Virgin Atlantic G-VROM 1:400 Apollo Dec 2013 release

Virgin Atlantic 747-443 G-VROM Apollo A13064 1:400 January 2014 Release

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The model is of G-VROM, one of a group that Virgin Atlantic acquired relatively cheaply from Boeing when Alitalia cancelled its order.

She was delivered pretty much straight into a declining market and Virgin didn’t know what to do with her. She was leased from GECAS and Virgin subleased it just five days before 9-11 to Aero Sur of Bolivia – if it had been another week later she’d probably have been stored. She flew subsequently from La Paz to Madrid under the name Super Torismo. She was returned to Virgin in March 2012 – they could hardly believe their luck I imagine, having managed to offload it for most of the recession.

She was striped out at Gatwick and repainted in the Billboard livery of 2010 and then sent to Hong Kong where the new style cabin was fitted. She now operates exclusively out of Gatwick in a 14J/66W/375Y configuration mostly to Florida and the Caribbean. Unlike the Heathrow 747’s, the Premium economy are split upper/lower deck. (Heathrow 747’s have an odd mix of Upper Class and Economy on the upper deck).

The model was £23 ($35US) from Hong Kong. I’ve been wanting to try a 747 from the Apollo/Witty stable and this seemed like the best way of doing it cheaply without shelling out all the money a UK purchase would require – some £34 ($50US).

First impressions are around the packaging which is double branded for Apollo’s Lion version. Uninspiring with an inaccurate grey and red print of the aircraft on one side, with a see through window.

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G-VROM on the left and Gemini’s Virgin-approved (G-VXLG) on the right.

The first thing that hits you out of the box  is how white the model is. This is my third Virgin 747 and its completely different to the other two, one of which, G-VXLG is identical in livery and equipment, including the  4 x GE CF6-80C2B1F engines. G-VFAB is Gemini but different again. The colour on the Gemini Virgin Approved A346 G-VNAP is the same as on G-VXLG

The second thing is how different (again) the red is, compared to the other 747 never mind the two A320’s and the Phoenix A333/343’s.

There is absolutely no consistency at all – not even vaguely – between the Gemini and Apollo versions, let alone the silver dominant Phoenix versions of the livery.

1) Main Fuselage

The colour is not wrong, nor is it right. They are using photographs to judge the colour base, not airline provided information and if you look at photos of G-VROM in Las vegas and so on, under searing bright sun, she looks white, and so do the others. Its actually a semi opaque white on a light silver undercoat with a metallic lacquer and it reflects light brilliantly, it also reflects colour. This means when it’s dull it tends to take on its own red and ambient light and makes it look quite different.

The red is according to Virgin a 1966 Candy Apple Red that is semi opaque and sprayed over silver with a metallic lacquer, which creates the lustre. By using photographs the manufacturers have gotten as close as they can to a HEX Code for HTML and reproduced that, hence its flat and dull appearance not the full on lustre of the real thing.

The logo and print are all exact both for colour definition. There are no ghastly over print or splash marks. The general detail is very good with lots of small and well defined print that the Gemini doesn’t quite match. The flying lady is also a nicer version in my opinion and easier on the eye, the Gemini is darker and heavily pixelated.

The massive logo is exactly the same and well positioned though the colour is a shade too dark.

2) Engines

These are GE CF6-80C2B1F’s and they look very good compared to the Gemini version which look more like Pratt & Whitney’s even though they are supposed to be the same. One of the Gemini’s was never properly fitted (No.1), but these are much neater and well positioned and much better all-round.

3) Landing Gear

Painted metal with detailed struts and hydraulics, fully rolling wheels. Oddly the rear bogies tilt at the fuselage and the front ones don’t move.

4) Tail fin and stabilisers

All as they should be, tight assembly, quality graphics.

5) Wings and underbody.

The detail has been swamped a little by the paint thickness, especially along the leading edge of the wings. The huge underbody logo is too far forward, it should go to the where the back edge of the wing root meets the body, and it’s the wrong colour, being too dark.

6) Colours

Being kind I can understand why they are wrong, but wrong they are. Virgin do not make it easy, but it looks a right hotchpotch when you see them as a fleet. Not far from Virgin’s fleet anyway which is still using three quite different liveries, four if you include G-VFAB.

7) Overall score – we start at 10.

And we loose 1 point for each of the main colours. And another half for getting the logo underneath so out of place and half a point for the excessive paint on the wings obscuring detail so much. All in all a disappointing 6/10. The mould is a good one however, with the right paint and the right livery its very much better than the Gemini version.

It wasn’t the most expensive model by a long way, but if I had paid the UK price – another £11 plus postage at £5 I would be very irritated. 6 out of ten is a point where if I had paid top dollar it would be going back. It’s the first Apollo that’s disappointed me despite its general superior build quality. It’s a hard colour scheme to get right, but over-reliance on photos rather than speaking to Virgin – or researching the colour palette properly provide a non-authentic result.

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