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Old 2 November 2009, 12:21 PM   #1
Two-seater Pilot
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: New York, NY (but still a Texan at heart)

[B]S.E.5a Undercarriage, Roden/Encore Kits[/B]

I hope somebody can clarify this for me: I have the Squadron/Encore S.E.5'McCudden' boxing of the Roden 1/32 kit. They have done a fine job of using resin to make the appropriate modifications to McCudden's three known aircraft. However, I can't seem to figure out which is the appropriate landing gear for at least two of these versions.

I've always understood that there were two different types of landing gear used on the S.E.5a, those being the 'early' and the 'late'. However, after checking various references, one of the best being Kagero's book, I find that there are two 'early' versions depicted. On the five-view paintings of a/c C5303 the forward arm of the V strut is raked slightly forward by a few degrees. However, a five-view of #B4863 (one of McCudden's machines) shows this forward arm of the V strut perpendicular to the fuselage, with no rake.

Looking at photographs in various books, when the S.E.5a has been shot side-on, the forward-swept strut seems to prevail.

I have also heard the early version of this undercarriage referred to as the 'tubular' version, since it lacks the apparent fairing that of the late version. Tubular or not, it appears from photos and various drawings to be in the shape of an airfoil cross section and is not round. Was it indeed hollow tubing? If so, how was the later version constructed?

Mainly, though, I need to know this: Were there indeed two versions of the early undercarriage struts for the S.E.5a, and if so, is the kit undercarriage in the 1/32 Roden moldings correct? And is it appropriate for McCudden's first two aircraft (I believe the third version offered here correctly bears the late landing gear, this being the machine with the LVG spinner on it).

I know this is a lot of verbiage for something trivial, but, know how it is. I'd appreciate it if anybody could ring in on this.
T.E. Bell
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Old 2 November 2009, 01:45 PM   #2
bristol scout
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Hi Tom,

Now this is a strange one because at first look I thought the answer was easy----and it is for part of the question---Streamline tube--no doubts about it.

Now the harder bit---I have always assumed the U/C was the same on S.E. 5's and EARLY 5a's----but it looks---after very careful looking--that the geometry is slightly different---front leg perpendicular on S.E.5---but raked forward on early 5a. That much at least is definate.

The problem--for me----others will without doubt clear this up---comes with the wooden U/C--Windsock say's 'ALL WOOD' but I thought that it was just another tube running behind the original and splayed out --then covered in a wooden fairing?

But the answer seems to me to be---metal streamline tube U/C raked least on S.E.5a's

Hope that is any use--and I hope (and believe) I'm not leading you up the garden path....

Dave. EDIT---indeed J.M. Bruce confirms my thoughts--"B4875 must have been one of the first to have the wooden U/C......the front leg consisted of two struts faired together with plywood"

And a photo on the back of 'profile no.1' G-CYCE--ex F9117 confirms it.

Last edited by bristol scout; 2 November 2009 at 01:53 PM.
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Old 2 November 2009, 02:22 PM   #3
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Location: New York, NY (but still a Texan at heart)

I just found a photo of S.E.5a (Hispano-Suiza 200hp) B509 with the perpendicular undercarriate strut. This is going to make me insane, and all over two ro three degrees of rake on an airplane I am not especially interested in (I find it to be butt-ugly).

Thanks for your input.
T.E. Bell
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Old 2 November 2009, 02:38 PM   #4
bristol scout
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Can you tell me the source of that photo ?

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Old 2 November 2009, 02:48 PM   #5
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As I'm sure you know, the original SE5 had a fairly weak undercarriage, and at least one of the the prototypes (A4562, which later crashed when the wing failed in flight killing Major Frank Goodden, the accident eventually prompting the changes to the wing construction of SE5s) had to have its undercarriage replaced when being tested, so it was known that the undercarriage was a weak point, but what was also a problem was that the wheels were slightly too far rearward, so the load from the axles did not transmit directly up though the forward strut and thence up through the centre interplane struts, and it was more prone to nosing over on rough airfields.

