E-flite P-38/F-5E Lightning 400 ARF Review - RC Groups

E-flite P-38/F-5E Lightning 400 ARF Review

Mike Llewellyn looks at the all new Twin P-38/F-5E Lightning 400 ARF from E-flite! This handsome reconnaisance finished WW2 bird is a fast build and performs very well in the air.



Wing Area:307 sq”
Wing type:Semi-symmetrical foam
AUW weight:Advertised – 33-40oz Actual - 37oz
Wing loading:17.3 oz/sq. ft.
Servos:6 – E-flite s-75’s
Transmitter:Spektrum DX7
Receiver:Spektrum AR6000
Battery:ThunderPower 2070mA 3s LiPoly
Motors:E-flite Park 450's 890Kv Outrunners
ESC's:E-flite 25 amp Pro
Available from:Horizon Hobby
Retail Price:$129.99

The P-38 was the aircraft my 7th grade aeronautics instructor flew in WW2 - so I have always had a soft spot for them deep in my heart. That and the fact that it is simply one of the most stunning war birds I have ever seen - it just emotes speed and power.

Horizon and E-flite have done it again – an all new foam ARF P-38/F-5E Lightning! The first E-flite war bird twin is the popular P-38 in F-5E photo recognizance attire. I was excited to see another foam war bird and knowing the flight qualities of the E-flite P-47, I knew this offering was going to be equally impressive.

The E-flite P-38 has the same quality and detail work found in the P-47. The white foam is factory painted and panel lines and details are represented well. It is a super fast build yours can be ready to fly in a few hours.

Kit Contents

The review package shipped from Horizon and it arrived in great shape. It is well packaged, double boxed and the contents in the box were very well protected. All parts are individually protected with plastic wrap.

The paint and finish on the P-38/F5-E was also good. The raw foam has no finish - other than paint and it looks very good from just a step away. The F5-E scheme chosen uses invasion stripes that show up very well in flight. It is easy to maintain visual orientation.

Kit includes:

  • Painted foam fuselage and wing
  • Lightweight plastic cowls
  • Pre-attached canopy and battery hatch
  • Hardware (connectors, pushrods and horns)
  • Decals and markings
  • Painted installed pilot figure
  • Large picture assembly guide and text instructions
  • Counter rotating 10x8 propellers and spinners

Kit requires:

  • Motors
  • Propellers
  • 2s-3s LiPoly battery
  • 4-6 servos 7-10g type (Optional: 2-rudders)
  • Receiver
  • 4 channel minimum transmitter

Included for this review:

  • E-flite Park 450 Outrunner motors 890Kv - 2 required
  • E-flite 25amp Pro Esc's - 2 required
  • Thunder Power 2070 3s battery pack

There are two power systems recommended by Horizon, one brushed and the other brushless. It is nice to see the vendors recommend specific power equipment making it easy to select the right equipment for success. This review model features the brushless power option, and as you will see it powers this model handily.


This plane required almost no assembly, and is truly an ARF. If you are a fast radio and power system installer, expect completion in about 6-8 hours. Steps to add functional rudders are included, and I prefer having rudder control on twins in the unlikely event of a motor out situation.

Done by the factory:

  • Surfaces hinged (except for optional rudders)
  • Push rod tubes installed and ready to hook up
  • No covering necessary – the model is factory painted right on the raw foam

The builder needs to:

  • Install/join the wing to the fuse pods
  • Install radio system
  • Install the power system


I started construction with the fuselage to make the overall assembly easier.

Optional Rudder installation

On twins I find rudder very beneficial. This allows the use of the rudder for thrust trim, and it is essential if you ever encounter an unlikely situation where one motor quits. Even though the rudders are optional the pushrod tubes were pre-installed - a nice touch. Use a sharp hobby knife to cut the rudders from the fins, then bevel and hinge the rudders to the fins.

A nut tied to a string was very helpful in pulling the servo wires to the center pod. This airplane requires a 12" extension for each flight control servo and ESC and "Y" extensions for the ESCs, rudders if used, and ailerons if you do not program those in flaperons.

