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British Industrial History

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Royal Aircraft Factory: S.E.1

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Note: This is a sub-section of Royal Aircraft Factory.

The S.E.1 (Santos Experimental) was an experimental aircraft built at the Army Balloon Factory at Farnborough (later the Royal Aircraft Factory) in 1911. Its place in aviation history is mainly that it was the first in the series of Royal Aircraft Factory designs - several of which played an important role in World War I.

In 1911 the Army Balloon Factory was not actually authorised to construct aircraft, but only to repair them. When the remains of a crashed Bleriot XI monoplane belonging to the army were sent from Larkhill to Farnborough for repair, authorisation for a complete reconstruction was sought, and granted.

The design team led by Geoffrey de Havilland and F. M. Green and produced a completely new design. A tractor monoplane became a pusher biplane, with large balanced fore-elevators - similar in basic layout to the Wright Flyer, but with a fully covered fuselage. Ailerons were fitted to the top wing, and twin balanced rudders were mounted behind the propeller, but out of its immediate splitstream. The only obvious component of the Bleriot that found its way into the new design was its 60hp ENV "F" V8 engine.

The first flight was on the 7th June 1911. Elevator control was probably very sensitive, as with the Wright Flyer - while rudder control was probably very poor. In any case the S.E.1 crashed on the 18th of August 1911 - killing its pilot, Lt. Theodore J. Ridge, the Assistant Superintendent at the factory.

No attempt to rebuild the S.E.1 was made, and the design was apparently abandoned, with no attempt to develop it. Future S.E types were 'Scouting' rather than 'Santos' types.

Sources of Information

  • The Royal Aircraft Factory by Paul R. Hare. ISBN 0-85177-843-7
  • [1] Wikipedia