Who makes the best 1:400 A380?

Gemini's British Airways G-XLEA
Gemini’s British Airways G-XLEA

I know a lot of people don’t much care for the A380 and in 1:400 as a collector, it is a pretty expensive investment in both money and space. I’ve got ten of the things now and am looking at another three more in the long term, as Transaero get their’s (now looking more like 2016 than 2015 after Airbus agreed in principle yesterday to delay delivery while the airline goes through difficulties, ironically due to Western imposed sanctions on Russia over the endless attacks on the Ukraine).

Gemini's Emirates - an unusually good model for the period
Gemini’s Emirates – an unusually good model for the period

The others that will be added are the re-branded Malaysian Airlines when they get their new livery and the livery of whoever takes on the two A380’s Malaysia either sells or leases out. Another exception would be if someone (Phoenix) made a Virgin Atlantic 1:400 fantasy model. They’ve done a 1:200 so why not? I’d love one.

The one thing from the start of the A380 models I’ve collected has been the very noticeable inconsistency in shape. The Gemini one never really looked right, but until I purchased a Witty I never realised how different it was from the real thing. Later the JC Wings one came along and while it uses a Gemini mould, it’s even worse looking than the Gemini. Now I have the Phoenix mould in the guise of the Thai A380, the poor moulds really stand out from the others, and the Phoenix, while closest by a wide margin is more accurately the least worst rather than the best.

JC Wings poor Qatar A380, even at this any;e the nose looks badly wrong
JC Wings poor Qatar A380, even at this angle the nose looks badly wrong

Strangely the main part of the fuselage is where they get these things right, it’s everything at the nose end that is, often, laughably wrong.

Geminis Qantas good but not brilliant
Geminis Qantas good but not brilliant

This is the judge, a real image of an A380, in this case a Lufthansa. This is the accurate shape the others need to adhere to.

The base for comparison is the real life Lufthansa A380
The base for comparison is the real life Lufthansa A380

Each one was photographed against the same background, from the same range and then cut out of its image. They were then scaled up to the point where they best fit the real thing. That would reveal any odd shapes, poor fit and general flaws. It’s quite surprising to see how different they are. Even allowing for my shakey cutouts, some of them are not brilliant:

1) Gemini fits well along the base and around the nose base, but fails the “dolphin” nose test and then lacks height in the overall fuselage. This mould is better than the earlier BA A380 which is mildly less accurate around the nose.

Gemini Jets, in this case the recent Etihad
Gemini Jets, in this case the recent Etihad

2) This is the JC Wings version. It’s closeness to the Gemini is obvious but the indent where the flight deck is and the steeper rise – almost like a forehead bulge is something I’ve seen on three examples of this model. A mould vagary? Who knows but either way compared to the others this is by far the worst A380 out of all ten.

JC Wings Qatar A380
JC Wings Qatar A380

3) The late lamented Witty. these were expensive models but the quality and build, print and finish, superb engines, well just something special. However, while the nose mould is by far the most accurate and the flight deck the best positioned, even allowing for my dodgy hand tracking of the top edge, the fuselage height is way out of proportion from the minute it passes the flight deck windows.

Witty Wings China Southern A380
Witty Wings China Southern A380

4) The Phoenix in the guise of Thai Airlines. this one has to be the closest overall to meeting all the requirements but it’s still not perfect.The nose fits and is only a tad out but along with the others it fails to match the full height of the fuselage.

Phoenix manage the best overall shape
Phoenix manage the best overall shape

In terms of fit, general quality and detail, the winner is the Witty. The China Southern, Korean and Singapore Airlines versions of them are simply magnificent, from the packaging (foam filled huge boxes), to the exceptional paint detail and the awesome see-through engines. The JC Wings Qatar was a massive disappointment, its quality and finish poor and the shape of the nose so visibly incorrect that even a novice would know it was wrong. Gemini have improved their A380’s dramatically since the first BA A380 G-XLEA, better landing gear, better finish and overall quality. The Etihad proved that. yet in the end it was the Phoenix that came out as almost right and its not a bad model overall.

The gorgeous China Southern by Witty
The gorgeous China Southern by Witty
Gemini's excellent Etihad
Gemini’s excellent Etihad

An Interesting aside: The Gemini models weigh 354g give or take 2g either way. The JC Wings weighed in at 358g. The Witty a massive 373g. Yet the Phoenix is very different and maybe that’s why they got the shape right – it’s obviously hollow and weighs in at just 214g.

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4 thoughts on “Who makes the best 1:400 A380?

  1. G’day,

    The Phoenix model isn’t hollow, it’s just cast with an aluminium base mix, rather then the more traditional zinc diecast mix. That’s what accounts for it being lighter in weight.

    Cheers Lou

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