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In-Box Review
SE5a - w/ Hispano-Suiza Engine
Folland's Fighter Supreme
  • Roden_SE5A_Box

by: Stephen T. Lawson [ JACKFLASH ]

Originally published on:

The brain child of H. P. Folland and Major Frank Widenham Goodden, the SE 5 airframe was modified after the initial batch of 24 (A4845 - A4868). It was in the middle of the second production batch (A8898 - A8947) that design alterations created the new designation SE 5a.

Essentially shortened wings and revised aileron controls were incorporated. In the matter of aircraft nomenclature it is of interest to note that the annotation of the Royal Aircraft Factory drawings states that it was modifications to the mainplanes that distinguished the SE 5a from the SE 5. But in the Air Board technical notes are headed; (I) SE 5a, 200hp Hispano-Suiza (II) SE 5, 150hp Hispano - Suiza. The first production SE 5a was A8923.

In kit form
As a model it has been a favorite subject for many years. The basic kits that were available were the venerable Aurora and the ‘Lindberg’ kits. In 2004, Roden released a Wolseley Viper powered version, followed now by a Hispano-Suiza engined SE5a.

While all three of my pre-production kits have decals and profiles for the late version airframe with the geared Hispano-Suiza 200hp engine, this kit is similar to the Roden 1/48 kit #416 in that it does not have the full engine present. To many it would be a small effort to fully recreate, the cylinder banks and crank case.The subtle detail contributes greatly to the over-all look. First if you want to rig this kit, you should plot all the rigging lines and strut locator holes you will need to work with. Planning ahead using references and plan views will ensure your success. Pre-drill all pilot holes for each end of the struts and the rigging wires. Don’t be afraid to take notes. There should be two holes for each wire and each strut. Drill the strut locator holes and note that sometimes a strut may share the same hole as another intersecting strut.

Construction breakdown
Step 1.) The lower wing (28 A) has a fuselage brace (5 B), rudder control bar (17 A) and control horns ( 14 A X 2) attached. Don’t forget if your going to reset the ailerons in both the top and lower wings, they should be set in sympathy to each other.

Step 2.) Horizontal tail surfaces include stabilizers (22 A) and elevators (24 or 16 A X 2.) As per the original the rudder(25 & 12 A) traps the horizontal tail unit. Also add control horns ( 11 A X 2) attached

Step 3.) Shows the internal applications of the upper forward fuselage deck (20 or 21 B) of the Vickers machine gun breech (26 A) and clear window (1 P) to allow sunlight to illuminate the instrument panel on the original machines. The other kit provided upper forward decks (20, 21 & 22 B)are for differing cockpit cutouts. Upper deck 20 B is for the American AEF contract SE 5a type and has a cooling vent for the Vickers. Upper Deck 21 B is the British standard for the SE 5a type. Upper deck 22 B is an “in-the-field” modification to give the pilot more shoulder room.

Step 4.) Assembles the instrument panel (30 A), type 5/17 compass (10 A), instrument shelf (31 A) and the Lewis gun magazine holder (9 A). While the structures are made of varnished wood the gauge faces are mostly black with white characters. On the right side of the compass you have the oil pressure, tachometer, air speed and fuel tank hand operated air pump. On the left you have the brass fuel selector dial, radiator thermostat, air pressure gauges. On the shelf at right you have the inclinometer. On the left side of the shelf you have the throttle levers for fuel and air pump advance /reduction.

Step 5.) Unites fuselage halves (36 & 37 B), lower wing and tail surface assemblies. Also the engine compartment chin pan (7 B) for the Hispan -Suiza (6 B) and for the Wolseley. For the Wolseley engine there is a slight cut out on each fuselage side that is noted and the modeler has to represent by carving out yourself. The seat (30 B) tries to represent the leather padded version. Next the control column (3 or 4 B) depended on the manufacturer. Both were seen on the Hispan Suiza version. Then the baffle plate (34 A) is added over the lower fuselage cutout in a raised 45 degree attitude. The cowling panels (26 & 29 B) are typical for the Hispano - Suiza engine. The panels (27 & 28 B) are for the Wolseley engine.

