Cathay Pacific 777-300ER B-KQX “50th 777” Phoenix PH04071 July/August 2015

I love Cathay Pacific as an airline. It’s roots are as far back in the days of Imperialism and the British Empire as it’s possible to get. The Swire Group who own it are a long established company of British traders that go back into the Victorian era. It may not be obvious in this day and age, and particularly unfashionable in modern communist China controlled Hong Kong, where the past is not something to be discussed. Barnaby Swire is still it’s Chairman and the family is very much in control of the company, though day to day operations are down to the airlines management team.

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The latest group brand identity “freeing the bird” as they call it – releasing it from the constraints of the box used in the old logo. It’s supposed to represent open minded thinking and out-of-the-box ideas. This hasn’t yet been foisted upon the airline, hopefully they won’t bother as I think the current livery, despite it’s age is both classic and classy and never seems to date.

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Partly it’s background is why it still has such a large cargo fleet – one of the largest 748F operators, it’s long been a customer of Boeing for it’s larger aircraft. It’s also been at the leading edge of appreciating the need for change, already disposing of its 744 passenger  & A346 fleets (it’s still running 8 A343’s), and is the worlds largest operator of the 773ER (64 in service and planned at todays date) as well as 5 772’s. This model is it’s 50th 773 operational example.  Cathay pacific it isn’t completely committed to Boeing, being one of the few major airlines not to adopt the 787, preferring the A333 (43 still operating out of 55 purchased), for regional operations. Its main aircraft addition will be the A350 in 2016 with 48 on order, and it’s already expressed interest in the 777x.

The airline is a paragon of quality service and product offerings, repeatedly winning many awards. It’s a member of OneWorld despite having a number of clashes with Qantas over the years that have made it reconsider the benefit of the alliance.

Around 18 months ago JC Wings produced the really lovely 773ER Spirit of Hong Kong liveried B-KPB, I felt it was time to buy a standard livery aircraft so committed to buy B-KQX from Phoenix, (this was a couple of months ago before the Asiana A330 and WOW A321 disasters). Two more different moulds you’d be hard pressed to find.

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1) Fuselage

Inserted wings, twin rear aerials, etc etc. Yet they are the right way round and correctly, tightly, fitted!  It’s actually not a bad fuselage, with generally crisp detail and nothing too disturbing to worry about. However the underbody colour is incorrect, being too much towards the grey rather than light grey-green.

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Other issues, minor ones I’ll grant you, are the ‘Hong Kong Asia’s world city’ tiles behind door 1, which are rather weak dot-matrix affairs and lack clarity as a result.

2) Wings, underbody & landing gear

Much of the upper wing mould detail has been completely lost through the over zealous use of gloss paint again. There is almost no visible detail under the wing, it too, is totally obscured by heavy gloss paint. The printed-on detail seems excellent. The colour of the wing paint is considerably lighter on the new model, compared to the JC Wings  and it doesn’t have the definition in colour and print either.

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The left landing gear is not well fitted to the wing and there is a lack of paint at the bottom edges of the doors. The whole thing is  typical of many shoddily made pieces Phoenix have fitted in the past. It is not however suffering with zinc rot as we’ve seen on some, but it is regardless a very poor attempt at model making.

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The other issue, and one that continues to plague many models is the failure to be able to sit on the thin armed metal stand. It would only sit, and with some difficulty, on the thick chrome presentation stand. The hole is too small and too shallow to be of real use. This annoys me as the ability to have models in flight mode matters to many collectors, especially if you’ve got your own diorama.

3) Engines

These pass the eyeball test, just. The issue is the chipped paint on the inner rim of the intakes. very, very small pieces have come off – but mostly on the top inner rim. As the tendency to look down on the model prevails the only way you notice it is by turning it over. It still isn’t as good as it could be.

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These GE power plants are very, very large engines and they have a deep recess that should be the same as the intake rim. The fans are then titanium – a deep almost blue-black. The inner colour on the model is a silver-grey mix. More to the point the engine nacelles are completely the wrong colour, matching the underbody – The JC Wings Spirit model was vastly superior in this respect and the difference between the two is clear.

4) Nose detail

It’s actually all very good, what I don’t like though is the excessively thick flight deck silver outline, it’s just too much.

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5) Tail detail

While general very good the port side stabiliser is not correctly inserted, with a gap of about half a millimetre. Because the area is white, a black gap of any size seems more pronounced.

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6) Colours

Well what can you expect when Phoenix are responsible? The dark green and mid-light green are fine, but the underbody/engine colour is nowhere near right, but it is the same as the 748F model they also produced.

You can see the engine colours are quite different
You can see the engine colours are quite different

7) Scores and conclusions

First the colour fail is a -10, it’s way out. -5 for over-painted wings, -3 for the less than perfect stabiliser fit, -5 for the gear doors not having paint at the bottom edge, -5 for one side gear not being fitted properly. So 72%. It’s not terrible but it’s far from brilliant. It only highlights that Phoenix at their best now seem mediocre. A year ago they were riding a wave of superbly brilliant models. Not any more.

I know I’ll get use to it and accept the differences, but as usual my argument is that these models are way to expensive to even have one tiny fault. Less than perfect isn’t acceptable, even if it isn’t realistic to expect it all of the time. The trouble is we aren’t seeing it at all at present.

748F, 773 Spirit and the latest 773 50th 777
748F, 773 Spirit and the latest 773 50th 777

What I’d like to know is what happened a year ago to those stunningly good Witty 1:400 moulds for the 777, A380, 787, and 737? What I wouldn’t pay to see some of those back in use – by someone new who actually gives a damn.

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