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Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.1

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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.

Design and Fate

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

The result was 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 slipstream. The only obvious component of the Bleriot that found its way into the new design was its 60 hp (45 kW) E.N.V. "F" engine.

The S.E.1 made its first flight, a straight mile in the hands of its designer Geoffrey de Havilland on 11 June 1911.[1] Further fight testing revealed control problems and the area of the front wing/elevator was adjusted to try to bring together the centre of pressure and the hinge line, making the S.E.1 stable in pitch. By the beginning of August the front surface was fixed and carried a conventional trailing edge elevator.[1] The turning characteristics were improved by stripping the side covering of the nacelle to reduce side area. de Havilland continued to fly the S.E.1 until 16 August. On the 18 August the aircraft was flown by someone else for the first time; the rather inexperienced pilot Lt. Theodore J. Ridge, Assistant Superintendent at the factory stalled in a turn, spun in and was killed.[1]

No attempt to rebuild the S.E.1 was made, and the design was apparently abandoned, with no attempt to develop it. The S.E.2 of 1913 was a completely different kind of aeroplane - a development of the B.S.1.



General characteristics

  • Length: 29 ft (8.84 m)
  • Wingspan: 37 ft 6 in (11.43 m)
  • Height: 11 ft 6 in (3.51 m)
  • Wing area: 400 ft² (37.16 m²)
  • Loaded weight: 1,200 lb. (544.31 Kg)


  • No performance figures available

(It is unlikely sufficient testing was carried out for realistic figures to be established)




  • Jackson, A.J. (1978). de Havilland Aircraft since 1909. London: Putnam Publishing. ISBN 0 370 30022 X. 
  • Lewis, Peter British Aircraft 1809-1914 London, Putnam, 1962

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It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.1".