Getting an RC SE-5 Working Again

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A couple of years back my Dad brought this old SE-5 RC aeroplane from Wings and Wheels. It’s in a sorry old state aesthetically but the air frame is complete and it even came with a few electrical bits and bobs. My Dad then ordered most of the electrics to get it airworthy and then it just sat gathering dust… So I swapped him a slot car for it!


Royal Aircraft Factory’s SE-5 was a fighter aircraft developed during the First World War. It was much more stable and easier to fly than it’s counterpart, the Sopwith Camel, but production and reliability issues caused by the Hispano-Suiza V8 meant that they weren’t as common in the skies as the Camel.

irl image

This particular model does need a lot of aesthetic attention but that can come later. First we need to get it airworthy.

I believe it must have been some sort of kit that’s been badly finished. If anyone can identify what kit it is I’d hugely appreciate it!

The bits my Dad had picked up for it were two new servos for the rudder and elevators, a new motor and a Spektrum DX4e with appropriate receiver. The little ESC actually came with the aircraft.


We shall start with the servos first.  They sit beneath the pilot for easy access. The servos have two plastic wings that come off of the side which attach to that super shelf unit, the bottom of the servo then sits on the wooden structure beneath it.

servo 2

You should be able to see the thin metal rods control that  in the picture below that are attached the servo arms. One is connected to the rudder and the other the elevators. When the servo turns it pulls or pushes that rod which moves it’s corresponding part.

I think there may have been a better way of holding these servos in than hot glue but hot glue seemed the most sensible option available now.

servo 3

Next to go in is the motor. It sits inside this plastic pod. The gearing is interesting, it has a slot car sized pinion gear which mates to reduction gear which is on the back of the propeller shaft. To remove the pod there are 3 screws that hold the assembly to the wooden bulkhead behind it.


Here’s how the motor sits in the pod.


The ESC is pretty much the same as what you’d find in a car but a lot smaller! There’s a positive and negative wire to go to the brushed motor, a positive and negative to go to the battery and a wire for the receiver. Nice and straight forward!


the whole assembly then goes in the same way it came out. There’s a cowling at the front of the aircraft for the battery to sit. This is also where the receiver wires for the rear servos and ESC meet so the receiver will also have to be tucked in there.


With a battery plug soldered on and all the wires routed it was time to bind this plane!


Binding the handset and receiver was actually a bit of a pain in the bum. At first it didn’t want to  bind at all, so I left this for a while and got on with some other projects. When I came back to it it bound straight away!


The DX4E and receiver are both four channel though and the aircraft is three channel. That meant there was a bit of playing around to be done with the plugs. Rudder and throttle were as labelled on the receiver but the elevator servo has to go into the aileron port. Traditionally with three channels you have all the tail controls on one stick and the throttle on the other so that’s how I set it up as I’ve only flown three channel before.

So the motor runs! Everything that should move does move and I think we are in a good place to try to fly it once the wind calms down a little. I’m looking forward to this one! Being a bi-plane it should be nice and smooth to fly and once it’s been made into a better model it should look fantastic plodding around the sky!

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By Richard Francis

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