The model is of G-VWOW, named as Cosmic Girl one of four delivered on lease from ILFC during 1997-2003. She was delievered in October 2001 and is based at Heathrow (the 1R designates ILFC as the original owner/order maker). The others were, G-VROC (Heathrow based), G-VXLG & G-VAST which operate out of Gatwick and have a different internal layout with Premium Economy on the upper deck. They are equipped with the General Electric CF6-80C2B1F engines. Only G-VWOW still wears the old livery, all have been updated with the 2010 refit to new Upper Class and new Premium Economy.Arguably over time these aircraft choices have been inconsistent and costly – Virgin operates P&W and GE power plants and leasing has its advantages over medium periods but not in the longer term. The aircraft is due to be decommissioned during the period October 25th 2015 – February 21st 2015 as Virgin Atlantic withdraw 744’s from Heathrow.
The model was £23 ($35US) from Hong Kong. I’ve been wanting to try a 747 from the Apollo/Witty stable. Why buy it? I love the Virgin branding and theres a growing possibility I may soon fly on it so the logic went: get the model before it vanishes! It flies over me regularly as VS20 on its way back from SFO and frankly it’s a bit of mess externally, looking like it needs a good paint job.
First impressions are around the packaging which is double branded for Apollo’s Air France version. Uninspiring with a horribly inaccurate beige-gold and red print of the aircraft on one side, with a see through window.
The first thing that hits you out of the box is how beige the colour is. Now this is the old livery and it tends towards the silver-gold but it is at the same time very sensitive to light conditions. The more natural light there is the lighter it looks, but in the shade it’s extremely dark – too dark.
The second thing is the red is correct for the livery, being a flatter plainer and less “luscious looking” red than the current Candy Apple.
1) Main Fuselage
The detail and mould are excellent. The finish is flawless and well executed, it looks good even in close up. The flying lady image is pixelated on close up but it works more easily on the eye with natural vision that the actually better printed close up of the Gemini print. Not what you’d expect but there we go.
The logo is the old 2006 version that they still use on Virgin Holidays and for Flying Club – its one hell of a mis-match of branding overall but the cost cutting I suspect has made this a low priority, along with repainting the aircraft. The logo is extremely well printed and executed, looks spot on and it would be hard to find better.
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, with little detail on the nacelle (Virgin seem to have removed it from the start). The engines are quite small when compared to the massive A380 and 777 power plants we see these days – they look almost to small to do the job in comparison, but the model paint is good, clear and they are hung well on the pylons. The silver of the fans seems too bright in my opinion, but it’s neat and nicely applied. I would prefer if the fans were black or dark grey.
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. This seems to be standard Apollo.
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 under the wing on the edges and rears – the silver is fine. There is an Apollo logo but this version of the Virgin livery has no under body logo. The whole fits the standard Gemini metal arm, though it comes with its own small black plastic stand. Being the old style cradle wings fitted to the fuselage method, the lack of gaps and tight fit show that if you are using this method of fixing the wings, it can be made to look un-noticeable. Gemini take note!
The main body colour is really hard to critique. In some lights it looks almost as I’d expect – almost is key. In other lights it’s so wrong it’s almost embarrassing. I know it isn’t right, but it’s not a long way from G-VFAB in Birthday Girl livery which uses the same base colour and Gemini got right. So a real mixed bag of is it? Isn’t it? If but and Maybe! So in the black and white analysis is it spot on right? NO. Is it really badly wrong? Sometimes YES, other times NO!
7) Overall score – we start at 10.
And we loose 1 point for the dodgy colour and half a point for excessive paint on the underwings that swamps detail. The mould is a good one, attention to detail is very high and the overall quality of finish its noticeably above average. In total 8.5/10.
I think next time I’ll buy a non-Virgin – four when every one of them is different is too much as it is some might say, but there we go. I’ll have to get a Witty branded TransAero or something and see how different that is!