Home RC Airplane Reviews Parkzone RAF SE5a RC Airplane Review
Parkzone RAF SE5a RC Airplane Review Print E-mail
User Rating: / 8
Monday, 08 August 2011 18:36


The Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 was a British biplane fighter aircraft of the First World War. Although the first examples reached the Western Front before the Sopwith Camel and it had a much better overall performance, problems with its Hispano-Suiza engine, particularly the geared-output H-S 8B-powered versions, meant that there was a chronic shortage of S.E.5s until well into 1918 and fewer squadrons were equipped with the type than with the Sopwith fighter. Together with the Camel, the S.E.5 was instrumental in regaining allied air superiority in mid-1917 and maintaining this for the rest of the war, ensuring there was no repetition of "Bloody April" 1917 when losses in the Royal Flying Corps were much heavier than in the Luftstreitkräfte.

Only 77 original S.E.5 aircraft were built before production settled on the improved S.E.5a. The S.E.5a differed from late production examples of the S.E.5 only in the type of engine installed - a geared 200 hp Hispano-Suiza 8b, often turning a large clockwise-rotation four-bladed propeller, replacing the 150 hp model. In total 5,265 S.E.5s were built by six manufacturers. A few were converted as two-seat trainers and there were plans for Curtiss to build 1,000 S.E.5s in the United States but only one was completed before the end of the war. At first, airframe construction outstripped the very limited supply of French-built Hispano-Suiza engines and squadrons earmarked to receive the new fighter had to soldier on with Airco DH 5s and Nieuport 24s until early 1918. The troublesome geared "-8b" model of the "Hisso" V8 was prone to have serious gear reduction system problems, sometimes with the propeller (and even the entire gearbox on a very few occasions) separating from the engine and airframe in flight.

The introduction of the 200 hp (149 kW) Wolseley Viper, a high-compression, direct drive version of the Hispano-Suiza 8a made under licence by the Wolseley Motor Company, solved the S.E.5a's engine problems and was adopted as the standard powerplant. With the Wolseley under the hood the plane had a top speed of 138 mph a range of 300 miles and a service ceiling ot 17,000 feet.

Taking a larger leap back in time, Parkzone surprised everyone by deciding to make their next warbird not from WWII, but from 'The Great War'. The decision was a double whammy of sorts as this would also be their first mid-sized biplane. When the RAF SE5a was announced I knew I would be making a b-line towards the store to pick one up.


Kit Contents
The day finally came this week and I was excited to pick up the Plug-n-Play model. The model comes in two version, a PnP which includes all of the electronics except the battery, receiver and transmitter or a Bind-n-Fly that includes a genuine Spektrum AR600 receiver a 3S 1800 15c lipo and a 2-3s battery charger. For those that are looking to get in the air as soon as possible, the BnF would be the best option. Since I have more batteries than I know what to do with and I own TWO whole chargers, the PnP was the choice for me.


Inside the box the Parkzone SE5a sits tightly packed, ready to be assembled and flown. The kit includes the fuselage with esc, servos, motor and propeller already installed. Both sets of wings come with all the decals applied and aileron servos installed. The kit includes all the necessary hardware to build the landing gear and the rest of the airplane. Thankfully the supplied manual was extremely detailed and informative as to how to put the WWI biplane together.


Keeping in line with Parkzone's tag line of "just Fly" the SE5a comes 95% assembled. As stated earlier all of the electronics are installed, hooked up and ready to go as well as the control horns and rods. There is very little to do except put together the landing gear.

The first step for my RAF Biplane was to chop off the ESC connector and install my own deans plug. With the ESC converted I could plug in my battery and receiver to make sure all of the servos were centered.


Next it was time to assemble the landing gear. This is the most 'complicated' section of the build and at first it seemed daunting since there are a lot of little parts and screws, but really it is very simple and the manual is clear on how assembly should go. The diagrams also show which screw goes where, which is nice, but I did have to measure a few different screws to be sure I was using the correct 10mm one and not a 5, 7 or 15mm.  All of the parts of the landing gear fit together well making assembly that much easier.


With the gear done I slapped on the bottom wing and followed the directions for installing the top wing. The wings are held together by what look like elongated body clips off of an RC Car. The clips don't make a super satisfying lock on the wing connections, but I have not had any problems with them after multiple flights.


For the backside of the plane, the elevator simply screws into the rear of the fuselage and the rudder sits on top in the groove and screws into the rear of the fuselage near the tail wheel. The manual calls for tape to help hold the rudder in place, but I know that the tape will remove the paint should I ever need to take it off and secondly the rudder is such a  tight fit I did not bother taping it down. If you are looking for a permanent rudder, a dab of foam safe CA in the rudder slot will do the trick.


The assembly is very easy and was a breath of fresh air when compared to so many other kits, ARFs and PnPs that are on the market. No glue, no epoxy, no mess! Just a few screws and you're done!