Step 6.) The radiator (37 A) provided is typical for the 200hp Hispano-Suiza installations. The other radiator (38 A) is the typical twin block version seen on all factory installed 200hp Wolseley Viper installations. The propeller shaft (10 B) is not glued in place but the retainer (33 A) is glue so that it will not interfere with the prop shaft if you want it to turn with the propeller.

Step 7.) Adds the Hispano-Suiza radiator assembly (see step 6), exhausts (18 & 20 A),and Aldis gun sight (11 B.) The head rest ( 25 B) was not on some airframes as they were sometimes removed in the field. The wind screen (3 or 4 P) needs to be saved for adding later. The instruction have omitted the addition Vickers machine gun jacket (35 A) aren’t you glad that someone does write ups like this? Add the Vickers gun jacket (35 A) here.

Step 8.) Adds top wing (27 A), interplane ( 8, 9 B) & (12 B X2) and cabane ( 14 & 15 B X 2) struts. The battle-cry of the neophyte modeler - “I can’t do that, it has all those struts!” Several methods are used with struts. Usually I will either replace kit items with modified brass sections or put brass rod in all the ends of the kit struts. This reinforces your work but also gives your struts an adjustable (by bending) pivot that works to your advantage, especially when your kit has dihedral, reverse or forward stagger (like the SE 5 and SE 5a types.) When you have all strut locator holes in the right places and the cabane struts are fixed at the right angles, everything else should go great.

In this case I will use the kit struts. Now with all of the struts in-place and all rigging holes are found to be open and ready to take the strands begin your rigging. The key to working with monofilament is start by securing all of the strands that go into the anchoring holes first. This usually begins with the top wing areas adjacent to the cabane and interplane struts. For instance on the SE 5a there are two pairs of cables near each lower wing root. You don’t want to start here as the glue can run into the cluster of cables fouling them when there is no tension to keep them straight and separate. You can use an accelerator to dry the glue quicker but this must be managed carefully (most of theses are known carcinogens.}

Normally I just take my time to ensure the anchored strands are completely dry. Start with the upper ends of the rigging near the cabane strut and move out and across the top wing with anchoring your strands. Once anchored in the top wing, strands have the loose ends inserted through the corresponding holes (that you pre-drilled) into lower wing area. Use spring action wooden clothes pins to clip on these ends hanging under the lower wing. Attach one clothes pin for one strand with the wooden clothes pins suspended under the model, their free weight pulling the strands tight. Then you just put one drop of thin type super glue in the hole and let thoroughly dry. Don’t use metal hemostats on the small 5-8 mil as they can over stress strands and after your complete it will go slack and heat application won’t tighten it permanently. When you're finished rigging use a sharp #11 blade and clip all ends of the secured strands and then carefully scrape any glue spots from the bare plastic /resin. Now finish these surfaces to suite your chosen profile. NOTE!!! When you are scraping away extra glue be sure to hold the wing specifically that your working with. If you're holding the bottom wing and working on the top it will cause undo stress on the struts and rigging.

Step 9.) The landing gear legs come in two variations. These are the late type, wooden faired, three legged steel tube versions (1 & 3 A) or early plain steel tube versions (2 & 4 A - needed for B 507 profile) with a faired axle / spreader bar (13 B.) The wheels (23 & 36 A X2, 17 B X2) are profiled to represent the typical 700 X 100mm tires.

Step 10.) Adds landing gear assembly(see step 9) and Cooper bombs and their rack (29 A) to underside of the fuselage. Complete your rigging here.

Step 11.) Lewis Gun MK II ( 6 A), 97 round magazine (7 A.) The Foster mount (1 B) is for the geared 200hp Hispano-Suiza installation. The other Foster mount (2 B) that the instructions advise you to disregard is for the Wolseley Viper engine installation. The other Lewis gun (5 A) is a MK III and seen rarely on SE 5a types. The Lewis MK III was rarely seen on any SE 5a. The shorter 47 round ammo drum (A 6) was interchangeable but the taller drums became the primary ammo carrier.

Step 12.) Finally add the Lewis gun assembly (see step 11) propeller (34 or 35 B) and the spinner (32 A) if applicable to the profile your building to finish the build.

