Model Airplane News
January, 1961

Model Airplane News Cover for January, 1961 by Jo Kotula Royal Aircraft Factory RE8

Royal Aircraft Factory RE-8
Model Airplane News Cover Art for January, 1961
by Jo Kotula
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The Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8 (Reconnaissance Experimental 8) was a British two-seat biplane reconnaissance and bomber aircraft of the First World War. It was designed as a replacement for the vulnerable B.E.2, but turned out to be much more difficult to fly, and was regarded with great suspicion in the Royal Flying Corps. Although eventually it gave reasonably satisfactory service. Although it was never an outstanding combat aircraft, the R.E.8 served as the standard British reconnaissance and artillery spotting aircraft from mid-1917 to the end of the war, serving alongside the rather more popular Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8. Over 4,000 R.E.8s were eventually produced and they served in most theatres including Italy, Russia, Palestine and Mesopotamia, as well as the Western Front.

The first of two prototype R.E.8s flew in June 1916. The new type was specifically designed to overcome the drawbacks of the B.E.2 - it had a more powerful motor, giving an improved performance, in particular a heavier payload. It was also much better armed, with a synchronised forward-firing .303-in Vickers machine gun and one or two Lewis gunsin the observer's cockpit. Modifications had to be made to improve stability before it could gain acceptance by pilots used to the B.E.2e - making the production version a good platform for artillery spotting but giving it little chance of out-maneuvring enemy fighters.

 The Royal Aircraft Factory RE8

Photos of the Royal Aircraft Factory RE-8
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Most R.E.8s were powered by the 150 hp Royal Aircraft Factory 4a air-cooled 12-cylinder inline engine The engine was installed so that the propeller inclined upwards to improve the takeoff and landing run This produced a "broken back" appearance to the fuselage,and an illusion that the tail sloped upwards. As with most RAF engine installations, the twin exhausts protruded over the upper wing to carry the fumes clear of the crew. As with the B.E.2e, the long extensions on the upper wing were reputed to be liable to collapse if the aircraft was dived too sharply. Eventually 4,077 R.E.8s were produced with a further 353 on order cancelled at the end of the war.

Here is a video of the Royal Aircraft Factory RE-8 in action:

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