It looks, on some photos, as though the undercarriage rake angle has changed as the SE5 has developed, but this is misleading, since at any sort of oblique angle, the outward splay of the undercarriage creates the impression of the strut having a forward rake, but it is always essentially straight up and down when viewed from the side. You can see that on these profiles:

What did change however, was the location of the axle in relation to that forward strut, which was indeed moved forward and can be seen sitting directly below the centreline of the later splayed out undercarriage strut type, which is where it would have sat on Ball's modified SE5. Albert Ball had that done on his own SE5 whilst he was busy slagging the SE5 off in an attempt to promote his prototype which Austin were working on, but not all his bitching was selfishly motivated and that change to where the axle sat was one of several changes he made to the SE5 which were officially incorporated in the later production versions of the SE5, some were not, such as his relocation of the Vickers to sit on the cowling rather than in its more familiar enclosed location. You can see that undercarriage axle shift on the above profiles, where the centre of the wheel on the later versions is directly in line with the plumb line of the forward undercarriage strut.

Because of that, there are essentially three versions of the undercarriage on the SE5/SE5a, the early slim one, the later beefed up one, and the interim one where the struts are still the early type, but where the axle has been shifted forward. What adds to the confusion is the fact that quite a few SE5s were modified to incorporate changes (but not always all of them) to bring them up to SE5a standard. One such SE5 which is famous for having been through those changes is the early prototype, A4563. Cecil Lewis ferried that aircraft out to France in June 1917, but, having been back at depots for repairs a few times during its operational service, it ended up with 84 Squadron in a much updated form. A4653 was actually successful in downing several aircraft, but it was written off in a take off accident in late February 1918, when being flown by Lt R E Duke. It apparently had just over 129 hours its the log when that crash occurred, which is quite a lot for a prototype and at the time it was struck off charge a couple of days later, alterations included the reduced wingspan of the SE5a, the addition of the Hispano Suiza 200hp engine, but still with the old style short exhausts and the earlier slim undercarriage type, making it a sort of SE5/SE5a hybrid, of which there were evidently quite a few.

For some decent pics on the late type SE5a undercarriage, you might want to take at look at this walkaround:

Wiseman: When you removed the book from the cradle, did you speak the words?
Ash: Yeah, basically.
Wiseman: Did you speak the exact words?
Ash: Look, maybe I didn't say every single little tiny syllable, no. But basically I said them, yeah.
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Old 2 November 2009, 04:09 PM   #6
Bill McGill
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Here are 3 examples of SE.5a undercarriage struts from Wingnut Wings.

Early steel tube (note the bullet shaped bungee cord fairing normally seen has been removed from this aircraft)

Re-inforced steel tube

Late wooden

Sorry I don't have the info at hand on which is most appropriate for your model but these photos might clear thing up a little (...or not).

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Old 2 November 2009, 04:39 PM   #7
Two-seater Pilot
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: New York, NY (but still a Texan at heart)

Thanks yet again. That still leaves open the question of the Roden S.E.5a kit that was used in the Encore mixed-media kit. Has anyone found any errors in, say, the undercarriage struts, axle/spreader or, for that matter, the tail skid? And while I'm asking, is the kit overall accurate, or does it need some work here and there?

And how good of a job did Squadron do on the new four-bladed prop, as well as the LVG spinner and its four separate blades? (I don't know who contracted to do the resin, but I would guess it was CMK based on similar past projects.)

One sad paradox with the Encore kit is that, though they did an outstanding job replicating the built-up coaming on the McCudden a/c, the effect serves to hide the enormous amount of PE detail that was added to the kit, since the cockpit opening is not only smaller, it's a good half-inch higher and hence that much darker in the cockpit for those things that can be seen.

Back to the undercarriage, I found an interesting quote in the Kagero book that I haven't been able to back up with other sources yet. On page 23 of Kagero's Legends of Aviation Vol.4, S.E. 5a: After large-scale production of the S.E.5a began at the Vickers and Martynside Ltd. plants, "the 150 hp. machines were later refitted with 200 hp engines (e.g. A8898). This change had to usually [sic] be followed by the change of the landing gear legs to steel ones, as 200 hp engines were heavier and the wooden landing gear too weak." It goes on to mention that Vickers-built S.E.5a's had slightly different aft fuselages, but does not elaborate on what those differences were.

