Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.4

The Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.4 was one of a series of very similar development aircraft based on the B.E.1 produced by the Aircraft Factory in the years before the First World War. Like all of the Factory's early aircraft it was officially produced by repairing and modifying a damaged Bristol Boxkite, but it was actually a new aircraft that only retained the 80hp Gnome engine from the earlier aircraft.

The B.E.4 was structurally identical to the B.E.3, with staggered two-bay wings, a low long rudder and the fuselage suspended between the upper and lower wings. It made its maiden flight on 24 June 1912, just over a month after the B.E.3 had been handed over to the R.F.C. The B.E.4 followed it on 8 August 1912.

On 11 March 1914 the B.E.4 was destroyed in a crash that also claimed the lives of both of its crew. The enquiry into the crash was inconclusive, but suggested that the metal in the rudder shaft had become crystallized, weakening it enough for it to snap. If this was the case then this was one of the first recorded incidences of metal fatigue. After the enquiry the B.E.3 was given a standard B.E.1/2 rudder, but was soon grounded, becoming an instructional airframe. 

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (3 April 2009), Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.4 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_RAF_BE4.html

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