine producing 70 horsepower at 1,200 r.p.m. It turned a two-bladed, fixed-pitch wooden propeller with a diameter of 8 feet, 6 inches (2.591 meters) through direct drive.

Three-view diagram of Frank McLean's "70-H.P. Short biplane.: (FLIGHT, No. 232. (No. 23, Vol. V.), 7 June 1913 at Page 614)
Three-view diagram of Frank McLean’s “70-H.P. Short biplane.” (FLIGHT, No. 232. (No. 23, Vol. V.), 7 June 1913 at Page 614)

Sir Francis was a civil engineer, astronomer, pioneering photographer and aviator. He received the Royal Aero Club’s Aviator Certificate Number 21 on 20 September 1910.

McLean served in the Royal Naval Air Service during World War I and became an officer of the Royal Air Force when RNAS and the Royal Flying Corps were combined in 1918. He is considered to be the founder of the Fleet Air Arm. McLean was decorated with the Air Force Cross in 1919.

For his services to aviation, McLean was knighted by George V, 3 July 1926 and later appointed High Sheriff of Oxfordshire.

Sir Francis McLean died 11 August 1955 at London, England, after a lengthy illness. He was 79 years old.

Francis McLean’s Short S.33 biplane, which he used to fly through and under bridges on the Thames, 10 August 1912.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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7 August 1919

Captain Hoy’s JN-4 Canuck at Minoru Park, Richmond, B.C., prior to departing on his historic flight across the Canadian Rockies, 7 August 1919. (Unattributed)

7 August 1919: Captain Ernest Charles Hoy, DFC, a World War I fighter pilot credited with 13 aerial victories, became the first pilot to fly across the Canadian Rockies when he flew from Richmond, British Columbia, to Calgary, Alberta, carrying the mail for the Post Office Department.

Foy’s airplane was a single-engine Canadian Aeroplanes Ltd.-built JN-4 “Canuck” two-bay biplane, an independent derivative of the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company JN-3 “Jenny,” to the specifications of the Royal Flying Corps. The Canuck had ailerons on upper and lower wings, giving it better roll response than the original Curtiss JN-4. The Canuck was 27 feet, 2½ inches (8.293 meters) long, with an upper wingspan of 43 feet, 7-3/8 inches (13.294 meters) and lower span of 34 feet, 8 inches ( meters). The height was 9 feet, 11 inches (3.023 meters). The empty weight was 1,390 pounds (630 kilograms) and gross weight was 1,930 pounds (875 kilograms).

The Canuck was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated 502.655-cubic-inch-displacement (8.237 liters) Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company OX-5 90° V-8 engine with a compression ratio of 4.9:1. This was a direct-drive engine which produced 90 horsepower at 1,400 r.p.m. and turned a two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller. The OX-5 was 4 feet, 8.75 inches (1.442 meters) long, 2 feet, 5.75 inches (0.756 meters) wide and 3 feet, 0.75 inches (0.932 meters) high. It weighed 390 pounds (177 kilograms).

The Canuck had a cruise speed of 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 74 miles per hour (119 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 11,000 feet (3,353 meters). The standard airplane had a range of 155 miles (249 kilometers). Captain Hoy had an additional 12 gallon (45 liters) fuel tank installed in the airplane’s forward cockpit.

Two Canadian newspapers had agreed to offer a cash prize to the first person to make this flight. Captain Hoy was sponsored by the Aerial League of Canada, which purchased the airplane. Supposedly, Hoy was selected to make the flight by winning a coin toss with another pilot.

Captain Hoy took off from Minoru Park in Richmond at 4:13 a.m., carrying 45 specially marked letters and several special editions of the Vancouver Daily World. He made several fuel stops enroute, flew through several mountain passes and finally landed at Bowness Park in Calgary at 8:55 p.m. His flight took 16 hours, 42 minutes.

Captain Ernest C. Hoy, DFC, hands over the Mail at Calgary, Alberta, 7 August 1919. (Unattributed)

Ernest Charles Hoy was born at Dauphin, Manitoba, 6 May 1895, the son of Charles and Eliza Lavinia Kitchener Hoy.

Ernest Charles Hoy was 5 feet, 9½ inches (1.765 meters) tall, and weighed 165 pounds (75 kilograms). He had black hair and brown eyes. Hoy enlisted as a private in the 102nd Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 3 March 1915. The unit arrived in France, 12 August 1916, and fought as part of the 11th Infantry Brigade, 4th Canadian Division. He was transferred to the 3rd Pioneer Battalion, Canadian Engineers. After contracting a serious illness, Private Hoy was sent back to England to recuperate. While there, he volunteered for the Royal Flying Corps. He was trained as a pilot and assigned to No. 29 Squadron.

Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a D6940 of No. 29 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, photographed by Flight Lieutenant B.G. Mayner. © Imperial War Museum (Q 69781)

Between 12 August and 27 September 1918, Lieutenant Hoy shot down 13 enemy aircraft (including two balloons) with his Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a fighter. After his fourth, Hoy was recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross. His citation in The London Gazette reads,

Lieut. (A/Capt.) Ernest Charles Hoy.                                                                                                                                    (FRANCE)
     A bold and skillful airman who has accounted for four enemy machines and shot down a balloon in flames, displaying at all times a fine fighting spirit, disregarding adverse odds.

