RCU Review: E-Flite P-38/F-5E Lightning 400

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    Contributed by: Greg Covey | Published: October 2007 | Views: 71514 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    E-flite P-38 Lightning

    Review by: Greg Covey
    Flying Photos: Papa Jeff Ring
    Video Pilot: Paul Weigand


    Dealer Info

    E-flite Models
    Distributed Exclusively in the U.S.A. by:
    Horizon Hobby, Inc
    4105 Fieldstone Road
    Champaign, IL 61822
    Phone: 800.338.4639
    Fax: 217.352.6799


    E-flite P-38 Flying Video 9 MB


    Complete Kit with hardware
    Great ARF value and looks
    Superb Flying Performance
    No Painting or Decals Needed
    Magnetic Held Hatches
    Pre-hinged Control Surfaces
    Counter-rotating Props

    Some Soldering Required

    E-Flite P-38/F-5E Lighting 400 ARF

    The new E-flite P-38/F-5E Lightning 400 ARF is a highly pre-assembled replica of an F-5E variant that served in the European theater during the invasion of Normandy. This long-range interceptor also earned popularity in the Pacific flying reconnaissance missions with specially equipped cameras. It includes many details like invasion stripes, cockpit details, appropriate squadron markings, removable drop tanks, counter-rotating props and spinners, functional scale elevator mass balances and much more!

    The P-38 ARF has multiple easy-access magnetic hatches that allow you to get to the elevator and rudder servos as well as the nose hatch for quick access to the battery, ESC and receiver without the need for tools. The kit comes highly prefabricated with all parts factory painted, along with hinges and control surfaces installed, so you don't have to wait long to get flying. The wing panels slide easily in and out of the booms using the factory-installed carbon tube spars. Each panel is secured with just two wing screws making assembly easy. All that's left is about 2 to 4 hours of minor assembly and electronics installation to get flying, making this one of the most detailed and quickest to assemble P-38 models ever available.


    • Wing Span: 48 in (1219mm)
    • Overall Length: 35 in (889mm)
    • Wing Area: 307 sq in (19.8 sq dm)
    • Flying Weight: w/Battery: 33-40oz (936-1134g)
    • Motor Size: Park 450 BL 890Kv (EFLM1400, Requires 2)
    • Radio: 3-channel w/3 sub-micro servos (4 channel w/6 sub-micros w/optional rudder and landing gear)
    • Servos: Sub Micros
    • Speed Control : 25 Amp Brushless (EFLA1025, Requires 2)
    • Recommended Battery: 3S 11.1V LiPo (EFLB1035)

    Key Features:

    • 95% factory built, painted and assembled
    • Can be flight ready in just 2 to 4 hours with little to no glue required
    • Fully detailed, factory-installed cockpit, pilot and canopy
    • Factory installed hinges, control surfaces and control horns
    • Plug-in wing panels for easy transport
    • Functional scale elevator mass balances
    • Includes 10 x 8E counter-rotating props and spinners
    • Factory-assembled, optional landing gear with steerable nose wheel
    • Flyable with a single 3S 11.1V 2000-2200mAh Li-Po pack

    ARF Contents

    The light foam parts were well secured in the box using bags, tape, and some custom cardboard fittings. As usual with E-Flite designs, the ARF comes with a very well written manual that leaves little to no guesswork. Very few parts exist in the kit as the P-38 is highly prefabricated and nearly finished right out of the box!

    A closer look at the P-38 fuselage reveals some amazing detail and completeness. E-flite has thought of just about everything, including multiple easy-access hatches. Getting to the elevator and rudder servos is a cinch with the easy-access magnetic hatches located on the bottom of each tail boom, while the magnetically secured nose hatch offers quick access to the battery, ESC and receiver without the need for tools.

    The hinges, control surfaces, and horns are all pre-installed. The wing panels slide easily in and out of the booms using the factory-installed carbon tube spars. Each panel is secured with just two wing screws making assembly easy. The factory-installed cockpit, pilot, and, canopy, are fully detailed and ready to fly!

