Virgin Atlantic 787-9 G-VAHH ‘Dream Girl’ Gemini Jets GJVIR1486 September 2015

Virgin Atlantic is my favourite airline. I have to confess being involved with the airline in several ways indirectly and directly, more so in the last few weeks. The accuracy of this model is something that just matters a great deal to me. G-VNEW, released almost a year ago now, was a disastrously bad model. Retailers told me they had far too many returned to be happy and the packaging was a second rate sub-standard grey box lacking any ID. It was filled with poor build issues and quality problems ran amok. The Phoenix one was better in many ways, but far from perfect. Not only that but they must have made thousands of them, as there are never less than half a dozen always on eBay and they frequently fail to sell.


So to G-VAHH known as Dream Girl. Second of the fifteen initial batch of Dreamliners Virgin Atlantic is using to very rapidly update it’s fleet. Delivered in December 2014. They will directly replace the 5 Heathrow 744’s, all of which will be deleted by the end of February 2016. They have already replaced the A343’s. By November the airline will announce the decision to either continue with more 787’s (I suspect the 787-10 is high on the cards), or go for the A350-1000 to replace the Gatwick 744’s and the A346 fleet at Heathrow. The A380 option will almost certainly be dropped for good. It could well be a substantial order, as on top of the A346 fleet the 10 A333’s will need replacing by 2021-23.

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Out of the standard style box you immediately start to think positive thoughts! One of the first things that strikes you is the second rear roof aerial, previously something Gemini have never bothered with. It is a much smaller aerial than the others and it’s a little bit too vertical on the model, but I admire the fact it’s there and well installed. A definite improvement.

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Another positive is the very greatly improved comms dome – these are not moulded in but basically a pin insert. On close up there are a few excess glue issues but in general, from a naked eye perspective it’s a massive improvement over G-VNEW in both Phoenix and Gemini guise.

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The tamp-printed detail is first rate across the entire fuselage. There are a couple of extremely tiny silver window blurs, but nothing that detracts from the overall finish.

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The main issue with the fuselage is the giant billboard style logo. It was black on G-VNEW which is absolutely incorrect. The colour is supposed to be metallic aubergine, a very dark purple. This is not that. It is, despite the previous error, still black and thefore wrong. It’s extraordinary really because on previous models of Virgin Atlantic aircraft, they’ve always got it right!

You can see the chips in the cockpit windows

The fuselage paint, is a white pearlescent. It is as I have said in the past reviews of G-VNEW and the Phoenix-Gemini comparison test, not a bad colour. It looks the same all of the time. But that is in fact it’s problem. Virgin chose a very specific paint that reflects it’s environment. It can look viciously white in bright sun, yet appear red or orange tinted in some lights. It absorbs and reflects the colours because of the micro-mica in the finish. The Phoenix somehow made this work, the Gemini is just pearly white. I’m not saying it’s bad because of it, all I’m saying is it’s lifeless in comparison.

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2) Wings, underbody & landing gear

The Gemini wings are excellent with good detail and not too buried in glossy white paint. The red tips are first rate and the finish is excellent.

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What doesn’t work again is the cradle fit. At the front of the cradle it’s all very neat and tidy, though the paint on the leading edge looks rough on close examination. It’s actually the rear of the cradle – it just doesn’t even try to match the shape of the fuselage and looks, especially on the starboard side, mildly silly. It sticks out by over 1mm – in scale model terms thats nearly 16″ in the real world.

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The rear cradle fit is not good, and this is the GOOD side!

Other than that the general cradle fit is tight and gap free on the upper join to the fuselage.

Gera is fine, it's the cradle fit that just so disappointing at the back
Gear is fine, it’s the cradle fit that just so disappointing at the back

The landing gear is a total non-issue. Everything is fitted properly and works really well. Tyres and wheels seem fine.

The underbody logo is also the wrong colour and once again, is incorrectly aligned. It’s easy to tell because on the real thing the ‘V’ in Virgin is aligned with the  centre of the ‘V’ matching the fuselage logo (or the C in Atlantic depending which side you’re looking at). It’s effectively a font size too large and too far forward. Jut as it was on G-VNEW.

3) Engines

For some reason the red paint on the engines and tail has too much dust attached to it. Having said that the paint is petty much the right colour and that’s a very good thing. The luscious 1966 Candy Apple Red looks appropriately done here.

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Unlike G-VNEW, this model has the Rolls Royce logos, all 4 of them. The silver paint, a rather dreadful experience on G-VNEW where it was thin and red leaked through, has on this model been resolved. The rims are excellent and the colour into the fans works well enough although really the fans should be a darker titanium colour.

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The engines are also well fitted, they don’t drag on the floor like G-VNEW (or the latest ANZ 787-9). The exhaust cones are also well painted and coloured.

4) Nose detail

In general this is very good, there is one issue however, sadly it’s naked-eye visible. The flight deck window on the starboard side has a couple of small paint chips and the white shows through. The flying lady is also a mildly comedic affair on close up, and frankly I’ve seen Gemini do it better on older models. It’s ok from a distance, but it isn’t quite to the standard I’d expect when so much of the other detail is so good.

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chipped paint in the cockpit window really notices
chipped paint in the cockpit window really notices

5) Tail and stabilisers

From an eyeball perspective it’s exemplary. There is a bit of a dust issue, with some being stuck on the paint, but it’s reasonably easy to bypass it with the naked eye test.

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6) Colours

The red is a pass, it’s a really good match. Body colour, if it was meant to be a fixed white, it’s a pass but it isn’t meant to be so lifeless. While it looks great as a model, it doesn’t represent the real thing quite as it should. The aubergine metallic billboard colour for the large wording on the fuselage is just plain wrong as discussed above.

7) Score and conclusion

-5 for the body colour, – 10 for the logo colour, -3 for the poor fit of the cradle at the rear, -1 for the paint chips in the cockpit window black, -4 for the underbody logo being positioned wrongly and wrong font size. 77%

The score is based on facts and what is visible. The fact is though, that if you’re not being fussy (and I am a nit picking, fussy, detail lover and I don’t care what anyone says about it), it’s an OK model. It is not “as real as it gets”.  No effort has been made to correct glaringly obvious mistakes. It is way better than G-VNEW when it came out last year. If you don’t care about these things and are happy paying high prices for inaccuracies, well that’s your choice, or mine. It’s a good model, just not an accurate one.

In this case because overall the model is actually very good, despite it’s flaws it can stay, because it’s actually just good enough to keep and I rather like it.

Front to back: G-VAHH, G-VNEW, G-VGAS, G-VXSY, EI-DEO. Note how the paint on Phoenix’s G-VNEW and G-VGAS look brighter in the light than the fixed pearly white of G-VAHH

The comparison test:

Gemini v. Phoenix G-VNEW