SE5A Replica (Scout Experimental 5)

SE5A Replica

Dan McGowan and "Gogi" Goguillot of Yarrow, B.C. designed this 7/8 scale replica of the famous World War 1 British Fighter built by the Royal Aircraft Factory. While changes had to be made to accommodate a full size pilot, and an alternate engine chosen when designing the scaled down version as an amateur built sport plane, the replica does resemble the original. It is represented as a much modified, scaled down sport plane, and not a true replica of the original fighter.

Use of a modern 4 cylinder 85 hp Continental engine required an ingenious cowling to simulate the original water cooled 200 hp geared Hispano engine, but provides a practical solution for every day operation.

Several genuine examples of the famous SE5A single-seat fighter exist in the U.K. including an airworthy one with a 200 hp geared Hispano replacing the original 215 hp Wolseley W4a Viper 8 cylinder water cooled vee engine.

This airplane was built by Dan McGowan at Richmond, B.C. and was flown regularly since its construction in 1970, and was a regular participant in homebuilt flypasts at airshows. Donated to the Canadian Museum of Flight by Dr. Fred Hemming of Vancouver in 1983.

This aircraft was returned to flying condition by the Canadian Museum of Flight and since 1997 once again participates in airshows.


The S.E.5 (Scout Experimental 5) was designed by Henry Folland, John Kenworthy and Major Frank Goodden of the Royal Aircraft Factory in Farnborough. It was built around the new 150 hp (112 kW) Hispano-Suiza 8, a V8 engine that, while providing excellent performance, was initially underdeveloped and unreliable. The first of three prototypes flew on 22 November 1916. The first two prototypes were lost in crashes (the first killing the chief test pilot at the Royal Aircraft Factory, Major Frank Goodden, on 28 January 1917) due to a weakness in their wing design. The third prototype underwent modification before production commenced; the S.E.5 was known in service as an exceptionally strong aircraft which could be dived at very high speed – the squarer wings also gave much improved lateral control at low airspeeds.

Like the other significant Royal Aircraft Factory aircraft of the war (B.E.2, F.E.2 and R.E.???? the S.E.5 was inherently stable, making it an excellent gunnery platform, but it was also quite manoeuvrable. It was one of the fastest aircraft of the war at 138 mph (222 km/h), equal at least in speed to the SPAD S.XIII and faster than any standard German type of the period. While the S.E.5 was not as agile and effective in a tight dogfight as the Camel it was much easier and safer to fly, particularly for novice pilots. According to "Dodge" Bailey, the former Chief Test Pilot of the Shuttleworth Collection, it had "somewhat similar handling characteristics to a de Havilland Tiger Moth, but with better excess power".


Only 77 original S.E.5 aircraft had been completed prior to production settling upon an improved model, designated as the S.E.5a. The initial models of the S.E.5a differed from late production examples of the S.E.5 only in the type of engine installed – a geared 200 hp Hispano-Suiza 8b, often turning a large clockwise-rotation four-bladed propeller, replacing the 150 hp H.S. 8A model. In total 5,265 S.E.5s were constructed by six manufacturers: Austin Motors (1,650), Air Navigation and Engineering Company (560), Curtiss (1), Martinsyde (258), the Royal Aircraft Factory (200), Vickers (2,164) and Wolseley Motors Limited (431).

Shortly following the American entry into World War I, plans were mooted for several American aircraft manufacturers to commence mass production of aircraft already in service with the Allied powers, one such fighter being the S.E.5. In addition to an order of 38 Austin-built S.E.5a aircraft which were produced in Britain and assigned to the American Expeditionary Force to equip already-deployed US Army squadrons, the US Government issued multiple orders to the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company for the manufacture and delivery of around 1,000 S.E.5s to be produced in the United States. However, only one Curtiss-built aircraft would be completed prior to the end of the conflict, after which demand for the S.E.5 had effectively evaporated, production being quickly halted after a further 56 aircraft were assembled using already-delivered components.

At first, airframe construction outstripped the very limited supply of French-built Hispano-Suiza engines and squadrons earmarked to receive the new fighter had to soldier on with Airco DH 5s and Nieuport 24s until early 1918. The troublesome geared "-8b" model was prone to have serious gear reduction system problems, sometimes with the propeller (and even the entire gearbox on a very few occasions) separating from the engine and airframe in flight, a problem shared with the similarly-powered Sopwith Dolphin.[8] The introduction of the 200 hp (149 kW) Wolseley Viper, a high-compression, direct-drive version of the Hispano-Suiza 8a made under licence by Wolseley Motors Limited, solved the S.E.5a's engine problems and was promptly adopted as the type's standard powerplant. A number of aircraft were subsequently converted to a two-seat configuration in order to serve as trainer aircraft.

In most respects the S.E.5 had superior performance to the rival Sopwith Camel, although it was less immediately responsive to the controls. Problems with its Hispano-Suiza engine, particularly the geared-output H-S 8B-powered early versions, meant that there was a chronic shortage of the type until well into 1918. Thus, while the first examples had reached the Western Front before the Camel, there were fewer squadrons equipped with the S.E.5 than with the Sopwith fighter.

Together with the Camel, the S.E.5 was instrumental in regaining allied air superiority in mid-1917 and maintaining it for the rest of the war, ensuring there was no repetition of "Bloody April" 1917 when losses in the Royal Flying Corps were much heavier than in the Luftstreitkräfte. The S.E.5s remained in RAF service for some time following the Armistice that ended the conflict; some were transferred to various overseas military operators, while a number were also adopted by civilian operators.


Technical details:

(Specifications apply to the 7/8 replica, not to the original)
Serial 002, CF-QGL
Manufactured: 1970
Engine: One 85 hp Continental 4-cylinder horizontally opposed
Cruise speed: 90 mph (145 km/h)
Empty weight: 790 lb (358 kg)
Loaded weight: 1,100 lb (499 kg)
Span: 22 ft 10 in (6.9 m)
Length: 14 ft 4 in (4.3 m)
Height: 7 ft 2 in (2.2 m)
By way of comparison, the original SE5A had a span 26 ft 7 in (8.1 m), length 20 ft 11 in (6.4 m), height 9 ft 6 in (2.9 m).
(Photo credits: C. Hutchins)

It's a flyer!

The Museum's SE5A replica returned to the air on 12 July 2016 after a lengthy refit and modification program. The engine and electrical systems have been upgraded to give the aircraft independence from the need for a  'prop swinger' in its previous configuration. In the capable hands of General Manager, Mike Sattler, taxi and high-speed handling checks were conducted. After a complete check of the aircraft, all systems were declared 'Go' and Mike took the SE5A into the air, conducting handling checks and takeoff and landings. A post-flight inspection declared, "No snags, no leaks" and it won't be long before it takes to the air again.
Mike ready to launch the SE5A into the wild blue yonder.
The name pays tribute to long-time Museum member "Gogi" Goguillot.
The SE5A entering its element.
The SE5A drops over the lush scenery of the Fraser Valley as it approaches Langley Airport... a flawless, classic three-pointer landing.
Museum members welcome Mike after the successful test flight.
The SE5A shares the ramp with a visiting Nieuport fighter from Vimy Flight. 
How often do you get a reminder of aviation from 100 years ago at the same airport?