I used a computer mix for the nose steering servo. It was slaved to the rudder control and plugged those into an auxiliary channel, thus saving yet another "Y" cable.

The included pilot is too small, but he is painted fairly well. Nice to see one included!


The cowls arrived complete, painted and ready to go. They were exceptionally hard to remove from the plane, indicating that they had placed them on while the paint was still drying. It was necessary to pry them off with an old propeller. I actually damaged the underlying foam and one of the cowls removing them, so be careful!

Motors and ESCs

The motor sticks and mounts are included and work great. Make sure to shorten the stick by a bit more than the recommended 2-3mm needed for proper spinner to cowl fit.


The wing panels are tiny and plug outboard of the right and left pods. The panes have CF rod installed, and that joins a tube inside the pods. The center joiner for the CF rods (inside the center fuselage pod) glue joint was not properly done on mine, but 5 minute epoxy had it secured well. Assure you check that center joint before flight!

When inserting the wing panels into the pods, ensure that the other wires do not get in the way of the wing panel. Wood screws are supplied, and they attach the wing panels on to the pod so they are removable if needed.

Power system

The E-Flite brushless system for the P-38 give staggering performance.

Amp draws

The motors produce the following results:

Motor statistics (both motors with the included propellers)
Props Amps Watts Voltage
10x8 34 359 10.6v

The included propellers are counter rotating 10x8 propellers. The power system gives the P-38 156 w/lb performance - stunning power.

E-flite 25 amp Pro ESC

E-flite 25 amp Pro ESC

  • Size – 28mm x 48mm x 11mm
  • Weight – 32g
  • Input Connector Types: 16 AWG with E-flite EC3 Connector
  • Output Connector Types: 16 AWG with 3.5mm Female Gold Bullet Connectors
  • Momentary Peak Current: 30A (15 sec)
  • Cells w/BEC: 2-3S Li-Po or 6-10 Ni-MH/Ni-Cd

The E-flite controllers worked flawlessly during flight testing. Since the controllers do not receive any air flow, the large heat syncs are certainly welcome.


I used a single 3s 2070 Thunder Power 2070 mAh pack for the P-38. The ESCs are wired together into a single battery connector, and the battery has a connector. I am also using the Dimension Engineering Parkflyer Switch-mode BEC. With 6 servos, I do not want to risk this model on the ESC linear BECs.

The battery just fits in the model, so use of a larger pack may require removal of some foam material.


The model is foam, and the paint is applied directly to the foam. With the rough surface you can see some imperfections in the foam, but when you get a couple of feet away it looks very sharp.


Some pre flight photos of the handsome P-38/F5-E.


I found myself using the rearward CG mark (5mm rear of the indicated panel line) for the best flight characteristics.

I used the Spektrum DX7 transmitter for this plane. Rates were set as recommended in the manual with ailerons and elevator at 16mm and 13mm respectively. No high rates were mentioned, so I set those rates to give 20% additional throw. No exponential rates were mentioned, so I used 25% for all primary flight controls for initial values. In flight both the aileron and elevator controls were very tame so I increased both to about 10% more throw and dropped the exponential control to 15%. These settings worked well for me in flight, however rates are a very personal preference.

I set the flight timer to count down from 7 minutes. With throttle management this gives an audible warning to land just before the 2070mAh battery is depleted.

Takeoff and Landing

The P-38 includes very small tires so a hard surface is required. The E-flite P-38 rotates quickly with a nearly vertical liftoff! With the counter rotating propellers there is essentially no rudder correction required on take off, an oddity for any war bird. The brushless Park 450 motors gave an exceptional climb rate that would make the full scale bird envious.

Landings are a nonevent. The P-38 slows very well in flight, and with the twin propeller disks, draggy wing tanks and landing gear, it bleeds off speed quickly. It will fly along with a nose high stance comfortably until landing. The nose gear steering is positive and makes ground handling a snap.

I was amazed at how remarkably easy the E-flite P-38 is to fly. It goes where pointed and has no bad habits. It is a total blast in the air. It certainly has plenty of power and speed in flight.

