Designed by H P Folland in 1916, and built at the Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough, the SE.5a was a single-seat biplane ‘fighting scout’ powered by a Hispano-Suiza derived water-cooled V8 engine, usually a 200 hp Wolseley Viper. It could climb to 10,000 feet in 11 minutes 20 seconds and it had a service ceiling of 20,000 feet. The Viper version had a maximum speed at sea level of 138 mph.
Armament was a single fixed .303in Vickers machine-gun, firing through the propeller and/or one .303in Lewis gun with four 97 round ammunition drums mounted over the wing. Four 25 lb Cooper bombs could be carried under the fuselage.
The SE.5a was one of the outstanding fighters of the First World War. About 5,000 were produced, serving with twenty Royal Flying Corps (later Royal Air Force) squadrons over the Western Front. They also equipped the 25th and 148th Aero Squadrons of the US Air Service. Four squadrons flew the type on Home Defence duties.
The SE5 was taken direct from the Museum to Fairford by an RAF C13 Globemaster. In 2012 the Museum’s Aircraft Engineering Department restored the aircraft and fitted a fully operational V8 engine and propellor gear. It now delights crowds at our regular Thunder Days and has been filmed by network TV for use in the centenary commemorations of World War 1.
The replica at the Yorkshire Air Museum is now restored to ground running condition.