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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Aircraft instrumentation FE2b or Vickers FB5


Lyffe

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I hope this doesn't seem a silly question but was the observer's position in the FE2b or Vickers FB5 (or any 2-seater come to that) equipped with an altimeter? I have a photo looking down into the observer's seat in the FE2b but it's not immediately apparent where one would be located.

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I have never seen or heard any evidence that observers in British aircraft had instruments of any kind in this period. In later years when the observer was acting as navigator, he was given instruments.

Some German observers had altimeters and compasses in their cockpits. But in German two-seaters the observer was usually the aircraft commander, so he would want to know his direction and height, especially for aerial photography purposes. In British two-seaters the pilot was almost always the commander so he would set the course and height.

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Much obliged Adrian, that was really what I was thinking but as I'm no expert on these matters I thought it best to check.

Without going into too much detail my reason for asking is I'm researching an observer who had a passion for meteorology, 2nd Lt C K M Douglas of 18 Sqn. In his papers he refers to using an aneroid barometer to obtain cloud heights, and I was trying to determine if he was referring to an aircraft altimeter or his personal instrument. I appreciate there is a difference between barometers and altimeters but it seemed the logical way forward was to ask the experts.

Actually what about the BE2b, which he flew with 34 Sqn - according to his notes that had dual controls so I assume in that type there must have been altimeters in both cockpits?

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A always understood that the Bristol Fighter had dual controls to enable the observer to land safely should the pilot be incapacitated

Alec

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Thanks Alec, you might be interested in an extract from a letter to his parents, writtin in July 1916:

Our machines are ordinary biplanes with engines in front. They have dual control so I am getting some practice in flying, which is, of course, very easy high up.

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Yes, some two-seaters had a primitive form of dual-control for the observer but only for emergencies. If you look at the Bristol Fighter in the RAF Museum, the observer's cockpit has a control column which operated the elevators only, and to steer he was supposed to pull on he rudder cables and forget about lateral control.

I cannot see any instruments in the rear cockpit (but of course in a Biff it was easy to look over the pilot's shoulder)

post-3755-0-01773800-1311293734.jpg

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..... and in the Imperial War Museum's BE2c, although this doesn't really show up in the photos, as far as I can tell from looking as hard as I can without falling over the gallery, there are instruments in the pilot's (rear) cockpit but not the observers'

Some BE2b,c and e were specifically converted for training so they may have had more comprehensive arrangements.

post-3755-0-25423000-1311294154.jpg

post-3755-0-90772000-1311294178.jpg

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