SE5 – modified and simplified build.
This plane has become a firm favourite of mine. It has amazing presence in the air, and a wide flying envelope. Though vulnerable to strong, gusty air, due to the long multiple wings, I found the addition of flight stabilisation makes the plane very flyable in a lot of wind conditions. Seeing the plane slow loop in strong winds, and it appearing to happen at almost scale speeds, is a pure delight. Almost as enjoyable as watching it coast around the park on those light wind days.
Though the plane’s long nose makes it very easy to balance, after a while that big, blunt radiator detail started to annoy me. It definitely made the plane a little noisier due to prop wash, and I had seen sleeker-looking versions, which I assumed were later, more streamlined models. It turned out to be the opposite – it was the earlier models with a smaller engine that had the more tapered nose. Whatever the history, the change was easy for a foam board builder armed with a sharp craft knife!
First I stripped-off the front sections of the paper turtle deck. Then I re-profiled the row of formers forward of the cockpit. This created the correct gentle down-slope in front of the cockpit, where the muzzles of the machine guns would normally project. From there forward to the nose, the turtle deck is a uniform height. Beneath the fuselage I removed a little triangular wedge, which, if you look at pictures of some of the later models, is clearly an ‘add-on’ to the earlier nose design to accommodate the larger engines.
Now the plane has a more purposeful and elegant appearance. And it’s also noticeably quieter in the air, which I see as a definite plus.
I’ve prepared a modified plan, which has all these changes applied to the scratch build components, but it also includes a simplified method for attaching the cabane assembly. The original skewer side-rail and wire saddle system I developed for the Polikarpov U2/Po2 works well where the cabane mounts are right at the front of the box fuselage deck, but it’s not necessary where the cabane mounts are further away from the nose. My original AVRO 539b had a cabane system that just connected to the top of the box fuselage, and it’s showing no signs of coming apart even after several years of flying.
Just to give you another perspective on this plane. John Evans, who lives in Canada, sent me this picture of his model SE5A, built using these modified plans. He's also enhanced the plane with a whole pile of detail extras, which transforms the plane's look. Built in Adams foam board, his final AUW with a 2200mah LiPo is 977grams, just under 34.5 ozs. Thanks to John for letting me share this.
Regarding the advantages of this more complex type of cabane assembly over a rigid glued-in-place design;
1. Resilience - In my flight videos I often show when my biplanes have bad landings, or, most of the time, the planes tumble-landing into long grass. I do this for a reason - the plane seldom suffers damage! But I know that in similar circumstances, many rigid assembly biplanes would lose a wing or suffer some kind of 'shock' damage to the cabane assembly. This resilience is a result of carefully chosen design elements, both from the ‘real’ and ‘model’ worlds.
2. Longevity - I’m not expecting anything but a real hard nose-in-the-dirt crash to stop the plane flying. The same can’t be said for many more rigid designs.
3. Flexibility - Even ‘at the field’ I can completely dismantle the plane down to separate fuselage and wings, which is great if I need to do a bit of ‘fettling’ or minor repair to skewer holes and the like.
4. Appearance - I feel it looks a little closer to the ‘real thing’, which is always nice when you are modelling a real subject.
Rigid designs have their advantages too, but from a model flying perspective, especially where conditions and flying skills are not always perfect, I feel a plane’s ability to cope with a few knocks and keep flying is a real bonus.
So here’s the plans for the modified SE5 – SE5 Rev 1
I keep banging-on about this, but my planes are built with ‘heavy’ UK foam board. The same build in DTFB will be significantly lighter by as much as 25-30%, which should transform the slow-speed flight experience. As a pure depron build, I think this would work fine as an indoor flyer, with a lighter cabane and undercarriage assembly, and a smaller motor and battery load. Sadly, there’s no indoor venues near me or I’d be very tempted...