Further, Kagero's book says that the wooden undercarriage was tried again later in 1917, in an effort to save weight, but with bad results, so the heavier metal-constructed u/c was retained specifically in the Wolesely-built machines.

I think I'm getting one of those AMS headaches now.

Thanks a bunch Bill for those great photos. The bullet fairings were also a matter of my curiosity. Now I'm going to have to look into that. I had no idea these had anything to do with the bungee cords. Can you tell me their function?
T.E. Bell

Last edited by melsharkskin; 2 November 2009 at 04:41 PM. Reason: New information
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Old 2 November 2009, 05:38 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by melsharkskin View Post
And while I'm asking, is the kit overall accurate, or does it need some work here and there?

And how good of a job did Squadron do on the new four-bladed prop, as well as the LVG spinner and its four separate blades? (I don't know who contracted to do the resin, but I would guess it was CMK based on similar past projects.)
I can't speak too much on how accurate the kit is vs. the real a/c but from my sample some observations:

1. My resin four blade prop is badly deformed - the resin is very soft. I am hopeful application of heat will remove the warpage but not sure.
2. the LVG spinner with the seperate blades on the other hand looks good and the other resin parts are nice.
3. there are two methods supplied to replicate the pulley "windows" on the wings and elevator - the first is a combo of etched parts and decals, the second are resin pieces you must cut triangular openings in the wings to fit. The resin pieces look the better option but will be more difficult install I figure.
4. The decal options, cover art & instructions depict B4863 with the high cockpit sides but not B4891 - I had thought this should be the other way around? The photos I have seen of B4891 seem to show the high sides.
5. The etched parts are very nice
6. the Figure is good also, a bit long in the face but not bad
Old 2 November 2009, 07:07 PM   #9
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For references I recommend especially the Aeroplane Monthly issues. There is one section on just the landing gear issues. Many of the late style reinforced steel tube types were retro-fitted to early machines in for normal maintenance.
“Aircraft of the Aces #78 - SE 5/ 5a Aces of WWI” by Franks, Osprey Aircraft of the Aces series. 2007.
for review click here
“British Fighter Units 1917-18" by A. Revell, Osprey Pub. Ltd. 1978.
“Fighting Fifty Six” by A. Revell, Aeroplane Monthly Pp. 591 - 596, Nov. 1976
“S.E. 5 Fighter Supreme” by J.M. Bruce, Aeroplane Monthly Pp.264 - 269, May 1977
“S.E. 5 Fighter Supreme” by J.M. Bruce, Aeroplane Monthly Pp. 327 - 331, June 1977.
“S.E. 5 Fighter Supreme” by J.M. Bruce, Aeroplane Monthly Pp. 355 - 360, July 1977.
“S.E. 5 Fighter Supreme” by J.M. Bruce, Aeroplane Monthly Pp. 437 - 442, August 1977.
“S.E. 5 Fighter Supreme” by J.M. Bruce, Aeroplane Monthly Pp. 493 - 498, September 1977.
“S.E. 5 Fighter Supreme” by J.M. Bruce, Aeroplane Monthly Pp. 552 - 558, October 1977.
“S.E. 5 Fighter Supreme” by J.M. Bruce, Aeroplane Monthly Pp. 608 - 613, November 1977.

RAF SE 5a by J.M. Bruce, Datafile Special, Windsock pub.1993.
Royal Flying Corps in WWI by R. Rimell, Osprey Vintage Warbirds series #1, 1985.
The SE 5 by J.M. Bruce, Profile Publications #103, 1966.
The SE 5a by J. M. Bruce, Profile Publications #1, 1964.
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Old 3 November 2009, 03:48 AM   #10
bristol scout
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Hi guys,
I was going off the plans in both Datafiles (S.E.5--perpendicular----S.E.5a 'early' most definately raked).

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