Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 Fighter
The first three prototypes of the Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 (Scout Experimental 5) first flew in November 1916. After crashes of the first two a redesigned wing was created and production began. Only 77 of the first model S.E.5 were built before the improved S.E.5a was introduced. The primary difference was a 200 horsepower engine. The S.E.5 entered service with No. 56 Squadron RFC in March 1917 which arrived at the front in December 1917. Pilots were initially disappointed with the new plane deeming it underpowered. With the arrival of the S.E. 5a with the new engine the plane soon became a pilot favorite. The S.E.5a was found to be an excellent gunnery platform because of its inherent stability. It was also quite maneuverable and one of the fastest aircraft of the war at 138 mph. While the S.E.5a was not as agile in a tight dogfight as the Sopwith Camel it was much easier and safer to fly. It also had superior performance at altitude making it a much better match for the Fokker D.VII. Eventually the S.E.5a 21 British squadrons and two U.S. units. Many of the top Allied aces flew this fighter, including Billy Bishop, Andrew Beauchamp-Proctor, Albert Ball, Edward Mannock and James McCudden. The S.E.5 had one synchronized .303 Vickers machine gun in the fuselage and a wing mounted Lewis gun on a Foster mounting. The S.E.5 began to be withdrawn soon after the war ended. Quite a few were used by civilians after the war. The first skywriting for advertising was done by a S.E.5a on May 30, 1922, when Cyril Turner, a former RAF officer, spelt out London Daily Mail in black smoke at the Epsom Derby. Several were used as air racers with one winning the Morris Cup race in 1927. The S.E.5 was flown by Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ireland, Poland, South Africa and the United States. One flying S.E.5a still exists at the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden, England and several static displays are in museums around the world. This model shows a S.E.5a flown by James Thomas Byford McCudden, VC, DSO & Bar, MC & Bar, MM who was among the most highly decorated airmen in British military history. McCudden started in the Royal Engineers in 1910, transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in 1913. When WWI began he flew as an observer before training as a fighter pilot in 1916. McCudden got his first victory in September 1916 and his 5th February 15, 1917. After a six month stint as an instructor and defense patrol pilot he returned to the front in the summer of 1917. After returning to combat he claimed 31 more enemy aircraft and on 11 occasions got 2 kills in one day. When he was rotated home on March 5, 1918 his victory total was 57. Only 6 other WWI pilots exceeded his score. In July 1918 he was given command of No. 60 Squadron RAF. On July 9, 1918 he was killed in a takeoff accident near Auxi-le-Château France. McCudden's personal S.E.5a was modified with a four blade spinner added from a German aircraft he shot down on November 30, 1917. He said that the spinner added several MPH to the speed of his plane.