The Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8
was a British
two-seat general purpose aircraft
built by Armstrong Whitworth
during the First World War
Design and development
The aircraft (nicknamed the "Big Ack") was designed by Dutch
aircraft designer Frederick Koolhoven
as a replacement for the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2c
and the Armstrong Whitworth F.K.3
. It was designed as a sturdier aircraft with a larger fuselage
, and a reliable water-cooled motor
. It was a rival design to the Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8
. The first aircraft flew in May 1916 and was delivered to the Royal Flying Corps
' Central Flying School
. Although it was easier to fly than the R.E.8, and was sturdier, its performance was even more pedestrian, and it shared the inherent stability of the Royal Aircraft Factory
types. Nonetheless, a total of 1,650 were built, and the type served alongside the R.E.8 until the end of the war, at which point 694 F.K.8s remained on RAF charge. Late production examples were better streamlined – the original crude undercarriage
and large box radiators
being replaced with tidier units (as in the illustration).
The type was unusual in having dual controls, enabling the observer to control the aircraft in the event of the pilot becoming incapacitated by enemy action.
The F.K.8 served with several squadrons on operations in France
and for home defence, proving more popular in service than its better known contemporary, the R.E.8. The first squadron was 35 Squadron
. The F.K.8 was principally used for the corps reconnaissance
role, but was also used for light bombing
, being capable of carrying up to six 40 lb phosphorus smoke bombs, up to four 65 lb bombs or two 112 lb bombs on underwing racks
Two Victoria Crosses were won by pilots of F.K.8s; one by Second Lieutenant Alan Arnett McLeod of No. 2 Squadron RFC, on 27 March 1918; and the second by Captain Ferdinand Maurice Felix West of No. 8 Squadron RAF on 10 August 1918.
With the R.E.8, the F.K.8 was scheduled to be replaced in the corps reconnaissance role by a version of the Bristol Fighter with a Sunbeam Arab engine. Unfortunately the engine was unsatisfactory, and this version of the Bristol never saw service. Like the R.E.8, the F.K.8 was quickly discarded with the end of the war – the last squadron, No. 150 Squadron RAF, being disbanded at Kirec in Greece on 18 September 1919.
Eight aircraft were civil-registered after the war with two aircraft being used in Australia
by the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services (later QANTAS
, then Qantas Airways Ltd.).
- Taylor, John W.R. "Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8." Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the present. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-425-03633-2.