When the United States entered World War I, plans called for American manufacturers to mass produce aircraft already in use by the Allies. One of the fighters chosen was the British S.E.5A, designed by the Royal Aircraft Factory. The prototype S.E.5 first flew in December 1916, and deliveries of an improved version, the S.E.5A, started in March 1917. Noted for its strength, stability and speed, the S.E.5A rivaled the Sopwith Camel as the most successful British fighter of WWI.
For its pilots already in Europe, the American Expeditionary Force bought 38 S.E.5A aircraft from Great Britain, and in the United States, the government placed orders with the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motors Corp. The Armistice halted production after Curtiss had completed only one S.E.5A, but 56 more were constructed from components shipped from Great Britain. In 1922 the Eberhart Steel Products Co. received a contract to rebuild 50 of the Army Air Service's S.E.5A aircraft using 180-hp Wright-Hispano "E" engines. The Army Air Service used these aircraft, redesignated the SE-5E, for advanced training.
The museum acquired the SE-5E through a donation by the estate of Lt. Col. William C. Lambert, USAF Ret. A WWI ace with 21.5 victories, Lambert flew the S.E.5A as an American member of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force. The Air Force Museum Foundation also helped buy the aircraft. It is painted to represent an SE-5E of the 18th Headquarters Squadron, Bolling Field, Washington, D.C., in 1925.
TECHNICAL NOTES: Armament: None Engine: Wright-Hispano "E" of 180 hp Maximum speed: 122 mph Range: 225 miles Ceiling: 17,000 ft. Span: 26 ft. 9 in. Length: 20 ft. 11 in. Height: 9 ft. 6 in. Weight: 2,100 lbs.