Azul A330-200 PR-AIV “Brazilian Flag” Phoenix 11102 May 2015

Azul A330-243 PR-AIV “Brazilian Flag” Phoenix 11102 May 2015

This one has been on my highly desirable list for ages. I think its a stunning and clever livery for what is fast becoming one of the worlds most interesting airlines. Lets face it with David Neeleman the original founder of JetBlue behind it it was bound to work. It will be interesting to see what happens to TAP Portugal now that he and in effect, Azul have taken it over, the Portuguese government has sold its 61% share to them.

The beautiful Azul A332
The beautiful Azul A332

After the less than satisfactory TC A321 and the appallingly bad Asiana A333, I really want this one to be good. It matters, because it’s one of my all time favourite special liveries. Utilising Brazil’s wonderful national flag and wrapping around the fuselage is a superb idea.

This aircraft was built in 2003 and is currently leased from ILFC Ireland, having served as F-OMEC for Middle East Airlines (Beirut, Lebanon), then as A9C-KI for Gulf Air (Bahrain). She spent a spell in storage following Gulf-Airs’ near collapse during the recession and then was delivered to Azul 13th August 2014 and is named Naçao Azul.  The model was also produced by Aeroclassics in very small numbers last year. In a mildly ironic twist I have her in the Gemini produced F-OMEC MEA livery as well.

Azul Brazilian Flag livery with standard livery behind
Azul Brazilian Flag livery with standard livery behind

1) Fuselage

The general detail is excellent and in terms of window and wording/lettering detail this is first class, much more to the standards I’ve come to expect from Phoenix last year. Despite the relative complexity of the graphic with stars colour and wording, they have used a print method to apply the whole thing and they’ve done it extremely well. The design which cleverly allows the “Ordem e progresso” that spans the equator line of the flag to curve up and over the wing root is inspired and well executed. The minor downside is this tendency to apply a colour then over-print it by such a wide margin in leaves a rib – the yellow to green transition seems particularly effected where it jointly covers the base blue.

Three aerials up top and one below are the newer smaller types and look all the better for it though they aren’t quite set right they do seem fixed and unlikely to fall out.

The small moulded-in dome at the front is very neat as a light colour on a sea of deep blue.

Less than amused by the loose wing.
Less than amused by the loose wing.

2) Wings, underbody & landing gear

The starboard wing was slightly bent again but a judicious pressure applied mid-wing brings it back into line. This must be  mould issue – it almost never seems to happen with the port side. I’ve got twenty Phoenix A330’s and this has affected all of those built since mid 2014. It certainly isn’t an issue on the Gemini’s. JC Wings or Aeroclassics.

The worst part of this model – and it’s not the first time this has happened is that the port wing is loose, moving about a good 2mm.  I can either pull it out and glue it or just leave it as it seems unlikely to drop out. This shouldn’t be happening! It isn’t good enough and shows extremely lax quality control.

While the writing on the upper wing surfaces is excellent – and I have to say the wing tip sharklets with the Brazilian flag are exceptionally well done for the scale, the over-glossed heavily painted wings again obscure detail.

IMGP8163 - Version 2

I’m going to do an article in week or so showing how this over glossing and poor mould finish on the bits you can’t see is the cause of so many of these wing problems on the A330 and how simple it would be for Phoenix to fix.

Amazingly – and you have to ask how this one is any different to the others, the stand hole is perfectly acceptable, and to my amazement is almost too big! Sometimes you just have to shrug your shoulders, shake your head and think, “I SO want to go to that fracking factory and sort it out”. Then breathe.

Exceptionally neat small detail.
Exceptionally neat small detail.

Landing gear – the main gear is fine, one of the tyres is a little lumpy. The nose gear again has pretty rubbish tyres, being lumpy on one side and so thin on the other it wobbles. I love the fact Phoenix bother to make wheels and put tyres on them, but they need to sort these front tyres out. At least the gear isn’t falling out.

Well done except for the nick in the intake rim
Well done except for the nick in the intake rim

3) Engines

This is a complex print for the 2x RR Trent 772B-60’s as it has to have the mechanical detail printed under the livery. This they have just about managed. However the green-blue-silver rim paint isn’t ideal – the yellow seems to go a bit transparent on the blue, but it is more than passable to the naked eye. Annoyingly this is marred slightly by a visible nick in the silver rim paint that goes down all the way to the plastic base on the inner part of the No.2 engine and the outer of No1 – oddly both in exactly the same place. Otherwise, despite a little too much trapped dust, they are quite good.

The odd blur is actually invisible to the naked eye.
The odd blur is actually invisible to the naked eye.

4) Nose detail

Very crisp and clean print detail for the flight deck and a fully legible print of the aircraft name, even the styled Brazil with it’s mosaic states looks very good for the scale. The nose dome detail, despite the deep blue, is well done and visible.  What is odd is that the photos there is a very visible blemish that runs from the door handles on door 1 through the ‘u’ in Azul. This is completely invisible to the naked eye.

So nearly perfect but that yellow paint mark is annoyingly visible.
So nearly perfect but that yellow paint mark is annoyingly visible.

5) Tail and stabilisers

Very clean and very high quality detail marred by some clumsy paintwork. The tail has a frame of green and yellow and again, the yellow has a rather visible thin look and works poorly on the blue and green. A yellow mark stands out of place on the deep blue. That’s the only thing that visibly degrades the tail. Despite the yellow’s weakness it’s actually not a visible issue unless you look very closely.

6) Colours

Once again, Phoenix seem to have got the colours right – proving that with some application and research they can actually manage it. I congratulate them on a job well done.

small issues don't take away from what is a stunning livery
small issues don’t take away from what is a stunning livery

7) And the score out of 10…

-0.5 for the excessive paint on the wings, -1 for the loose wing, -0.25 for the nose gear tyres, -0.25 for the tail paint issue and -0.5 for the chips out of each engine nacelles paint. 7.5/10   Without the wing issue this would have been a highly respectable 8.5. 7.5 is a good pass mark, and in general it’s a good model I am very pleased with, but big structural failures like loose wings  are just not good enough. It doesn’t matter that I can and have fixed it. These aren’t kits or snap together plastic! They are professional, quality, expensive fully finished replicas of real aircraft. That’s what we pay for and that’s what we expect to get.

Some of the retailers I speak too tell me that depending on the batch, they send up to 20% of their models back for easily spotted broken parts. Many actually take the box, open it and check every model – they shouldn’t feel they need to. They certainly shouldn’t have to, but they do. 

Quality is everything. Consistent, reliable, dependable, quality. Phoenix need to re-learn the lesson they clearly understood 12 months ago, and fast.