Close this search box.

Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.8

The Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.8 was a British single seat fighter of the First World War designed at the Royal Aircraft Factory.

It could not escape the drag penalty imposed by its tail structure and was no match for the Albatros fighters of late 1916.

The F.E.8 was an early British scout aircraft, designed from the outset as a single-seat fighter.

In the absence of a synchronization gear to provide a forward firing machine gun for a tractor scout such as the S.E. 2, it was given a pusher layout.

On the whole, the new design produced by a team led by John Kenworthy followed the conventional “Farman” layout, as did the competing Airco DH.2 designed by Geoffrey de Havilland, who had also previously worked at the Royal Aircraft Factory but it had some novel features.

The nacelle was an all metal structure being framed in steel tube and covered with duralumin.

The prototypes were fitted with large streamlined spinners on the propeller hub, although these were soon removed, and the production F.E.8s were built without them.

The wings had a narrow chord, giving them a high aspect ratio.

They featured dihedral outboard of the wide centre section, and the ailerons were of unusually long span, occupying the entire wing trailing edge outboard of the tail booms.

The booms themselves were attached to the main spar of the tail plane, rather than the rudder post, giving them taper in side elevation rather than in plan, as was done with the DH.2.

This allowed the fitting of a variable incidence tail plane, although this was not adjustable in flight, but only on the ground.

A single 100 hp (75 kW) Gnome 9 “Type B2” Monosoupape rotary engine driving a four bladed propeller powered the aircraft, with the capability of taking the lower-powered Le Rhône 9C 80 hp (60 kW) nine-cylinder rotary.

Its first flight was made on 15 October 1915 and the test pilot was satisfied with the aircraft’s handling.

The aircraft was then armed with a single Lewis gun, which was originally fitted on a movable mount within the nose of the nacelle, with the machine gun’s breech almost at the pilot’s feet.

This proved awkward in practice, and in production machines the gun was mounted directly in front of the pilot, in the manner of the D.H.2.

Other changes required before the aircraft entered production included extra fuel to counter criticism from the commander of the Royal Flying Corps in France, Hugh Trenchard, that the F.E.8’s endurance was too short.

The new fighter was not a great improvement on the D.H.2, although a little faster it was rather less manoeuvrable.

It was nonetheless ordered into production from Darracq Motor Engineering Company and Vickers.

Neither manufacturer delivered their F.E.8s particularly quickly, so that the type only reached the front in small numbers six months after the D.H.2.


Gnome engine




23 ft 0 in (7.01 m)


31 ft 6 in (9.60 m)


9 ft 2 in (2.79 m)

Wing area

214 sq ft (19.9 m2)

Empty weight

895 lb (406 kg)

Gross weight

1,346 lb (611 kg)


1 × Gnome Monosoupape 9 Type B-2, 9 cylinder air cooled rotary piston engine,

100 hp (75 kW)


4 bladed fixed pitch pusher propeller


Maximum speed

94 mph (151 km/h, 82 kn) at sea level


2 hours 30 minutes

Service ceiling

14,500 ft (4,400 m)

Time to altitude

6,000 ft (1,800 m) in 9 minutes 30 seconds



One 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis gun


Light bombs

Share on facebook