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Written by Tony Stillman
Hobby Club Micro SE5A biplane kit
Review
As seen in the March 2021 issue of Model Aviation.

Hobby Club Micro SE5A biplane kit

YOU MIGHT RECALL that I constructed the Hobby Club Fly Baby roughly a year ago and the review was in Park Pilot magazine, so I am familiar with Hobby Club kits. The Micro SE5A has a 378 mm wingspan, a 330 mm fuselage length, and the plans call for a 40-gram flying weight.

Construction

The laser-cut quality is fantastic, especially considering the small parts and tolerances that have to be maintained in the process. The plywood parts only had a few tiny tabs to be sliced with an X-Acto knife, resulting in a 95% perfect part. A quick cleanup with sandpaper and the parts were ready to go.

You don’t need much equipment to build this model. I used a good, sharp X-Acto knife and #11 blade as my main cutting tool. I like Zap and Bob Smith Industries glues, so some thin and medium-thick CA and fine glue tips handled all of the gluing. A small roll of blue painter’s tape and an assortment of sandpaper and sanding tools, such as foam emery boards and jeweler’s files, work well on a small model like this.

I chose a good, level building area to build on and used the plastic bag that the kit parts came in to protect the table from any stray CA glue.

The plans that come with the kit are good. They include pictures of each of the parts sheets, with each part clearly marked so that you can easily find it. Keep it handy because you will refer to it during the build.

Assembly starts with the fuselage. You will need to decide whether to use a brushless motor and ESC or a geared brushed motor from the start because you have to select between two front motor crutches. Start by gluing the appropriate motor crutch, fuselage crutch, and formers together according to the instructions.

The parts fit together nicely, so you can assemble components then apply CA to the joints, keeping everything straight while you do so. This keeps the amount of glue that is used to a minimum, while still making the model strong.

When applying the sheeting, I presoaked the balsa in warm water for roughly 10 minutes, and then applied it with painter’s tape. You can let it dry for a couple of hours before gluing to keep from cracking the sheet balsa. After the top front of the fuselage is sheeted, move to the bottom and apply the sheets, glue in the hatch magnet, and fit the hatch. This is your access to the radio equipment.

Sheet the top back of the fuselage, again soaking the wood before bending it to prevent it from cracking. Apply the tail block. It will need some sanding to blend in with the turtledeck sheeting. Next, move to the front engine area of the fuselage and assemble the removable nose hatch, which offers access to the motor and 1S L iPo battery.

I spent some time sanding the rails with a file to keep them straight. I had to open up the slide locks to make the hatch easier to remove. The back of the hatch has a former that did not permit the hatch to clear the battery pack, so I cut this area away. With the former’s base removed, be careful not to flex that section of the hatch to keep from breaking it.

Build up and sand the fake motor head and manifold assembly. I colored mine black using a Magic Marker and fitted and glued it to the removable cowling. This completes the basic fuselage. Now on to the wings!

The basic fuselage is framed with the lower section and cockpit area sheeted.
The basic fuselage is framed with the lower section and cockpit area sheeted.
Here’s what you see when you open the box—simple but effective packaging. All of the parts are neatly packed in bags
Here’s what you see when you open the box—simple but effective packaging. All of the parts are neatly packed in bags.

I looked at finish options but ended up leaving it natural wood. If you want to apply a finish, it will probably be easiest to do before installing the wings. After that is done, you can quickly glue in the ribs to each wing panel. Make sure you lay all of the parts out ahead of time so that you have a bottom right and left wing, and a top right and left wing! Double-check the fit before you apply any glue.

The fuselage cabane struts are next. These screw in with tiny, supplied screws. Open the areas noted on the fuselage side to reveal the plywood former that accepts the screw and keeps the upper wing aligned. Attach the upper cabane brace and sheet it with the suppled balsa sheeting. Now apply the roundels to the top of the upper wing and glue on the upper wing halves. I added some balsa reinforcement to the wing joint using tiny scraps of balsa from the kit.

The lower wing attaches to a plywood brace that is glued in first. Slip the wing in place and apply CA. Next, test-fit the outer wing struts and check the wing alignment. Make sure that the wing aligns properly with the fuselage and glue in the struts.

The next step shows the assembly and installation of the upper wing gun and windshield. I assembled them but chose to install them after the model was completed to prevent possibly damaging them.

