One reason why the British casualties were so high was their superannuated aircraft which were completely outclassed by superior German technology. The plane used by the RFC reconnaissance crews was the FE2, noted for being particularly slow and ungainly (I'm no aerodynamics expert, but I think it was something to do with the particularly wide wingspan in relation to body size). In Across the Blood-Red Skies
George uses the derogatory nickname the "Balsa Bathtub" for the FE2, and as Radcliffe seems to know what he's talking about, i guess that was what actual Royal Flying Corps crews called it. Looking at photos I can see the body of the plane bears a distinct resemblance to an old-fashioned hip-bath.
One intriguing thing I discovered is that there is a company in New Zealand which reproduces these aircraft, and they have a great website
with some amazing photos and video clips - well worth a look if you want to get a feel for what it was like to be high in the sky in one of these flimsy machines. Here is a photo showing the "Bathtub" in flight. The observer/gunner had to stand on his seat (midair-gulp!) to fire the rear-mounted gun. There is a dramatic scene in Across the Blood-Red Skies
where George's observer falls out and is left hanging onto a strut. George ties the belt of his coat around the observer's wrist and flies back across enemy lines with the poor guy suspended from the plane!Vintage Aviator Company
reproduction"When you stood up to shoot [in the F.E.2b], all of you from the knees up was exposed to the elements. There was no belt to hold you. Only your grip on the gun and the sides of the nacelle stood between you and eternity. Toward the front of the nacelle was a hollow steel rod with a swivel mount to which the gun was anchored. This gun covered a huge field of fire forward. Between the observer and the pilot a second gun was mounted, for firing over the F.E.2b's upper wing to protect the aircraft from rear attack ... Adjusting and shooting this gun required that you stand right up out of the nacelle with your feet on the nacelle coaming. You had nothing to worry about except being blown out of the aircraft by the blast of air or tossed out bodily if the pilot made a wrong move. There were no parachutes and no belts. No wonder they needed observers."
Frederick Libby, first American ace of WWI