By Robert Motta

The Royal Aircraft Factory SE5 first flew in 1916 and was built around the 150hp Hispano-Suiza V8 engine. With a top speed of 138mph, the SE5 was faster than any standard German aircraft at the time. It eventually became a strong and stable gun platform and was equipped with a synchronized .303 Vickers machine gun mounted on the left side of the fuselage. A second wing-mounted Lewis machine gun was soon added, which the pilot could pivot vertically to attack the enemy from below. The SE5a was more forgiving and more stable than the other British aeroplanes of the day and new fighter pilots loved it. 

The Manzano Laser Works kit is a “short kit.” The manufacturer’s selection of wood is exceptional and the laser-cut pieces fit together extremely well. The kit comes with four sheets of plans (drawn by Peter Rake), and includes all the laser-cut wood parts needed, but only the laser-cut parts. Balsa sticks, stringers, wire, etc., all must be provided by the builder. There are no instructions, but the plans are detailed well enough for you to successfully build the model.



The kit requires a builder of average skills and I would recommend it as a good second or third build. In general, I used CA glue for all construction and relied on epoxy for the motor mounts, landing gear and wing mounts. I recommend that you determine your material needs and purchase all your materials and hardware before you begin construction. This way, on those days when you feel like building, the materials you need will be on hand. I must commend the manufacturer for his choice of wood, as it was very light, very strong and top of the line. 

It’s important to have a very flat, true surface to build on. I have had great success with inexpensive 3/4-inch particle board. The kit is laser-cut and when you punch out the different pieces, you should very lightly sand the parts’ edges. The wing panels are pretty straightforward. Lay your pieces over the plans and assemble the ribs and spars. Make each panel and then join them to complete the wings. I covered my model with Nelsons Lite Fab; this adds a great amount of strength to the wings. Nelsons Lite Fab has a fabric texture and is a low temperature, high-shrink fabric. I used the olive drab on top with the light tan for the bottom surfaces. The aileron servos are located in the wing panels and I used Hobbico Slimline Servos. The kit includes wooden control horns, but I replaced them with plastic ones. Either choice works fine. The wood supplied for the tail surfaces was so lightweight that it gave me some concern. After the plane was finished, I decided to add some lightweight piano wire braces on the bottom.

The fuselage is of a box construction and very easy to build. The aft section is made mostly of sticks and formers. The front turtle deck is covered with 1/16-inch balsa sheeting and the rear turtle deck uses 1/8-inch balsa stringers covered with fabric. Depending on the type of motor you use, it’s your choice to use either a front or rear motor mount installation. Care must be taken when cutting out the cockpit opening; I recommend marking the position of the formers before finishing the sheeting so you don’t cut into them. The nose section is made up of four 1/4-inch balsa pieces with a 1/8-inch, lite-ply doubler for reinforcement.

You’ll have to bend your own landing gear and wing supports, but templates are provided and the wire pieces are very simple to fabricate. Use a good solder such as Stay-Brite and make sure your solder joints are clean before adding heat. Be sure to build in the required down and right motor thrust while installing your power system. 

The top and bottom wings are attached using nylon bolts with mounting blocks built into the airframe. This will make handling and transportation a lot easier than fiberglassing the wing supports into the wing.



The covering material is extremely strong and shrinks easily, so use only enough heat to remove all the wrinkles. By taking your time and making all your glue joints clean and precise, you’ll end up with a straight and true model of which you can be proud. I enjoyed the building and the research that I needed to get the details correct. I’m sure you’ll love building your SE5a just as much as I did.


In the Air

The first flight of the SE5a was on a somewhat windy day. My fears were that it would be too much for this very light plane, but it handled the conditions nicely. The battery was fully charged and to my surprise, the plane tracked straight ahead and jumped into the air after only about 15-20 feet. After just a little rudder and down-elevator trim, the SE5a was straight and level and completely hands-off! Coming in for the first landing required a little power to make headway into the wind. 


General Flight Characteristics

Tracking: On the ground, even with its tail skid, the SE5a handles fine. Takeoffs are straight and true. The built-in right and down motor thrust is very helpful on takeoff. 

Stability: Once trimmed and in the air, the plane flew very easily and was very relaxing to fly. Turns were aided by a little rudder and the plane went where you pointed it at all times. 

Aerobatics: On my second flight, I attempted a few loops and rolls. Most scale aerobatics can be performed by the SE5a—loops, rolls, tail slides, etc.

Glide and stall performance: Rudder and aileron control are very positive all the way down to touchdown. Compared to the other planes I normally fly, this one is a floater! The SE5a had a reasonable glide. The stall was straight with no tendency to drop a wing.  I found it best on landing to give a little power just before touchdown to help flare into a really slick touchdown.


Pilot Debriefing: 

The SE5a is ideal for electric power; it’s lightweight, easy to fly and is a pleasant change from your normal high-speed ARFs. I recommend this plane for anyone wanting to try a true wood kit. You’ll need moderate building skills, but you’ll be rewarded with a nice winter project. 


Gear used:

Radio: Hitec with standard servos

Motor: Atlas-46 Sport brushless

ESC: Atlas-45 amp

Battery: FlightPower Evo25 3S 3300mAh 11.1V LiPo

Prop: Graupner 12×6



  • Excellent wood quality
  • Easy construction
  • Wonderful flight performance
  • Great looks



Wingspan:        54 in.

Length:             40 in.

Weight:             69 oz.

Wing area:

       /SPAN>900 sq. in.

Wing loading: 11.04oz./sq. ft.

Radio Req’d: 4-channel (rudder, elevator, throttle, ailerons)

Price: $128 (parts and plans); $108 (parts only)


Control Throws:

Ailerons: +- 3/4 in., 30% expo

Elevator: +- 1/2 in., 30% expo

Rudder: +- 1 in., no expo


Wing loading: 11.04oz./sq. ft.

Radio Req’d: 4-channel (rudder, elevator, throttle, ailerons)

Price: $128 (parts and plans); $108 (parts only)


Control Throws:

Ailerons: +- 3/4 in., 30% expo

Elevator: +- 1/2 in., 30% expo

Rudder: +- 1 in., no expo


Updated: July 20, 2015 — 12:13 PM

1 Comment

  1. How do buy your products, do you have a store? I just move to El Paso and would love to come and see your operation and buy a plane to build. Please contact me my number is 573-789-5031

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