This was ordered at the same time as the disastrous Asiana A333. It was also delayed with it, largely due to quality issues, having been released in April for May and not delivered until June. I was minded at the time of the delay to cancel the models and decided that if they (Phoenix) had had the balls to delay it having detected quality issues, well then the final result would be so much better. How wrong was I? In the case of the Asiana it was the worst model I have ever seen Phoenix produce. In the case of the Thomas Cook (also made in the Condor livery), it’s slightly better news.
Whereas Thomson as part of the Tui Group will be eliminated as a brand and formed into a pan-European Tui identity keeping the same livery but loosing the Thomson name, Thomas Cook has the same livery as German counterpart Condor, but seems set to keep its English heritage. Oddly enough I’ve noticed as we reach peak holiday season, that many TC flights in the UK are using Condor aircraft – D-ABOJ the 753 so poorly modelled by Gemini in August 2014 (full review here: Condor 753 D-ABOJ), is a regular visitor to BHX and MAN.
The aircraft itself is leased from Air Castle Ltd and was delivered to Thomas Cook in May 2014.
In all fairness it is for the most part very good in the fine detail. What doesn’t work so well is the way the pale grey overlaps the yellow at the rear. Why the yellow band was applied so wide that it became necessary to overpaint the light grey by as much as 2mm I can’t fathom. The result is it looks slightly odd in the light as there is in effect a ‘bump’ in the colour.
The mould itself is a good one and I’ve always liked the Phoenix A321 as a model. The aerials, three up top and one below, are quite small and look better than on the earlier A321 (Finnair and the one they produced for Gemini in AA livery), which were a little heavier.
2) Wings, Underbody & landing gear
Push in wings are well fitted and well detailed though there were excessive strands of glue (you can see one in the photo hanging from the wing, I left it to prove the case). The paint isn’t so heavy that it’s become a problem either, detail is good and not obscured by over-glossed paint. The sharklets are too thick in my opinion, but rather that than they were too thin and easily damaged so perfectly acceptable. The graphics on them are excellent.
The hole for the stand was an issue yet again, being way too small for the thinnest of the Gemini stands and required some rasp work to widen it. I shouldn’t have to be doing this.
The metal landing gear is good but the port side set are slightly bent where the axle for the wheels goes through. Tyres on wheels though is always a welcome sight. The nose wheel positioned but the tyres are lumpy on one side or almost too thin on the other. Now you do need to see that under photographic conditions but it looks again like nobody really checked or considered it an issue. Poor QC.
You can say I’m being picky (and I am), but gram for gram these A321 models cost more than an A380. The engines may be small but Phoenix have done some superb examples of them on earlier models so we know they can be better.
From a distance you may not notice, but Phoenix have gotten so good in the past at making tiny detail work well for them, adding a patina of thought and quality. This time they have let that slip as with so much else. There is way to much dust in the paint, a white chip in the silver rim notices despite being very small and a black mark on top of both engines is also visible. Add to this a slight yellow blurring into the silver and it’s not perfect. Yes I am demanding high standards. Why not? These are pricey, collectors models that feed a passion for the aviation industry in general and we have seen better, so I don’t expect any less than the best Phoenix have previously produced.
4) Tail & Stabilisers
Take a look inside the circle of this photo. Masses of glue strands, hairs stuck in the tail, dust trapped under the paint. Anyone would think the Gemini made this a year ago with D-ABOJ. Big black rubber mould blobs are stuck on the tail too. It’s exceptionally poor and displays inept quality control because it’s far to easy to see with the naked eye. Now, it is actually removable with some blu-tack without damaging the paint. Leave it on overnight and in the morning its bonded to the glue and surface dust and off it comes. But yet again, I shouldn’t have to do this! It’s far too expensive to be this bad.
5) Nose detail
The flight deck window frames are normally a Phoenix strong point but not on this model. While not very good, it’s hard to tell form an eyeball perspective. What is unacceptable is the black blur of paint that looks like one of the Night Watch fell off The Wall into the planes windows and was well and truly splattered.
Almost remarkably Phoenix have managed to match the colours correctly! Never a Phoenix strong point, this time it sits next to the Gemini 753 D-ABOJ and you wouldn’t know the difference in colour. Miracles can happen.
7) And out of 10
Firstly, I’m not sending this model back despite the temptation to do so. If it had been the victim of structural failure in any way, it would have passed that threshold and I would have returned it. While I don’t like some of the faults, I’ve been able to do something about most of them. -2 for the tail mess, -0.5 for the marks on the starboard engine, -0.5 for the flight deck window mess, -0.5 for the stand hole being too small, -0.5 for the port side main gear wheels being off kilter. -0.25 for the rubber issues on the nose gear wheels, -0.25 for the glue threads on the wings. 5.5/10 that’s actually the worst score of anything I’ve reviewed to date that hasn’t been sent back. It’s even beaten Gemini’s lowest.
Phoenix need to get their act together. I’ve got four more to review in the coming week and 2 Gemini – the A350 will be here Tuesday. Phoenix have fallen so far and so fast that it is verging on being incomprehensible. What do they think they are doing? Last year they produced one of the best models I have ever seen in the ANZ 787-9, a flawless example of what they can achieve, it was the total opposite of what Gemini were turfing out and the peak of Phoenix model making. The Asiana A330 and this A321, never mind the Turkish 777 SFO have done nothing more than prove Phoenix have totally failed to maintain standards, and have lost almost all credibility. While their standards and colours have been variable they now seem to be destined to dive into the gutter of poor quality and mediocre production values.
Get a grip Phoenix, wake up and smell the proverbial coffee – I’m not the only one who’s noticed these appalling quality issues. A lot of your buyers don’t have money to throw around and a purchase from you is a choice to use hard earned cash on something they really want. And you aren’t giving it to them. Expect to see your sales fall and minds change as Gemini take back their crown and your sub-standard values and products fall by the wayside. I sincerely hope you’ve got a recycler at your factory – it’s where many of these atrocious models belong, either that or in a skip.