Finnair A350-900 OH-LWA Phoenix 11156 September 2015

What could possibly go wrong? This aircraft is brand new, the livery is simple in the extreme the detail images available have been good enough to get it right and all Phoenix have to do is build it properly.

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The first of a series for Finnair to replace their aged A343 fleet, these are designed to take them back to North America and Asian markets in a way that will truly rival their main competition. Finnair, when not in a labour dispute (almost as often as Lufthansa), needs to leap ahead if it’s to survive. It’s main market is to act as a bridge to Asia, especially China/Korea/Japan, encouraging people to choose its superior services by flying in on the latest A321’s from places like Heathrow and effortlessly transferring to the A350 for the onward journey.  You have to be good if you expect an indirect flight to appeal. In fairness to Finnair, when they operate at their best, that’s exactly what they are, very, very good.

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Cool white-grey interiors, mood lights, superb seats and quality service, along with easy transfers at Helsinki-Vantaa make it a viable proposition.

So it’s a good job then that Airbus built the aircraft and not Phoenix, because if the real thing was built to the standards of the model, they’d go out of business in a week.

The principles I try to employ are point out all the good and the bad (sadly this is often mostly bad), then score it based on what you can see with the naked eye. If it’s generally visible from 12-24 inches with the naked eye, that’s a down score.

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At first everything looks alright, but it arrived on the day of the real aircraft’s maiden flight, just before I went to Amsterdam so there was no time to really look. Now I have.


I’ve already gone, in depth into the fact the nose and fuselage are fundamentally incorrect here – but so is the Gemini, neither have the shape or dimensions correctly modelled, especially at the nose. That being said, they resemble an A350, at least as far as anyone is ever going to make one now.

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Phoenix do have the better model overall, in principle, but in execution, this as with almost everything that comes out of Phoenix these days, is far from excellent.

just atrociously botched
just atrociously botched

While the dome on top sits neatly into the fuselage you can clearly see the front of it has paint issues from a couple of feet away. The aerials are all fixed in (three up, two below), a problem that beset thousands of models when first introduced, but now thankfully, seems to be mostly resolved.  What is not is the thin paint on the aerials and the holes they have to sink them into.

The print is not brilliant
The print is not brilliant

The giant FINNAIR in dark blue appears correctly coloured and positioned, but there is a lack of crispness to the print both on visual and close up examination. Doors and windows all seem well produced.

2) Wings and landing gear

Phoenix use slot in-wings and these are a highlight. Their mould for the wingtips and the wings in general is exemplary. Those wing tips are a delicate twist and curve Phoenix have managed well. The paint they use is far too glossy and as usual covers much of the small detail. It’s too model-like in this respect, there must be another way of painting these that looks more realistic? Gemini do manage it from time to time, so why not Phoenix?

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superbly done tip mould
superbly done tip mould

The landing gear is fitted into the mould points correctly but both sets of bogies are misaligned and at least one tyre on each has a massive lump of spigot rubber still attached.

Just so bad I can hardly describe it!
Just so bad I can hardly describe it!
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on which planet does this class as acceptable model making?

The landing gear doors are simply atrocious. Phoenix have continued to use nasty little bits of rotting metal, covered up with blobby paint to make up for the production failing. Appallingly bad on both sides, Phoenix are still producing this dross and clearly couldn’t give a toss about what they look like.

The nose gear appears to be OK.

3) Engines

These remain a highlight, expertly assembled, nicely painted and that see-through element just adds to the quality. Once again, a beautiful bit of model making in one area, ruined by zinc-rotted gear doors just a couple of centimetres away.

Engines are fine, but the landing gear....
Engines are fine, but the landing gear….

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4) Nose detail

As so often seems to happen on Phoenix models, the paint is a mess at the front end, white gloss has run and is full of ripple marks. The WA is not centred above the flight deck windows, which is accurate, but it’s very faint. There is a lack of crispness to the window frames that Phoenix used to do so well. Another issue is the rub mark from the packaging on the paint above the windows. All of these can be seen with the naked eye with little effort.

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5) Tail and stabilisers

Unimpressive. The port stabilisers paint where it meets the fuselage and the vertical fin have visibly cracked paint. The ‘F’ in the tail has white paint lumps in it, some of them are probably glue. The starboard stabiliser is atrocious, with glue and dust under the white paint that’s simply unacceptable and very visible. Very poor all round, very disappointing and shows a continued deterioration in Phoenix quality.

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6) Colours.

Blue is fine, white, even Phoenix can’t get that wrong. Actually they probably could, but they haven’t.

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7) Score and conclusion

Ports stabiliser -5, starboard stabiliser – 8, tail fin – 5, both sets of main gear doors – 8, wonky gear -2, nose detail – 4, dome paint – 2. So total deduction of 36 giving a result of just 64%. Thats only 4% above being returned to the retailer. 

From a good distance you would never know what was wrong, but thats just not good enough. Paint on this should have been unbelievably easy. The good points, like the engines, are totally ruined by the awful rotten metal landing gears doors, the blobs of glue/paint in the tail, cracked paint and joins, its not good enough, plain and simple. 60% is a total fail and this is a bat-squeak away from having achieved just that. Phoenix need to get their act together because if next month, G-VFAR and G-ZBKA turn up looking like this, they’re going back.

Phoenix are just on a downward cycle and it pains me to have to say it. WHY? What happened? Still burning to ashes. The sooner it’s done and reborn the better.


6 thoughts on “Finnair A350-900 OH-LWA Phoenix 11156 September 2015

  1. I don’t understand why you didn’t try the A350 of JCWings.
    I already mentioned it in a previous review of you that the JCWings is better.
    And so you can compare all 3 of the A350’s made in the business

  2. Mostly because the JCWings is no different to the Gemini version – all of them are badly shaped at the nose and for a new modern aircraft type, disappointing. Besides which only Phoenix get the wing tips right, a key part of this aircrafts design and appearance

    1. Maybe it is a matter of opinion, but when I compare the JCwings one to the real model, those wingtips seems to be good. I don’t see much difference between the phoenix and the jcwings.
      What do you find wrong on the jcwings wingtips? The curvature?

    2. I’ve been lucky enough to have many opportunities to see the A350 in real life, and photographed it extensively. The nose on the JCW is no different to the Gemini – and that’s wrong, as is the Phoenix. The wing tips are very different depending on which angle you see them from. Viewed from the side they look no different, viewed from in front or from behind, subtle differences emerge and the real test is from an acute diagonal. Then you realise the JCW and Gemini are just flat. That’s not the case with the Phoenix. I remember seeing them for the first time in the flesh, and they are a very complex composite mould shape, almost sculpture. Phoenix did a great job of them. Pity they couldn’t do the same with the gear doors.

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