Gulf Air A330-243 A9C-KB Grand Prix 2015 Phoenix 11099 April 2015

Gulf Air A332 in Bahrain 2015 F1 Grand Prix livery

Gulf Air A332 in Bahrain 2015 F1 Grand Prix livery

This was a must buy from the moment it came out. Gulf Air have done some great liveries over the years, especially on the old A343’s but this one stood out. i don’t usually buy aircraft with liveries that have specific years on them as they date so fast – running the principle of an “operational airport diorama” they soon look a bit out of place. So here we have an exception. She’s a 1999 build and previously operated as A4O-KB for the same airline until 2007 when she was re-registered following Gulf Air’s near collapse. Unusually for a Gulf airline it has not been very successful. She was painted into this livery in June 2014.

 1) Fuselage

The Gold is a standard type in the “antique gold” range so not difficult to get right. The Graphics are well applied and tidy, crisp even with the chequered flag running from underneath onto the spine and meeting the red-white track kerb markings. If you’re an F-1 fan (and I am), it makes for a great livery, somewhat less over-bearing than the Etihad A346.

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I actually prefer the Phoenix mould for A332’s over the Gemini one which has an odd shape nose – I can’t quite work out what I don’t like about it but it just seems wrong. Phoenix have bothered to add the comms dome and three aerials – you won’t see the middle one because it was never there on this model – it wasn’t even in the box to put back on. There appears to be no glue marks, just a hole which fortunately is on the black markings of the livery and doesn’t notice.

On the subject of the aerials, the front one is normal, the middle one is missing, the rear one seems to have sunk into the hole and just to top it off the bottom one that was there when it was unpacked has dropped out – again no sign of any glue at all. If this was a plain livery these would be catastrophically bad – simply because holes would be visible and the aerials would be key detail. Oddly enough on this, the one that leaves a visible hole is underneath and pretty much out of sight, so it’s not the worst thing in the world but it’s far from being satisfactory at this price range, £34 ($51US)!

 2) Wings, Underbody & Landing Gear

The wings are slot in but the underneaths are overpainted and over glossy. The top is a bit over-glossy for my liking but there is adequate detail. Small logos have been well printed into the A332’s winglets. The underbody is plain and the landing gear rigid metal but well detailed. All of the wheels seem to rotate properly and the tyres are good. The nose wheel is flimsy, the wheels seem weak.

Too much paint under the wings and it's incredibly glossy
Too much paint under the wings and it’s incredibly glossy

Another issue was yet again the hole for the stand didn’t fit – at all this time. I had to use a small bradle with a rasp edge to carefully remove enough paint in the hole to get the stand in. Even with the paint gone it was an exceptionaly tight fit. This is simply not good enough.

Getting the stand to fit was unnecessary hard work on something this expensive
Getting the stand to fit was unnecessary hard work on something this expensive

3) Engines

Rolls Royce Trent 772B-60 engines power this and they look perfectly fine, they pass the naked eye test in general but the silver paint on the intake rims is verging on poor – they clearly painted onto the red when wet again, but it’s far from being bad. The worst element of all this is that the the nacelles are good but the ailerons that hold them onto the wing look rough – brushed hand painted marks look visible with the naked eye, but they are again not the worst ever seen by a long way.

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4) Tail and stabilisers

The golden falcon of the standard livery has deployed surprisingly well onto the tail, not an easy feat with the colour mix.  Overall neat and tidy, with good graphics.

The tail's golden falcon worked reasonably well on the gold base colour
The tail’s golden falcon worked reasonably well on the gold base colour

5) Nose detail

The printed detail, including the flight deck is excellent, fine detail for the most part and easily passes the eyeball test.

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6) Colour

Really for once I don’t have any issues with colours, it’s a good match and because it’s so affected by light it’s almost impossible to work out from photos what’s right and what’s wrong in respect of the gold, so it seems perfectly OK. The rest of it seems just as good.

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7) Out of 10…

First off the aerials issue is a minus 1.5. The under-wing paint is a -0.5 for being too heavy. Another -0.5 for the flimsy nose gear and another -0.5 for the poor stand hole. So overall a 7.0/10. I consider that disappointing. Phoenix seem to be treading a fine line and they are very close to becoming unacceptable on a regular basis. Indeed I find I am more often disappointed with what they produce than I am overwhelmed with joy. What happened to the quality we saw on the first A350’s or the the outstanding ANZ All-Black 787-9? They seem to be going slowly down hill and I find that very annoying and very sad. It’s made even worse by the fact that just as Phoenix begin the slide down hill, Gemini seem to be making big efforts to push up the quality of their models. Next on the list of reviews is the American Airlines 757-200w which will demonstrate quite how far things have come.

Edit: I must add that I complained about this model to my retailer and he refunded £8 ($12) of the cost which I consider fair, he also told me he’d been compiling a list of complaints about Phoenix models to send to them. 

On stand...
On stand…

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