Only one of my two sets is only slightly off register on the fuselage cockades but is easily fixed with a steady hand at the paintbrush. Also a coating of clear gloss applied over just the decals you intend to use on this build will add strength. It should be dry to the touch.

I. Vickers built SE 5a D3511 flown by Major R. S. Dallas , Cmdr of 40 Sqn RAF in May 1918. This airframe has the unique three tone British camouflage.

II. RAF built SE 5a B4891 flown by Captain J .T. B McCudden 56 Sqn RFC in February 1918.

III. Vickers built SE 5a D 5995 flown by Lieutenant L. Lucas of 143 Sqn (Home Defense) in April / May 1918.

IV. Vickers built SE 5a B507 flown by Lieutenant J. J. Fitzgerald 0f 60 Sqn in October 1917.

V. Martinsyde built SE 5a B139 flown by an unknown pilot of 111 RFC (Palestine) in January 1918.

VI. RAF built SE 5a B4863 flown by Captain J. T. B. McCudden of 56 Sqn RFC in September 1917.

“British Fighter Units 1917-18” by A. Revell, Osprey Pub. Ltd. 1978.
“Fighting Fifty Six” by A. Revell, Aeroplane Monthly Pp. 591 - 596, Nov. 1976
“S.E. 5 Fighter Supreme” by J.M. Bruce, Aeroplane Monthly Pp.264 - 269, May 1977
“S.E. 5 Fighter Supreme” by J.M. Bruce, Aeroplane Monthly Pp. 327 - 331, June 1977.
“S.E. 5 Fighter Supreme” by J.M. Bruce, Aeroplane Monthly Pp. 355 - 360, July 1977.
“S.E. 5 Fighter Supreme” by J.M. Bruce, Aeroplane Monthly Pp. 437 - 442, August 1977.
“S.E. 5 Fighter Supreme” by J.M. Bruce, Aeroplane Monthly Pp. 493 - 498, September 1977.
“S.E. 5 Fighter Supreme” by J.M. Bruce, Aeroplane Monthly Pp. 552 - 558, October 1977.
“S.E. 5 Fighter Supreme” by J.M. Bruce, Aeroplane Monthly Pp. 608 - 613, November 1977.
RAF SE 5a by J.M. Bruce, Datafile Special, Windsock pub.1993.
Royal Flying Corps in WWI by R. Rimell, Osprey Vintage Warbirds series #1, 1985.
The SE 5 by J.M. Bruce, Profile Publications #103, 1966.
The SE 5a by J. M. Bruce, Profile Publications #1, 1964.

While there were other examples of the SE 5a most of these were the reissue of the ‘Merit’ or ‘Marusan’ kits that were both copies of the old ‘Aurora’ molds. Roden has carved out another in scale kit of a long neglected variant. That makes up into a great build. While the big companies have ignored us (because WWI aviation makes up less that 10% of all modelers world wide) ‘Roden’ appears to have the pulse of what most of us are looking for. Somebody must be buying them or newer, modern companies would not produce them. With multiple kits sold to a few and singles sold to many, 15,000 potential kit sales world wide is nothing to turn your back on. ‘Roden’ puts out good, inexpensive, well detailed kits. Possibly one of the best allied fighters of 1917-18 and we had to wait this long because ‘Devell’ or ‘Tamigawa’ didn’t see the big dollars in it. When will they figure it out? New toolings keep us coming back looking for that most illusive quarry of all...the perfect kit. This gem comes very close.

Click here for additional images for this review.

Highs: Good details
Lows: No engine
Verdict: Well worth the price.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:48
  Mfg. ID: 419
  Suggested Retail: $17.95
  Related Link: Website builds gallery
  PUBLISHED: Dec 12, 2005
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

About Stephen T. Lawson (JackFlash)

I was building Off topic jet age kits at the age of 7. I remember building my first WWI kit way back in 1964-5 at the age of 8-9. Hundreds of 1/72 scale Revell and Airfix kits later my eyes started to change and I wanted to do more detail. With the advent of DML / Dragon and Eduard I sold off my ...

Copyright ©2021 text by Stephen T. Lawson [ JACKFLASH ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


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