The BE2b was initially produced by the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough, it was the third in the BE2 series and the most practical of the early models having improved cockpits for both the pilot and observer as well as an improved control system although wing warping was not replaced with ailerons until the later BE2c entered service. The aircraft soon acquired the nickname "Quirk" with it's air-crews as well as a few less pleasant names once the aircraft saw service in WW1.
At the outbreak of WW1 production was contracted out to Bristol Aeroplane Company and Vickers as well as six smaller companies in order to increase output (at least 164 BE2's,BE2a's and BE2b's were produced in total) and three existing observation squadrons of BE2b's and the older BE2a's were immediately sent to France where they served in reconnaissance and light bomber roles, the first Victoria Cross of WW1 was issued posthumously to Lt. W. B. Rhodes-Moorhouse for bringing his BE2 back to base although he had been mortally wounded during a bombing mission to Courtrai railway station on the 29th of April 1915.
The BE2b's were effectively obsolete as soon as the war started, it had been designed as a highly stable observation platform at the expense of manoeuvrability, the invention of purpose made fighter aircraft with greater speed and agility had not been conceived when designed but made the 'straight and level' BE2's easy targets, German fighter pilots called the BE2's 'kaltes Fleisch' (cold meat) and the British Ace Albert Ball said it was 'a bloody awful aeroplane'. It came as a relief to air-crews when the BE2a's and BE2b's were finally withdrawn from front-line service in mid 1915, delegated to only be used for training purposes alongside new BE2b's which remained in production until Autumn of 1916 as a trainer. Later versions of the aircraft, such as the RAF BE2c served with both the RFC (Royal Flying Corps), and RNAS (Royal Navel Air Service), until the very end of WW1.
Royal Aircraft Factory BE2b Specifications:
- Crew: Pilot and observer
- Length: 29 ft 6˝ ins
- Height: 11 ft 10 in
- Wing Span: 35 ft ˝ in
- Take-off Weight: 1,600 lbs
- Engine: Single 70 hp Renault air-cooled
- Max Speed: 70 mph @ sea level
- Service Ceiling: 10,000 ft
Royal Aircraft Factory BE2b Armament:
- Initially none, but armed with bombs when later used as a light bomber