I meant to buy this ages ago and left it, but have finally put that right. I’m not entirely sure I should have bothered.
Probably one of the most challenging large aircraft for even experienced pilots, its small stabilisers and wing surfaces, high approach speeds, unusual aft of centre gear and wing position coupled with other idiosyncrasies have made it popular – but also dangerous, with several fatalities over the years. I’ve only ever flown on one to New York in 1997 with American Airlines.
This particular aircraft was actually the very last MD-11 built, number 200 (and was constructed from new as a freighter for Lufthansa). She was rolled out on 20 September 2000 and delivered to Lufthansa in early 2001. Like all of the purpose built versions she has a front load door on the port side. Apparently most of the conversions have a rear port side door (but not all). Apparently only 500 of these models were made but I don’t think that can be true – new supplies seem to become available as soon as old ones dry up.
The box is one of those Phoenix “weird and wonderful” with a photograph of old Nuremberg City Centre on the front and what appears to be old Berlin on the back. The sides are all decorated with the old McDonnell-Douglas corporate ID.
The mould is good but I find the nose is not quite right, a little too rounded – actually almost Airbus-like. I actually prefer the Gemini version (the Centurion and Alitalia Cargo I already have). The print of the detail is relatively good, but the Lufthansa Cargo tiles in blue have bled and really could be better. There is absolutely no detail on the underside. I would also say that the Mid Grey of the underbody is far too dark by several shades, never mind the dividing line between the white and the grey being, well less than perfect by some degree. This particular aircraft also seems to have lighter coloured engines in most photographs but that’s more likely to have been a result of nacelle panel changes than the original colour scheme. There is also an unpleasant orange peel in the white at the nose end and grey marks on the white part of the nose.
2) Wings and Underbody
For a cradle method fixing these are well done, with a very tight fit and no real gaps. Plenty of upper wing detail but none underneath and the uppers are well painted. The double winglets however seem overly thick and lack refinement. The hole for the stand is stupidly small and almost unusable. The model actually fell off having at first appeared secure. Fortunately there was no damage.
3) Landing Gear
The main gear is fine and appears little or no different to the Gemini, rolling wheels but fixed bogies. The quality is good. The problem is the hideous nose gear which is just way, way to tall. These late MD-11F’s had a nose gear system that actually had the wheel slightly ahead of the vertical. This is behind the vertical and I actually think its been put in the wrong way round. Even so, it would still be too high and detracts from the models appearance significantly. Worse still the nose gear tyre is lumpy and unsightly – I had to trim some bits off.
The pylons on the wings are very good and the engines (GE CF6-80C2D1F’s) look good from a distance but don’t look too closely. The intake silver edge is pretty poor to be fair and looks rough and a little unsightly; even with the naked eye at a reasonable 12″ distance. The exhaust cones are neat and well painted. The intake on the tail engine is also roughly painted.
5) Tail and stabilisers
Now here we go from one extreme to the other. The underbody may be utterly free of detail, but the tail is exceptionally complex. Phoenix have really gone into the mould detail with an exceptional eye for every nuance. Every last panel shape and contour is is visible – if little heavily painted over. The detail really is excellent but it hardly notices under the heavy dark blue paint. Compared to the Gemini versions it’s a masterpiece of intricacy but not in painting.
I consider the under body grey just too dark. I’ve seen these aircraft in the flesh overhead and at Frankfurt Cargo Centre and they just don’t look that dark. To make the point further, the colour is at least two shades darker than the one they used on the Phoenix 777F in Lufthansa livery. The rest is perfectly acceptable.
7) Out of 10..
Total deductions come to -4 so just 6/10. I am actually disappointed with it, if it hadn’t been really cheap – £22 ($36) including shipping I would send it back. Frankly It’s not my favourite and I really wanted it to be. I have a deep fondness for MD-11’s, they cross that gap from the last century to the new, have something of the almost SciFi about them, I can’t quite put my finger on why I love the look of these things so much. Either way, it stays but I’m not happy with it, its’s one I shall live with but will never be pleased with.
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