ESCI & Eldon 1/72 SE.5a

KIT #: 8463/5-21-028
PRICE: $cheap
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Brian Baker
NOTES: Cheap, older kit with definite possibilities.


The S.E.5A evolved from a series of experimental fighters designed and produced by Britain’s Royal Aircraft Factory prior to and during the early stages of World War I.  Many RAF products were ungainly pushers and slow, lumbering observation planes, but the S.E.2 high speed biplane produced a formula that resulted in the configuration followed by nearly all high performance fighters of that era.  Followed by the S.E.4 and S.E.4A, the first S.E.5 was powered by a 150 hp. eight cylinder Hispano-Suiza water cooled engine equipped with a frontal radiator.  First appearing in 1916, the S.E.5 was at first plagued by engine and structural problems, but once these were finally solved, plane was a very successful fighter.  Never satisfied with the status quo,  British engineers tried several  different 200 hp. engines for added performance, including the Sunbeam Arab, Wolseley W.4A Viper, and the upgraded Hispano Suiza.  The Hispano powerplant became standard, and the S.E.5A, as it was now known, became one of the outstanding fighters of the war.  Fifty-six  S.E.5A’s were produced by Curtiss in the U.S. during the war, and some were later rebuilt by the Eberhardt Company, where they were used until the late twenties.  The Royal Air Force quickly disposed of them after the war, and a few were sold to civilians. A small number of two seat conversions were also flown.


Although several  kits of the S.E.5 are listed in the Burns Kit Guide, including Fuji, Pavla, Plastiques Dermatt, Renwal (a printed fabric cover kit), Revell, Roden, and Scaleplanes, probably the Roden kit is the newest and most up to date.  However, there are plenty of the Eldon-Entex kits available at Swap meets, along with their  Revell cousins,  and since this was such an important  aircraft, any serious 1/72 scale kit collection should include a number of these.  I’ve had these kits in my stash for a long time, and decided to see what it was like to build kits that were almost 50 years old.   The only difference between these three kits is that the Entex kit has “Japan” printed on the inside of the fuselage, while the ERTL/ESCI kit says “Italy”.  Wherever they were made, and whoever made them, they are all the same kit.  The ESCI kit is even labeled “French SE-5” although the box art and decals depict a British aircraft, while the other have decals for the same American aircraft.

Cast in different colored plastic  (Entex—silver, Eldon—pale grey, and ERTL—light tan), the kits are all the same.  The biggest problem is the cockpit interior, which is blocked off by partitions, requiring trimming to allow the interior to be detailed.  This is not a difficult task, but does require a certain amount of finesse.  Once this area is smoothed out, sidewall detail can be made, and a seat can be inserted.  You won’t be able to see much through the cockpit hole, but an attempt should be made anyway. There is a certain amount of flash that has to be trimmed off, which is par for the course with these old models.  Exterior detail is really quite good for a kit of this vintage,  and the rib detail, while a little overdone, is acceptable.  The wing struts fit into slots in the wing surfaces, and line up pretty well, although I had a little trouble with the cabane struts, as they didn’t line up right on either model.  The landing gear struts were a little wobbly, but I managed them OK.  The horizontal tailplanes fit into slots very nicely, and it is not a difficult model to get aligned.


 I did two aircraft, one an RAF/RFC two seat trainer, and the other a civilian S.E.5A in British registry, modified as a skywriter for the 1926 King’s Cup Air Races.  The trainer required hacking out a second cockpit in front of the main one, and adding detail and a seat.  I added some interior details, and finished off with small flat windshields. The skywriter had a set of exhaust stacks running all the way to the extreme rear of the airplane, The stacks then converged on the rudder, where they joined together in a fitting that was located where a section of the rudder had been. This  was trimmed off so the smoke could be released just behind the rudder.  I used  plastic rod the same size as the main exhaust stacks, and drilled out the end for realism. .  Trimming the rudder was easy, and the conversions were complete.


These are very tiny aircraft in 1/72 scale, and you don’t need much paint.  I painted the airframes before attaching the upper wings, and did the struts in the proper colors.  The trainer had standard RAF colors, while the skywriter was silver overall with black letters.

That was about it.  I added control horns, and used unstranded electronic wire for rigging. There are a lot of wires on this plane, and you have to be careful to attach the wires in the proper order or you’ll be fishing wires inside of some pretty inaccessible areas.  Just be sure to refer to photos or drawings of the aircraft.  The result will be a small, petite, model that didn’t require winning the lottery to buy.



I built a Revell kit years ago, and from the looks of it, it is really quite similar to these kits. It requires a little more work in the cockpit area, but judging from the other Revell kits in the series, There isn’t a lot to choose from, except, of course, for the lack of cockpit interior. The main efforts will be aligning the upper wing and constructing the landing gear.  These kits are fun, and a welcome diversion from the large complicated models we usually build.

Look for these in your next visit to the swap meet. They’re very cheap, and make into quite nice models.


Probably the best references available on this aircraft are the S.E.5A In Action, No. 69, and the old Profile No. 1 (S.E.5A) and No. 103 (S.E.5).  Some other books on World War I aircraft also have extensive coverage on the type, and there seems to be no shortage of photos available of these aircraft.  I used a photo on p.9 of the S.E.5A Profile for a photo of the skywriter, and several drawings of the two seater appear in the In Action booklet.

Brian Baker

March 2014

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