    Power System:

    The power system for my P-38 will be made from two E-flite Park 450 Outrunners, two Castle Creations Phoenix 25 Brushless Motor Controllers, and a single ThunderPower eXtreme Series 25C 3-cell 2070mAh LiPo pack. Note that the Park 450 motor comes with mating connectors for the ESC and a collet prop adapter.

    The electronics are completed with high-tech, low weight parts like the Spektrum AR6100 receiver (3.5 grams) and E-flite S75 Sub-Micro servos (0.28oz/servo).


    The elevator installed with ease. Once the servo wires are connected to a 12" extension, they can be fed through a hole in the servo bay to the wing opening and on to the center pod via the access panel attached with hook and loop material.

    Note the clean installation using the Spektrum AR6100 receiver.

    Motor Installation:

    The outrunner motors are attached to the supplied plastic motor mounts using spacers and machine screws. Before pressing them onto the sticks, they are first cut to a 1-1/4" length for the Park 450 motors.

    The ESCs are prepared for installation by soldering 12" extensions on each power wire and also adding a 12" extension to the control line. On my Phoenix 25 amp controller, no programming is needed before flying since the standard settings will work for most applications.

    The wires are fed though the pod and into the center section as before. I soldered both red and black wires to a single Dean's Ultra connector. The control cables are plugged into a Y-harness and fed to the throttle channel. Note that you must disconnect one of the red (+) wires on the ESC control cable going into the Y-harness so that only one BEC is used to power the receiver and servos. The BEC from the other ESC is not needed. In other words, one ESC's BEC will power the servos and receiver in my P-38. The other ESC, with the clipped red wire, will power itself from the battery connection but have a common ground to the receiver for monitoring the throttle line. Also, when using a separate Rx. battery pack, you need to disconnect BOTH red wires from the ESC before connecting them to the Y-harness.

    The motor to ESC connectors were left accessible at first so that I could swap any to wires, if needed, to get the proper rotation as described in the manual. The plane's left side motor spins counterclockwise when viewed from the front.

    Props and Spinners:

    After drilling the props and back plates to fit the adapter shaft that comes with the E-flite Park 450 motors, the installation was quick and easy. I tested the motor rotation before mounting the props and again afterwards. Both props spun very evenly and in the proper directions.

    The final wire run was a E-flite (EFLRYH3) 3" Y-Harness plugged into the aileron channel of my Spektrum 6100 receiver and a JR (JRPA096) 9" servo extension added to each end of the Y-Harness. The long ends are routed through the bottom channels to the outer pods to connect to the plug-in wings.

    The wires are covered with a custom plastic piece and held with hook and loop. I added some clear tape to seal the leading edge so air would not force it open during flight. The fuselage bottom looked very clean when finished.


    The servos are press fit into the foam bays after applying some pre-cut servo tape squares from the kit. The panels come with double-sided tape and a few hook-and-loop areas already installed. You simply pull of the paper covering and stick the panels down.

    The wing is pressed into the fuselage opening while aligning the carbon rod into the tube. Each wing half is secured by two long metal screws.

    Optional Assembly:

    The E-flite P-38 has several options that you can choose from depending upon how you plan to fly it and over what type of terrain. Since I fly over grass, I choose to not install the landing gear and optional steerable nose wheel. I have also seen feedback from other P-38 owners suggesting the need for rudder control in certain situations.

    I choose to initially install one rudder servo on the opposite side of the elevator servo. In this manner, the plane will be very light and maintain a side-to-side balance. Optionally, you can install both rudder servos, one on each side, if desired. I'll reserve this option if one rudder does not provide sufficient yaw control. Note that with all the optional parts installed, like dual rudders and steerable nose wheel, you can expect to use up to six sub-micro servos.

