Aeroflot Cargo MD-11F VP-BDP Gemini Jets GJAAFL887 (2008)

Quite bizarrely (and this sort of odd coincidence happens with peculiar regularity), this arrived with another model the same day Aeroflot announced its buyout of TransAero. Some say this model dates back to 2008. If so, and if the 1500 production run is to be believed, it can’t really have sold very well. They’re always on eBay for more money than I would pay and there was a 2014 Phoenix version of the same thing. In any event, there are still new boxed stock lying about and Airspotters.com got hold of some for bargain prices. After discounts this cost just £16.94 ($25.88) Gemini list it as still available at $36.95. It’s one I wanted but never got round to. Love or loathe modern Russia and its bizarre and damaging global theatrics, Aeroflot’s livery is pretty cool.

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I also love the MD-11F, it looks like something that should never be allowed to leave the airline world, tri-jets always look so modern and yet so dated. I love them.

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This particular aircraft is now in storage at Victorville (since 2013). Previously leased from owners BCC, she is Bermuda registered, having been delivered to Aeroflot on 3rd December 2007. Prior to that she spent January 1999 until 2007 as a Varig passenger aircraft. Before that she spent 1998-99 in Hong Kong with no engines and then underwent flight testing for the approach system at the new airport, working for Kuta One Aviation Company. She was built in 1992 and supplied to Garuda Indonesia in late 1993 as PK-GIG on lease from BCC who seem to have owned her from day one. She wasn’t actually handed over for almost a year after build as there were issues with the wing fins that took time to resolve. While she may have reached the end of her life, she’s had an interesting career.

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So to the model, and bearing in mind it’s alleged vintage, how good is it?

1)Fuselage

I don’t have any issues with the main fuselage at all. This cargo aircraft was a conversion, and with almost all of the converts you can see the old windows in the bodywork. More modern printing methods allow these to be shown faintly, but the only indication is the mark lines for the over-wing exit doors. To be fair the windows that were left in the conversion are easily visible. Not a complaint, an observation only. Generally speaking she is exceptionally neat and the paint and detail is applied to a very high standard.

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Aeroflots livery looks particularly good on the MD-11F

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2)Wings and landing gear

This cradle mould wing system appears to be tightly secured with little to cause upset, however it helps that the dark blue covers the underneath and thus obscures the gaps, though these are minimal. The downside is the upper mould, where the wing root meets the fuselage; it just doesn’t match the fuselage at the front end and you can see easily through from one side to the other. The Phoenix mould uses a similar system and it fits perfectly, whereas the more recent UPS MD-11F from Gemini is better, but still you can see through it. It’s just not clever and I expect better. Precision mould making is supposed to be what we’re paying for.

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Another visible but minor issue is that the red winglets are not well painted. I say minor because the area covered is small, but to be fair they notice – it’s a bright colour and when it’s incomplete you can see it easily.

The detail on the wings is good, a little heavy on the paint perhaps, but nothing to complain about.

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The landing gear is very much old-style Gemini; tyre on a spigot, but they do all rotate and painlessly so. The bogies are rigidly fixed in place. The nose gear however suffers from the very same Phoenix issue on the Lufthansa MD-11F D-ALCN, it’s way to tall and forces the nose up. It’s odd because the gear doors are all where they should be and none of the other Gemini MD-11F’s have this specific issue and this is my fifth (though I did sell the Alitalia recently).

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3)Engines

The wing mounted engines are not at all bad, a little silver has come off – this seems to be an issue where it’s rubbed on the supposedly protective packaging again. (Talking packaging this had two blue and two clear plastic containers, one on top of the other). In general, the engines are well done but not perfect. The tail engine intake is  not brilliantly painted on the inner edge, too much blue shows through. Applying silver to glossy paint never works well.

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On a separate note, the engineering that must have gone into the tail design to both support the engine and tail, as well as deal with the thrust and stress, must be something special. I must look into it one day. MD-11F’s are notoriously different to pilot. To make the fuel economics work, wings and tail area were heavily modified from the MD-10 with a result that they they require special landing techniques and a deep understanding of how they function on take off and approach.

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4) Nose detail

No issues at all, love the different coloured nose dome.

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5) Tail and stabilisers

This is a little bit of old Gemini to remind us how tediously naff they can be at times.The starboard side has a bizarre grey paint blur at the rear base of the vertical and a fingerprint in the paint.  The glue that fixes the tail in is visible and it simply shouldn’t be. Other than that it’s all pretty good.

Thumb print in the paint.
Thumb print in the paint.

6)Colour

Overall, with the exception of the paint blur and fingerprint, it’s a superb colour and the paint, including the silver grey is a good match. Gemini at their best. Until you get the A321 (a Witty) and A330 (Gemini) and realise that not one is the same silver as the other two. The A321 is about four shades brighter and the A330 2 shades.

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7)Score and conclusion

If this had been full retail in the UK (around £29+), I just wouldn’t have bought it and that’s why I never have. It’s not essential to have it in the collection (which is now about 20% cargo aircraft). At this price I find I can’t complain. In UK law the price you pay for something is highly relevant to the standards you should expect relative to the goods purchased. This is worth what I paid but not what I could have paid, if you get what I mean. Having said that it’s either 7 years since it was manufactured or it’s a second or third generation re-release. Who knows? If you do, tell me!

In terms of score, the nose gear is a -5, the fingerprint and glue/paint blur combination -15 and the engine rim paint -3, poor red finish on the winglets -2. So 75%.  Pretty much around what I’d expect from a 2008 era model from Gemini. In all honesty the thing that hacks me off most about it is the nose gear. From a reasonable distance it’s the one thing that really looks odd.

In any event, it still looks an amazing aircraft, sad that it’s days are over and along with many more MD-11F’s over the next five years, their days in active service are diminishing rapidly. In a market totally dominated by Boeing, 767F’s and smaller numbers of 777F’s will replace them as the years pass. I wish someone would do a model of an A332F. They don’t make many but it would be nice to have one. It would mean a new mould because of the huge nose gear dome, so it’ll never happen.

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