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Written by Dennis Norman
Free Flight Scale
As seen in the July 2019 issue of Model Aviation.

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FF Scale by Dennis Norman - Model Aviation July 2019

CONTINUING ON THE SUBJECT of semiscale sheet balsa models that was published in my "Free Flight Scale" column in the March 2019 issue of Model Aviation, I turn next to an all-sheet model of the Royal Aircraft Factory’s S.E.5a flown by Maj. Edward C. "Mick" Mannock in 1918 with Royal Air Force (RAF) No. 74 Squadron.

My friend, Roger Wathen, who buys and sells model airplane magazines, made me aware of an article in the February 1976 issue of Flying Models. The article was about a sheet balsa S.E.5a model that was built by John Blankenship.

I have a large collection of model airplane magazines, as do many of us. They are arranged in chronological order, but I have never indexed their contents. Upon checking my collection, I found John’s article and used it as a starting point for my effort.

The Flying Models article is for a 13-inch wingspan model. My covering masters are printed on 8.5 × 11-inch paper and are designed to fit a 13-inch wingspan aircraft. I chose to enlarge the masters to 115% to make a 15-inch wingspan model—more about this is featured in the Model Aviation digital presentation.

As John did, I made extensive use of 1/32-inch balsa for the airframe, but I deviated with the tail surfaces by using lightweight, 4- to 6-pound 1/16-inch sheet to better resist warping. John used bond paper for covering his fuselage top. My variation uses 1/32-inch sheet balsa instead of paper.

Most significantly, John’s airplane was painted with Polly Scale model paint. Alternatively, he suggested using well-plasticized dope, thinned with two or three drops of castor oil per ounce, to reduce shrinking. John used ready-made decals for markings but stated that they could be made using a draftsman’s ruling pen and a compass. My effort uses fullcolor Japanese tissue printed in Maj. Mannock’s markings.

three view and prospective
Three-view and prospective drawings of Maj. Edward C. "Mick" Mannock’s S.E.5a as it appeared during WW I. His mount was both handsome and distinctive, befitting his greatness. Public domain, WW I British government photo.

The S.E.5a rivals the Sopwith Camel for the distinction of being the most successful British single-seat fighter of World War I. Unlike its feisty rival, the S.E.5a was a pleasant-flying, stable gun platform, used with great success by a number of British aces. The long nose, simple lines, and generous dihedral of the S.E.5a have made it a favorite with modelers for decades, and it is still a popular subject for full-scale (or nearly full-scale) reproduction builders.

In combat, the S.E.5a quickly proved to be a first-class fighting machine. Six of the top 10 British aces flew an S.E.5a at one time. Maj. Mannock, Britain’s top ace, flew an S.E.5a with both the No. 74 and No. 85 squadrons. He is credited with 61 aerial victories (the RAF officially recognizes 73), but his score would have been higher had he not been a generous teacher who often permitted inexperienced pilots to destroy aircraft that he could have claimed. He was concerned to impart good tactics and to build the confidence of new pilots by giving them tastes of victory.

Maj. Mannock was known as an extremely capable pilot and a superb combat leader who was well respected by the pilots who flew with him. He flew at least five different S.E.5a aircraft during his combat career, but his most famous mount was S.E.5a serial number D276, in which he gained 16 victories while with No. 74 Squadron.

a close up of maj
A close-up of Maj. Mannock in his flying gear. He was the RAF’s leading ace and is credited with 61 aerial victories. Official RAF records indicate that he achieved 73 victories. Public domain, WW I British government photo.

a portrait drawing
A portrait drawing of Maj. Mannock as he appeared in full uniform at the height of his career. The seriousness of his work was sobering. Public domain, National Air and Space Museum stock image.

in the cockpit of his favorite
In the cockpit of his favorite S.E.5a, serial number D276, Maj. Mannock was noted for his generosity by subordinates who shot down German aircraft as a "gift" from him to build their confidence. Public domain, WW I British government photo.

Although Maj. Mannock was viewed as an outstanding mentor, he had a darker side and showed no mercy for his opponents. He shot many of them down in flames. He met his end on July 26, 1918, while flying S.E.5a serial number E1295 with No. 85 Squadron. While returning from a mission, he was struck by ground fire and crashed ablaze. On July 11, 1919, Maj. Mannock was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for bravery, by Winston Churchill, the Minister of Air in the post-WW I government.

After noting some of Maj. Mannock’s aerial victories, the citation concluded: "This highly distinguished officer, during the whole of his career in the Royal Air Force, was an outstanding example of fearless courage, remarkable skill, devotion to duty and self-sacrifice, which has never been surpassed."


the authors partially
The author’s partially constructed and covered effort is based upon John Blankenship’s February 1976 article published in Flying Models. The S.E.5a can be built to a 13-inch wingspan or enlarged to 115% for a span of 15 inches. Photo by Sherry Miller.


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