    Unlike the pre-installed elevator hinges, the rudder must be cut away from the fuselage and have the supplied hinges glued in place. I really like the two-piece fitted control horns. They are easy to install and create a secure controlling arm on the foam surface without using any glue.

    I choose not to install the landing gear since our local flying fields are mowed grass. The small foam wheels require a harder surface like dirt or pavement. I also felt that the P-38 would look more scale in the air without the thin wires and wheels showing.

    Since I did not install the landing gear, I needed to add 1/2oz of lead to the nose to make up for the steerable nose wheel. This made my P-38 balance perfectly in the middle of the recommended CG range. Note that you could also use half of the supplied 1.1oz clay that comes with the kit. I also decided to install the drop tanks.

    The drop tanks seem strong enough to support the whole plane with the battery installed and are easy to reinforce if needed. They will also help keep the large 2-blade props from breaking. I spread some Aileen's Tacky White Craft glue along the bottom surfaces that will skid on the ground. The glue is much like Elmer's Glue-All in that it dries hard and clear. The resultant finish ends up being a bit glossy on the hardened areas.


    My P-38 Lightning was Ready-To-Fly at 36oz. (2.25 lbs). I measured 32amps and 340 watts at full throttle. That's 340w/2.25lb or 151w/lb which will provide an awesome power level for the P-38.

    The ThunderPower 25C 2070 eXtreme Series LiPo pack can deliver up to 52amps continuous so the 32amps needed at full throttle is a good fit that will last for hundreds of charging cycles.

    Test Flying

    On the maiden flight, the E-flite P-38 flew fantastic! I hand-launched it and found that it doesn't need a strong throw. It simply flew out of my hands at about half-throttle. The only issue we had was that the canopy flew off on the maiden flight which may have been caused by the rather thick ESC wires pressing against it. On the second flight, as a simple field modification, we used a rubber band to help keep it secure.

    E-flite P-38 Flying Video 9MB

    The counter-rotating props eliminated the roll torque during take-off and our high speed passes. The wing loading was incredibly light which allowed the P-38 to slow fly much like a kite (watch the video). We were surprised that the P-38 could fly so slow without any signs of stalling. It simply lowered its tail and remained stabile.

    The P-38 did not show any bad tendencies and tracked very well, even in windy conditions. The power level was incredible!


    The E-flite P-38 Lightning looks great right out of the box! No decals or paint are needed and the pre-hinged control surfaces help make it a quick build. Removable panels hide the servos and wires to create a true scale appearance.

    The P-38 flies for about 7-10 minutes depending upon wind conditions and aerobatics performed.

    A few parts were missing from the Required Parts section of the Brushless Motor Installation. I found that I needed a Y-harness and two 12" servo extensions to properly connect the Phoenix-25 ESCs to the receiver throttle channel.

    I would recommend that the hobbyist have intermediate building and flying skills for a successful experience. The two ESCs must be wired together and there are several Y-harnesses needed to combine servos and control lines.

    E-flite P-38 Lightning

    Manufacturer Information

    E-flite Models
    Distributed Exclusively in the U.S.A. by:
    Horizon Hobby, Inc
    4105 Fieldstone Road
    Champaign, IL 61822
    Phone: 800.338.4639
    Fax: 217.352.6799

    Castle Creations
    235 South Kansas Avenue,
    Olathe, Kansas 66061
    phone: 913.390.6939
    fax: 913.390.6164

    ZAP Glues On-line at Frank Tiano Enterprises
    Pacer Z-42 Thread Locker
    5-minute Z-poxy
    Pacer POLY ZAP(tm)

    Comments on RCU Review: E-Flite P-38/F-5E Lightning 400

    Posted by: jtford on 08/16/2009
    Do you know where I can get a canopy?
    Page: 1
    The comments, observations and conclusions made in this review are solely with respect to the particular item the editor reviewed and may not apply generally to similar products by the manufacturer. We cannot be responsible for any manufacturer defects in workmanship or other deficiencies in products like the one featured in the review.

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