The Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.8 was a member of the B.E.2 family that was powered by a Gnome rotary engine. It was one of a series of aircraft with staggered wings designed by John Kenworthy in the years before the outbreak of the First World War, and followed on from the B.E.3, B.E.4 and B.E.7.
The prototype B.E.8 made its maiden flight on 20 August 1913. On the B.E.3 the fuselage had been suspended between the upper and lower wings, but on the B.E.8 it was attached to the lower wing. The prototype had the standard rudder of the B.E.2, with an ear shaped rudder and a large straight edged horizontal stabiliser. The prototype also had the single open cockpit of the B.E.2, and the same wing warping controls.
A limited number of B.E.8s were ordered from Vickers, the Coventry Ordnance Works and the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company (Bristol). Production aircraft had a triangular fin in front of the rudder and some decking between the two cockpits. The first production machine was delivered on 10 March 1914.
The B.E.8 served with Nos.1, 3, 5, 6 and 7 squadrons. A number of B.E.8s were amongst the mixed bag of aircraft that the RFC took to France at the start of the First World War, but in combat the B.E.8 proved to be underpowered and too easy to spin. An attempt to improve the performance of the aircraft by giving it a 100hp Monosoupape engine was technically successful, but that engine was in too short supply for any to be diverted to the B.E.8, and by the middle of 1915 the surviving aircraft had all been withdrawn from the front line. They spent the rest of their careers at training units, where they were used alongside the B.E.8a.
Engine: Gnome rotary
Wing span: 37f 8in
Length: 27ft 4.5in
Height: 9ft 4in
Max Speed: 70mph at sea level
Endurance: 1hr 30min