The Royal Aircraft Factory H.R.E.2 was a floatplane biplane with some similarity to the B.E.2, developed at the Royal Aircraft Factory in 1913-14. Only one was ever produced, but it did see some service with the R.N.A.S. at the start of the First World War.
The H.R.E.2 was a two-bay biplane with a moderate forward-stagger on the wings (the upper wing was slightly in front of the lower wing) and wing warping controls. It was larger than the B.E.2 – 4ft long and eventually seven feet wider, and was designed around a more powerful engine – a 100hp Renault – although problems with this engine meant that it was originally powered by a 70hp engine. The rudder was mounted high on the tail to prevent it hitting the water during takeoff or landing, and this allowed the use of a single piece elevator.
The H.R.E.2 (Hydro-Reconnaissance Experimental) made its maiden flight on 1 July 1913, equipped as a land plane with a R.E.1 style undercarriage. It was then given floats, and made its first take-off from water from Frensham Great Pond, at some time before March 1914, and probably before November 1913 when taxi tests (at least) were carried out at Calshot Naval Air Station.
At some point during 1914 the warping wings were replaced with R.E.5 mainplanes with ailerons. This increased the wingspan to 45ft 3.5in.
The history of the H.R.E.2 is rather confused. Photographic evidence suggests that the floats and wheeled undercarriages were interchangeable – the aircraft is shown with wheels at Farnborough in a photograph dated as 10 September 1914, but that has to have been taken in late August, for on 10 September the aircraft was recorded as having made a flight with floats from Calshot Naval Air Station. The aircraft had wheels on 20 October, but floats in January 1915. The flight on 10 September may well have been the aircraft's first successful flight from the sea, earlier tests having taken place on smooth inland waters.
The H.R.E.2 was delivered to Calshot on 5 September 1914, possibly to replace a damaged Avro biplane which had been given floats by Commander Oliver Schwann, RN. It had an unlucky career, suffering damage to a wing on 19 September that grounded it for some time, possibly even into January 1915. On 10 February 1915 Flt. Sub-Lt. Welsh made a solo flight in the aircraft on a fine clear day. The conditions were so good that he was unable to judge how high above the sea he was and flew straight into the water while attempting to land. The engine and floats were salvaged, but the aircraft was written off.
Engine: Renault V-8 then V-12
Power: 70hp then 100hp
Wing span: 45ft 3.5in
Length: 32ft 3in
Height: 12ft 2in
Max Speed: 60mph at sea level (70hp), 75mph at sea level (100hp)