Special Flight Characteristics

This plane stalls very predictably for a model with a light wing loading. When pushed to a stall, you get a gentle nose and slight wing tip drop. It slowed very significantly before stall - not bad for a twin war bird. It remained fully controllable right down to full stall. Stall recovery was quick with throttle application.

Loops are simple to control and keep large and round. With the stock power system, it easily looped from level flight and did not exhibit any snap characteristics. Rolls were not totally axial, just as expected with nearly all war birds. I found the recommended 15mm aileron throws gave slow roll rates that are a perfect scale speed. Inverted flight requires a bit of "down" elevator to keep the nose up. Stall turns with the rudders work very well.

Thanks to Dawnron1 for these excellent flying shots:

Recommended power system

Power from the brushless motors is stunning. The counter rotating propellers allowed for abrupt power changes with zero yaw impact. It is like a rocket ship!

Is this plane for a beginner?

While definitely not for the first time pilot, this War bird is not at all difficult to fly. While most twins require careful attention to the rudder, the counter rotating propellers have this bird flying straight and true. It does not have any uncomfortable yaw situations. It should be noted that the P-38 does not exhibit any self correcting responses, something any beginner needs to have. It would make an excellent first twin model for those with experience with low wing ships.

Flight Video



Assembly is quick and simple. Depending on your setup - this model could be ready to fly in a few hours. The E-flite P-38/F5-E from Horizon Hobby is an excellent flying plane. With the abundant power - I rarely reach full throttle. It regularly makes the trip to the local school yard, and I really enjoy flying this model. For those who have never enjoyed a twin RC aircraft this may make the perfect first twin ARF. Horizon Hobby continues to impress me with their war bird line. The E-flite P-38/F5-E is very impressive - it builds quickly and flies wonderfully. Highly Recommended.


  • Short assembly time
  • Excellent flight performance
  • F5-E photo reconnaissance finish looks fantastic
  • Counter rotating propellers
  • Magnet attached canopy for battery access


  • Wing joiner glue joint broke before first flight - check yours!
  • Cowls "painted" on to pods - removing them was nearly impossible
  • Included plastic wire covers do not stay secured
  • Small tires

Check out the Horizon Hobby P-38/F5-E at your local hobby shop or buy direct at Horizon Hobby.

Last edited by Angela H; Dec 03, 2007 at 04:51 PM..
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Dec 01, 2007, 03:16 AM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
Great Review Mike. Ronnie's camera work is exceptional. I've been flying one of these E-Flite P-38s for a couple of months now, and your review is right on the money. I had the same problems with the "stucK" cowls, the weak rudder sections, tiny wheels, and the loose wiring covers. However, the flight characteristics of the brushless version and the stunning good looks of this model, more than made up for these shortcomings.

I would like to try programming differential thrust control for the motors and see if I could save the weight of the rudder servos and wiring and still get "rudder" control. The only down side that I can see is that if something should happen to one motor/prop/esc, then you would not be able to correct for the problem like you could with "real" rudders.

Mike McD
Latest blog entry: LEDs on my T-28
Dec 01, 2007, 08:59 AM
Registered User
pda4you's Avatar
Thanks Mike!

I know in FlyRC magazine one of the Alfa or Flying styro plane reviews (can't remember what plane) the author did just that - differential thrust! He reported that it worked very well.

I wish I could remember what review it was. Any rate it is a fantastic flying airplane. Goes like crazy with the brushless power system for sure.

Dec 01, 2007, 09:18 AM
Dert Farmur
Harv's Avatar
Once again, another great review and fantastic video. Thanks for putting another one up Mike.
Dec 01, 2007, 09:32 AM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
Great Review Mike! I flew one in Sacramento two weeks ago and loved its handling. If you tire of it just put it in a large box and I will pay the shipping. Or better yet put Ronnie in a large box... another nice video by Ronnie! Saw this plane pre-release at the AMA show last January. It was nice to finally fly one and to see your review. Mike
Dec 01, 2007, 09:36 AM
Registered User
pda4you's Avatar
Harv - Mike thanks! It is very nice to have Ronnie here for his skills!

