China Airlines A350-900 B-18401 Phoenix 11016 November 2014 Release in 1:400

China Airlines A350-900
China Airlines A350-900

This model is of the soon to be delivered A350-900 in China Airlines (Republic of China, Taiwan) livery. It’s my second one of this aircraft type costing £28.00 ($46 USD) with discounts including tax at 20%.

This time I had high expectations. The SIA version, Item 11000 was amazing, bringing a new level of quality and Phoenix introduced the see-through engine mouldings introduced by Witty on A380’s and 773’s.. One of my great moans about Gemini Jets is the tragic variation in quality and total lack of consistency from one model to the next. In historical terms they behave like the UK auto industry did in the 1970’s, chucking out substandard product and not really caring wether it was good bad or indifferent, yet occasionally producing a single gem.

Phoenix however have gone from indifferent to continuous rolling improvement – that’s the way you reach the standards we as the buying public should expect. You do your best, then you do it better, each and every time. It there comes as an unpleasant surprise to find that they seemed to have slipped backwards a little with this model.

Mouldings under the wings are very poor
Mouldings under the wings are very poor

1) Fuselage

The mould and the detail on the fuselage are generally excellent, but there is roughness around the metal edges where the rear stabilizers fit. Three upper and two lower aerials are beautifully installed and painted. The three communications domes are well detailed and the paint excellent. However the nose graphics are not ideal by any means. The black window frames are a little rough on close up and the blue bands that cross the nose and form a sort of “bow wave” – a crucial part of the livery – well it’s fine from the sides, but look nose on and one side is higher that the other, it’s a really odd thing to pin down as all the references look right. At first I thought it was me, but two other people saw it as well and agreed it wasn’t as it should be. The area under the wings where they slot in on the fuselage mould are also quite rough, out of general sight maybe, but not really very acceptable and easy to see with the naked eye.

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2) Engines

The Rolls Royce Trent XWB rated up to a staggering 97,000b’s of thrust are a new departure for Phoenix – they have adopted the Witty-pioneered see through engines and this is an exquisite piece of detail on a 1:400 scale model. They look every bit as good as one would hope. The nacelles and pylons are all superbly neat in execution and painting.

3) Landing Gear 

Painted metal with detailed struts and hydraulics, fully rolling wheels. The one down side to this model is that they are fixed in position and the bogies don’t move at all. Other than that they are highly detailed. However the paint on the open wheel doors is very thin and you can see the metal beneath and the port side bogie has a large flake of paint missing, revealing the brass-colour below. Not only that, all four of the wheels on that side are bent so the back pair and the front pair are both skewed to the left by about 1.5mm which makes them look odd from the front. Unusually poor.

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4) Tail fin and stabilisers

They look good and are perfectly straight, flawlessly mounted, just as you would hope for, outstanding. Logos and paint detail are all highly accurate and crisp. It’s the fuselage mould that dissapoints.

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5) Wings and underbody.

Now without actually seeing the finished aircraft, it did strike me as slightly odd that it would have a gigantic A350 XWB logo over the under part of the fuselage. Until I know differently I’ll pass any comment on it. Either way its well done. The hole for a stand fits the standard thin arm Gemini version. The push in wings are accurate and well detailed. The big issue on this model was how would they mould the hugely curvaceous wing tips? Have no fear for Phoenix have done them proud, really very impressive. The underwing detail is very good, simple but sufficient.

6) Colours 

Perfect.

7) Overall score – we start at 10.

The rule is that if you can see it with the naked eye, or the cumulative effect of poor manufacturing leaves a lowered impression, then it must be scored. I have a great long sheet of what can and cannot be scored to keep consistent scores on all models I review. So to start with the nose paint is a -1, it’s oddly wrong and annoying when you see it. The skewed wheels and paint issues on the port bogie are both -0.5 each. Two moulding issues – under wings and stabilizers – 1.  

So thats just 7/10. It’s a very disappointing score for something that not a few days ago I was raving about as verging on a new level of perfection. OK teething problems with new moulds etc,  but Phoenix need to get their progressive rolling improvement machine back in gear and fix these issues. Why bother aiming so high and let it be ruined by some stupid errors?

Are the mistakes so ghastly I would say don’t buy it? Probably not. If this had really cost me it’s full retail of £34 we’d probably be talking about it going back for a replacement, but I am very picky – I do know that, I just feel very strongly that if you pay high prices you should expect (and the law agrees) to get what you pay for.

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