The Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.5 was one of a number of similar aircraft all based on the original B.E.1 built by the Aircraft Factory in the years before the First World War. Like the other aircraft in the series the B.E.5 was officially a reconstruction of a damaged aircraft, in this case a Howard Wright biplane, but as with every other entry in this series the only part of the earlier aircraft that was actually used was its engine, in this case a water-cooled 60hp ENV 'F'.
The B.E.3 and B.E.4 had both featured heavily staggered wings, with the upper wing mounted ahead of the lower wing, but the B.E.5 returned to the standard un-staggered layout of the B.E.1/2.
The B.E.5 made its maiden flight on 27 June 1912, and was handed over to the R.F.C. on 18 July. After a few weeks it returned to the Factory to be given a V-8 Renault, turning it into a standard B.E.2. It served in that configuration with the R.F.C. until 27 May 1913, when the starboard upper wing collapsed in flight. The pilot, Lt. Desmond Arthur, was thrown out of the aircraft and killed, but the aircraft itself survived. It was eventually struck the R.F.C.'s charge on 25 September 1915.