The Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.1 was a refined version of the B.E.2, originally designed to be light enough to carry armour plating without reducing its performance but that was actually used as a test bed for experiments in stability.
The R.E.1 was designed by Geoffrey de Havilland, Henry Folland and Edward Busk. It may have originally been designated the B.S.2 (Bleriot Scout 2), but by the time any concrete work can be traced the designation had been changed to R.E.1 (Reconnaissance Experimental 1), and the design owed more to the B.E.2 than the B.S.1. Mervyn O'Gorman, the Superintendent of the Royal Aircraft Factory, described the R.E.1 as an 'experimental reconnaissance armoured aeroplane' with the same operational capacity and engine as the B.E.2 but with its empty weight reduced from 1,100lb to 1,000lb. This was achieved by the use of staggered wings, which reduced the interference between the upper and lower wings allowing for smaller, lighter wings, a cleaner body design, a better wing section and a reduction from the two bays of the B.E.2 to one wing bay on the R.E.1.
The R.E.1 was designed to carry 1mm thick armour around the engine and cockpits. This armour was built in the summer of 1913, but may never have been installed on the aircraft.
Two R.E.1s were built. The first was ready in May 1913, but appears not to have made its maiden flight until July. The second aircraft was ready in September 1913. Both aircraft were used by Edward Busk for experiments on how to make an aircraft inherently stable, so that it would fly straight and level with as little pilot action as possible. Busk made a series of modifications to both R.E.1s, including fitting vertical fins on the upper wing, replacing the wing warping controls with ailerons and increasing the dihedral of the wings. This research was then used to produce the B.E.2c, the most important RFC aircraft in the first year of the First World War.
The second R.E.1 saw squadron service and a very limited amount of active service. Before the outbreak of the First World War it was with No.6 Squadron. That squadron was broken up and its aircraft and crew distributed amongst the four squadrons that went to France at the start of the war, but the R.E.1 remaining in Britain until 23 August, when it went to France with No.2 Squadron. On 1 September its Renault engine failed and the aircraft was wrecked in the resulting crash.
The first R.E.1 came be traced no further than February 1915, when it was still intact and flying at Farnborough.
Engine: Renault V-8
Wing span: 34ft 0in as built, 36ft 0in later
Weights: 1,000lb empty, 1,580lb full
Max Speed: 78mph at sea level
Stalling Speed: 48mph