The London Gazette, 3 December 1918, Supplement 31046, Page 14322 at Column 2.

On 26 September 1918, Captain Hoy was shot down by an enemy pilot. He was captured and held as a prisoner of war until the Armistice.

Ernest Charles Hoy, 1939

On 12 July 1922, Captain Hoy married Miss Marjorie Day at Vancouver, British Columbia. They emigrated to the United States in 1924 and resided in Newark, New Jersey. They had two children, Ross Kitchener Hoy, born in 1926, and Jane Elizabeth Hoy, born in 1930.

Captain Hoy became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America on 6 July 1939. He worked as a branch manager for an insurance company.

Captain Ernest Charles Hoy died at Toccoa, Georgia, 22 April 1982, just short of his 87th birthday.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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25 July 1915

Captain Lanoe George Hawker, V.C., D.S.O., Royal Engineers and Royal Flying Corps (Imperial War Museum Catalog number Q 61077
Captain Lanoe George Hawker, D.S.O., Royal Engineers and Royal Flying Corps (Imperial War Museum Catalog number Q 61077)

25 July 1915: Near Passchendaele, Belgium, Captain Lanoe George Hawker, DSO, No. 6 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, was flying a single-engine Bristol Scout C, which he had had his mechanic equip with a single Lewis machine gun, fixed and firing 45° to the left to avoid the propeller arc.

Captain Hawker saw three enemy aircraft and attacked, shooting down all three. For this action, Captain Hawker was awarded the Victoria Cross. He was the third pilot, and the first ace, to receive Britain’s highest award for gallantry in combat.

Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 20.14.17War Office, 24th August 1915.

     His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to award the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned Officers, Non-commissioned Officer and man, in recognition of their most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in the field:—

Captain Lanoe George Hawker, D.S.O., Royal Engineers and Royal Flying Corps.

     For most conspicuoius bravery and very great ability on 25th July, 1915.

     When flying alone he attacked three German aeroplanes in succession. The first managed to eventually escape, the second was driven to the ground damaged, and the third, which he attacked at a height of about 10,000 feet, was driven to the earth in our lines, the pilot and observer being killed.

     The personal bravery shown by this Officer was of the very highest order, as the enemy’s aircraft were armed with machine guns, and all carried a passenger as well as the pilot.

The London Gazette, Number 29273, 24 August 1915, at Page 8395, Column 1.

Hawker was credited with destroying 7 enemy aircraft in combat. His luck came to an end, however, on 23 November 1916, when he encountered Leutnant Manfred Albrecht Freiher von Richthofen of Jagdstaffel 2 near Begaume, France, while flying an Airco DH.2.

A lengthy battle ensued with neither fighter ace gaining advantage. Richthofen, “The Red  Baron,” fired over 900 rounds during the fight. Running low on fuel, Hawker tried to break off and head for friendly lines. Almost there, he was struck in the head by a single machine gun bullet from Richthofen’s Albatros D.II. Major Hawker was killed and his airplane spun to the ground. He was the eleventh of Baron Richthofen’s eighty aerial victories.

The Baron took one of Hawker’s machine guns as a trophy.

 Captain Hawker's Bristol Scout C, No. 1611, in which he destroyed three enemy aircraft in aerial combat, 25 July 1915. In this photograph, the angled placement of Hawker's Lewis machine gun is visible.
Captain Hawker’s Bristol Scout C, No. 1611, in which he destroyed three enemy aircraft in aerial combat, 25 July 1915. In this photograph, the angled placement of Hawker’s Lewis machine gun is visible. (Wikipedia)

The Bristol Scout C was a single-place, single-engine tractor-type biplane reconnaissance aircraft. It was manufactured by the British and Colonial Aeroplane Co., Ltd., at Brislington, south east of Bristol, England. The Scout C was 20 feet, 8 inches (6.299 meters) long with a wingspan of 24 feet, 7 inches (7.493 meters) and height of 8 feet, 6 inches (2.591 meters). The wings had a chord of 4 feet, 6 inches (1.372 meters) and vertical separation of 4 feet, 3 inches (1.295 meters). They were staggered 1 foot, 4½ inches (0.419 meters). The Scout C had an empty weight of 757 pounds (343 kilograms) and maximum gross weight of 1,195 pounds (542 kilograms).

The Scout C was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 10.91 liter (665.79 cubic inch) Société des Moteurs Le Rhône 9C nine-cylinder rotary engine which produced 83 horsepower at 1,285 r.p.m. The engine turned a two-bladed, fixed-pitch wooden propeller through direct drive.

The Scout C had a maximum speed of 92.7 miles per hour (149.2 kilometers per hour) at ground level, and 86.5 miles per hour (139.2 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). It could climb to 10,000 feet in 21 minutes, 20 seconds. Its service ceiling was 15,500 feet (4,724 meters). It carried sufficient fuel to remain airborne for 2½ hours.

A total of 374 Bristol Scouts were built. 211 of these were of the Scout C variant.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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