You need to assemble the tail section next, making sure that you apply the rudder decal onto the aircraft before assembly. You want to install the hinges then make the appropriate cuts in the tail block in which to fit these tail parts. Expect to do some sanding in order to align the stabilizer and fin with the wings. After you have good alignment and it all fits properly, apply the glue.

It’s starting to look pretty good now! The final step to the build is installing the landing gear. Following the instructions, assemble the gear parts and axle. Again, small screws are used to attach the gear.

The provided wheels are good, but my kit included wheel bushings that the plans didn’t mention. Use these instead of the plywood doughnuts that the instructions call for. The wheel is made of three discs. The inner one is slightly smaller in diameter than the outer ones so that the O-ring tire will slip on. I slid the three disks onto the plastic wheel bushing and put a little thin CA around the edges to hold the wheel together. The bushing keeps everything aligned. Next, slide the O-ring on and use a little CA to hold it, if needed. Some heatshrink tubing (included) works as a wheel collar.

That nearly completes the airplane. The next step is to install the gear. My kit was the deluxe version, complete with a brushless motor, ESC, and two micro servos. After checking the Hobby Club online store, I found that the company offers a micro receiver for this airplane, but it was not yet available. I discovered what appears to be the same receiver at an online store and ordered it. The receiver works with several transmitter brands. I fly Futaba, so I ordered that version.

The receiver shipped from China but arrived in only eight days! Now I could move forward with the radio installation. I cut out the marked area in the radio compartment for the servos and installed them using a drop of E6000 glue. You only need a tiny bit—a drop on each servo ear. I used my radio to pre-center the servos before gluing them in, so don’t forget to do that!

The kit includes carbon-fiber pushrods and wire ends that are attached using heat-shrink material. Put the Z-bend connector on the end that attaches to the elevator, rudder horns, and the 90° bend pieces on the servo horn ends.

Slip the wire on first then slide the carbon-fiber rod in place with the heat-shrink tubing. The Z-bend part has a U-shaped bend to allow for necessary adjustments. The receiver attaches with a drop of E6000 slightly in front of the servos.

Screw on the brushless motor mount and attach the motor to the fuselage. The ESC fits slightly under the motor compartment. When I ordered my receiver, a micro four-channel receiver with a built-in 5-amp ESC was available. I got that one so that I could save some weight by not having an external ESC.

With all of that done, I glued on the machine gun and windshield. I colored the gun black using a Magic Marker. With the addition of a few more decals, my airplane was ready to test-fly!

While installing the battery in the model, I realized that the cowling would not fit because the back former in the removable cowling would hit. I cut the bottom off of the former and now it fits.

The wings have been assembled and added to the fuselage. Note the ribs on the wings to give the needed airfoil shape.
The wings have been assembled and added to the fuselage. Note the ribs on the wings to give the needed airfoil shape.

With the receiver bound, I set up the radio so that all of the controls were at neutral and going the correct direction. I also checked the center of gravity and it was close, so it was time to get this fighter in the air!

Flying

Thanks to Publications Art Director Lynn Balderrama, we were given access to an indoor soccer facility in Muncie, Indiana, for the test flights. It was 30° with snow on the ground, so indoors sounded good to me!

My flying buddy, Kyle Jaracz, volunteered to assist by hand-launching the little Hobby Club Micro SE5A. Photographer Rachelle Haughn had the camera ready and the scene was set! I gave the model roughly 3/4 power and Kyle gently tossed it. Hey, it flew!

I found that I did not need any trim whatsoever (unusual for me!), and it had more than enough power. I backed off on the power and found myself flying at slightly less than 1/2 throttle. Nice! The model was easy to control and not too touchy. The drag of the two wings kept it from being a speed demon, and it will easily fly in a standard basketball gym.

Here you can see the upper gun and dummy engine header. The struts and wheels give it a realistic look.
Here you can see the upper gun and dummy engine header. The struts and wheels give it a realistic look.

Rachelle got some good in-flight pictures, and Kyle also chased the airplane around with a tiny video camera. Thanks for your efforts, Kyle! The things AMA staff will do for a good airplane article …

Conclusion

The little biplane is an excellent flyer. It is not the easiest to build because of its tiny parts, but the parts fit is outstanding, making it a lot of fun to build.

Although I didn’t paint it olive drab as I had originally planned, it still looks great in the air, and I look forward to flying it at the next indoor event with my club.

the hobby club micro se5a can comfortably fly at 12 throttle
The Hobby Club Micro SE5A can comfortably fly at 1/2 throttle in a gym or larger indoor setting.

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