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The Parkzone SE5a features a scale paint scheme with many small details such as guns, exhaust, ribs (not the pork variety), simulated wood prop and gear and a pilot with a scarf! The plane spreads out to a stout 37" and the overall length is only 30" making it easy to fit in your compact car or moped. The SE5a also features a 960kv motor with a 30 amp ESC running the show. The motor is as smooth as butter on a hot flapjack, but has enough power for any sticky situations you may find yourself in.  With a 3S 2200mah 20c battery the stock setup pulls 24amps at 270 watts. The power falls into a perfect balance between speed and flight time.


First Flight
After a round of pre-flight checks the Parkzone SE5a biplane was ready to rock. All of the surfaces were flush and on the stock settings there was plenty of throw. I did not program any low rates or expo into the radio for the flight, just left everything as it was out of the box.

I immediately discovered while taxiing on the ground that the tail wheel provides so much movement the biplane can be a bit of a handful while rolling. Small movements are best when roaming around on the ground.

When I reached the tarmac I centered the plane, checked the wind and throttled up towards the sky. The Parkzone warbird did not need much runway (less than 20 feet) before the tail wheel popped up and the plane lifted off the ground. The bipe climbed nicely and with little effort. Once I was at cruising altitude I took my hands off the controls to discover the little green machine wanted to dive. I continually added in more up trim until she was flying level, 8 clicks of up was needed in total.

The little biplane flew wonderfully and was very responsive on all surfaces. The dual ailerons on each set of wings gives the plane plenty of authority for doing rolls and other maneuvers. Tight loops aren't very scale but are easy with full elevator. I found the rudder to be the most sensitive while in the air. Any input will dramatically pitch the nose over and down in the direction you input on the rudder. This is not necessarily bad, just something to be aware of.

The SE5a was very stable and a complete joy to fly. The motor spins quietly but with plenty of power in the air. Inverted flight is just as stable as normal flight with a touch of down elevator needed to keep it level.
I did a few touch and gos (one touch and no go from the video) and found it very easy to slow the biplane down.

After 5 minutes of mixed flying I brought the WWI warbird in to check the battery. Each cell read a cool 3.82 volts, meaning the SE5a could easily be a 8-9 minute plane and possibly more if slow, scale flying is your thing.

Flight Characteristics
The Parkzone SE5a is a very stable aircraft. It handles the wind very well and does not have any bad habits like tip stalling or nasty torque rolls. The dual ailerons provide a lot of control and I could definitely see how some would say the plane feels 'twitchy'. If this is the case, reduce the throws to 70% and add in a little expo (20-40%) to give the plane a more docile feel.

The RAF SE5a from Parzkone stalls very well. Before falling into a stall the biplane slows to a crawl and then drops the nose entering a slow, wide spin that is easily recovered by adding in power and leveling out the craft.

As stated earlier the biplane flies inverted very well, and can easily maneuver around loops, rolls, spins and strong climb outs.
All-in-all she is an excellent flying plane and managed to put a grin on my face each time I took her up.

Takeoffs and Landings
Taxiing can be tricky if you're heavy on the rudder controls; too much movement and the plane will tip and drag a wing. Taking off is very simple with the large wheels and smooth, powerful motor at the front of the bipe. The SE5a tracks very well when throttling up and is not prone too any dramatic torque roll thanks to the motor mount's noticeable offset angle. Gently roll on the throttle and within 7-10 feet the tail wheel will pop up off the runway and while the speed increases over the next 10 feet the WWI biplane will lift off from the runway with a small amount of elevator. 


Landing the biplane is extremely easy given the SE5a's sweet floating ability. Lining the plane up with the runway and backing off the throttle brings the bipe down slowly and predictably. A soft flair right before the front gear touch will soften the touchdown.
The plane is capable of taking off from short grass, but landing in grass might be difficult unless you don't mind the dreaded nose over. There is so much weight forward it is difficult to keep the tail down on a grass landing.

Is This Plane For a Beginner?
I couldn't recommend this for a 100% beginner, but if you already have some experience flying a 3-channel airplane I could see this as a forgiving first aileron trainer.  Even if you are loaded with experience the WWI Biplane is so nice to fly!

The Parkzone SE5a is a well built, awesome flying airplane. The flight characteristics range from docile to FUN with little effort. Parkzone nailed the scale looks and yet kept the model within their motto of "just fly". Assembly is quick and easy and the end result is much more satisfying than internet photos can portray. Parkzone took a surprising step from the expected warbird path with the SE5a and I believe the risk paid off. The PZ RAF SE5a is a plane that every pilot should have in their hangar, she looks as good hanging on the wall as she does in the air. This one is a keeper.



  • Scale Paint Scheme is thick and looks great
  • Nice big wheels work on grass and tarmac
  • Excellent Manual, detailed all the way through
  • Good, clean, smooth power
  • Brings Good Cheer wherever I go


  • Battery straps are a tad bothersome at times like a squid attacking your fingers
  • Top 'G' came out of the box peeling. Have noticed on another member's model that the same 'G' was not applied very straight


  • Nothing major.

Media and FLIGHT TIME!







Thanks to RC Hobbies on 124th and Halsey!

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