Flybe Bombardier Dash-8 Q-400 G-JECY Gemini Jets GJBEE1443 May 2015
We don’t often get turbo-props in model releases by the main producers. Flybe is an airline that because of my location in the Centre of the UK, I have to spend a fair bit of time flying with to get to my house in France. I have been on this very aircraft and most of her sisters more times than I care to want to admit.
Now some people think that Dash-8’s are really cool aircraft. Yet it has to be said that they have one of the worst safety records of any modern aircraft. So much so that SAS took all 26 of theirs out of service after an emergency board meeting. Why? Because the suspension on yet another had collapsed on landing, narrowly avoiding casualties. They’d had enough.
Amazingly quick to take off – I find them noisy, uncomfortable and cramped; after over 170 flights on them, they don’t get any better. I’ve compared them to flying in a chicken shed with wings. I often think that’s being generous. Give me an ATR-72-600 any day, a truly excellent and modern experience in comparison.
Flybe are a troubled airline, they became unfocussed and poor management almost took them to the point of bankruptcy during the 2010-12 period. They got through 2013 by will power alone and the transformation plan began. Even that has proven difficult to get through. With dozens of Embraer E-jets on order they no longer needed, a fleet of E-170’s they’d rather get rid of and 5 E-195’s they can’t escape the lease from, it’s been a hard programme of cutbacks. However they did a deal with Republic to offload the E-Jets order in exchange for 24 new Dash-8’s due from now, found routes to employ the E-170’s and opened a base in Cardiff to use the E-195’s on routes to Paris. They ditched their loss making franchise, Flybe Finland and it looks like a transition to an all Dash-8 fleet will be achieved by 2018.
Part of the process is a new livery – isn’t it always? The marketing strapline that drove this is “faster than road or rail” which they have up the side of each engine nacelle and on their general marketing. A striking new purple livery was delivered with a yellow and red strip at the back end. However they still kept the ‘old’ flybe recognition at the tail. A lot of people think this is a special promotional livery, but it’s not. This is intended to be permanent, they just don’t have the money to spend to repaint the fleet as fast as they’d like, but it’s happening slowly.
So what of the model? I often receive Email, DM, Facebook comments & tweets about a model, but this one had a surprising number of them. Everything from wings not being glued on to one having no windows, tail heavy tilting, propellers that drop out and missing wheels. Add to that poor paint finish and general disgruntlement and you have a picture to put this too. I can only show you what I have and tell you what I think about the model in front of me.
This is one of Gemini’s old moulds. They made one Flybe Dash-8 in 1:400 (2008 I believe and another special livery in 2010) and they are very rare and go for a lot of money. G-JECK in the technically old livery cost me £41($64.49) and three attempts before winning one on eBay. This particular mould is OK as they go and the issues tend to be around the tendency to over paint the colour bands at the rear, they look overly thick as a result.
In the photos the windows seem fairly clear and straightforward but in natural light, they look almost invisible on the purple paint. I’ve had two reported to me where they have no windows even printed on. There are a number of small white dots here and there that are part of the overall scheme and they seem fine. The Flybe logo however looks primitive and is complicated by the fact it has windows that run through the middle of it. In reality this looks fine, but on the model it just doesn’t work well.
2) Wings, engines and landing gear
The wings have to be a slot-in type because of the very nature of the STOL principle behind this aircraft. Overhead wings give greater lift over a shorter distance and I have to say, other than what appears to be overly thick paint that obscures almost all detail, they seem OK.
Because the wings and landing gear combine with the engines, unusually I’ve included them all in this section. In reality, the gear drops from the engines in a thudding and surprising way that seems extraordinarily primitive, basically it’s gravity locked. The vertical part of the suspension is at the back. Gemini on this model have inserted the gear so that the wheels lean back behind the centre line – that’s just wrong, they should be vertical. While the engines are well shaped, there is too much paint, but the 6 bladed propellers are fitted in very tightly and show no inclination to fall out, they also turn to touch. (G-JECK they both fell out and had to be glued in eventually).
The nose gear has a tendency to collapse on these Gemini Dash-8’s – it seems to recess itself into the doors, but so far no problem with this model. The underbody has a suitable sized stand hole but it sits right in the middle of a flybe logo. There is no Gemini logo.
The black paint on the leading edges is very poor, too thick, over glossy and has bled horribly into the white. The port stabiliser is not properly inserted so that a black gap can be seen easily and the starboard side has a black mark that looks like paint but is in fact, the underlying metal where the paint has chipped off.
I have to add here that it takes only a tiny vibration to send this model backwards – it’s a chronic tail dipper!
4) The Nose
Overall it’s pretty good, no complaints.
Gemini are particularly good with colours even when the model is bad, this is spot on, so well done Gemini.
6) Score out of 10
-1 for the paint chip and tail stabiliser fit. -0.5 for the overly thick paint used throughout. -0.5 for the misplaced main gear, -0.5 for the very irritating weight distribution issue that causes the tilt back. So, 7.5/10. In essence, it’s good, but it’s not brilliant. Like so many older Gemini’s made to their older standards, it’s just about commercially acceptable. The most annoying thing is that visible chip on the starboard side upper tail above the stabiliser. Gemini can do better. Having said that, I’m happy enough with it and like everything else, you get used to foibles and annoyances. If we didn’t we’d never buy much would we?