Mike - I will let you know when I get tired of it

Dec 01, 2007, 10:44 AM
I'd rather be Flying
davecee's Avatar
Ordinarily I don't do spelling corrections here, I mean after all I'm not perfect either. However the proper word is reconnaissance.
Recognizance has a completely different meaning.

With all due respect, Dave
Dec 01, 2007, 02:13 PM
The sky is my playground.
Dora Nine's Avatar
Great job as always guys...I love the pics! I'm really suprised to see a real lack in "costom" paint schemes with this plane.
Dec 01, 2007, 02:34 PM
Registered User
I am struck by the WS and WA being a GWS to the "T" . Is it a more expensive and powerfull GWS in disguise ?

Dec 01, 2007, 04:16 PM
Registered User
Great review. I am happy to hear so much of my P-47 build experience will help with this one when it's time. The P-47 has the same problem with the cowl stuck on the fuselage and I had to slide an old pair of tweezers all the way around to pry it loose with a little damage like you. It was also great to hear the counter rotation takes care of the famous warbird yaw issue ... my P-47 needs full right rudder on take-off as it accelerates due to adverse yaw effects.

- K
Dec 01, 2007, 04:48 PM
RC 4 Life
sparks's Avatar
Another good review.
I do like the pros and cons feature. It shows that they are not always peaches and cream.
keep it up.
Dec 01, 2007, 09:01 PM
Wannabe B-26 pilot!
Matt Halton's Avatar
Great review, fantastic pics too.
Seems that centre spar joiner is a flaw in the construction at the factory which seriously needs to be addressed before someone gets hurt by falling parts.

I think it is a great model, just a shame it has an achiiles heel in seemingly every kit.
Dec 01, 2007, 10:12 PM
Registered User
pda4you's Avatar
Thanks gang ....

The center spar is an issue - and we have told Horizon. They also know about the cowls as well.

Just flew this model again yesterday it now has larger tires to make grass an option. It still flies like a dream!

Dec 02, 2007, 11:41 PM
Lori, hey, you're home early
CarreraGTSCS's Avatar
Here are some photos of my P-38/F-5E. Mine is powered by a pair of E-Flite Park 400 920kv outrunners and no name 18 or 20amp escs and a single 3s 1500mah HXT 20/25c lipo. I bring it down after 10 minutes of fast and slow flight. I don't use full throttle much, just to initiate take off and for some fun before landing. Very gentle flyer. No need to be nervous about flying this one. It's a pussycat.

Pros are many: Excellent engineering and quality. It has great flight characteristics which to me is the standard by which I now judge other ARF's. It can be flown quite slowly and tip stalling is hardly an issue. It is big enough in size to be seen at altitude and carry enough weight as not to be fussy about AUW (add those servos for rudder, it can take it with ease).

As for cons, mine are few: That spar joiner can be deadly to the model if it fails in flight. The nose wheel bends pretty easily on all but the best landings and the plastic cup that houses the wheel assembly loosened quickly. I've had the left tailboom crack once unknown to me. I found it before the next flight during the preflight routine (I preflight and range check before every flight, don't you?). Repaired with polyurethane glue.

I've never had the wire covers between the cockpit pod and the booms come loose. I made sure to carefully place the wires in the groove so none stuck out too much. Tape them down if you have to and then press on the covers. I had to remove the covers entirely on my E-Flite P-47 as they'd never stay down tight.

I'm sure that I've forgotten something but all in all this is a stellar contribution to the world of ARF's.

Last edited by CarreraGTSCS; Dec 04, 2007 at 09:35 AM.
Dec 03, 2007, 08:03 AM
Registered User
RedPanda's Avatar
Hi Mike, very authoritative review - thanks!
I was interested to read that you used a separate BEC as the plane runs six servos. That makes sense to me if there was one ESC but there are two here - doesn't that mean each ESC only "sees" three servos so a BEC wouldn't be necessary?


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