Cargolux 747-8F LX-VCJ Phoenix 11107 May 2015

It has to be said that Cargolux is my favourite freighter group. Based in Luxembourg today as it happens is it’s 45th birthday and the company is launching a special liveried 748F on LX-VCM delivered today fresh from Seattle. The livery is by a Belgian cartoonist so when they eventually put some photos out (what’s the point of a press release about an image with no images?) I’ll get some up on the Facebook page.

The stunning Cargolux 748F
The stunning Cargolux 748F

Now that apart, this model was released in April/May and there were so many I left it off my list. I found one recently in Europe and added it to a large order. If the the newest one (13th of 14 ordered) LX-VCM is produced, I shall have to get it.

One of the things I love about Cargolux is they fly regularly over my UK house and I get to see them often, there’s nothing quite like a 748F blazing a trail as they turn 45 degrees left to head for Luxembourg. Seeing them bank that much at high altitude on a good day at X200 zoom is pretty cool.

I love this photo!
I love this photo!

The company was the first to operate the 744F in 1993. It has the highest cargo utilisation rate of any air freight company in the world at over 75%, and was the launch customer for the 748F.  However that didn’t work out quite so well at first. The aircraft were late, when they were delivered Cargolux refused to take any more after the first 3 until Boeing introduced some key changes. Fuel burn was 5-7% higher than anyone expected and there was a quiet but fairly public row, eventually settled through, so I am told, a mix of technical changes and heavy discounts on follow-on aircraft. Cathay Pacific also got involved in the row for much the same reason. Cargolux had made it plain that if the fuel burn remained as high as it was, the business rationale for the aircraft went out of the window, margins are that tight.

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Cargolux has a very simple livery, but for whatever reason, it appeals to my aesthetics like few others. Now part owned by HNCA – Henan Civil Aviation & Investment Co in Zhengzhou, China who bought 35% of its shares from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg Government for $231m. Qatar Airways had purchased the stake in 2011 but wanted to sell it in 2012, so the government held the stock until a buyer was found. This aircraft carries nose tiles that celebrate that somewhat controversial agreement (many are convinced the Chinese are using Cargolux to see how to do things right and eventually the Luxembourg side will be killed off, but that seems unlikely), and the new Cargolux freight facility in the city Zhengzhou seems to be working, though it’s early days.

Now enough of my obsession with Cargolux – what of the model?

Packed in a very nice brand-specific box, it looks like it might actually be one of those now rare moments when Phoenix shine.

In flight, the 1:400 version is elegance personified. I may have taken a few liberties with the editing, something I rarely do
In flight, the 1:400 version is elegance personified. I may have taken a few liberties with the editing, something I rarely do

1)Fuselage

It is one of Phoenix’s finest, let’s face it Gemini have even used it to produce their own versions. The mould is superb and looks the business. Three top mounted aerials, all fixed and well seated (though the fore most is slightly tilting, it’s hard to see), the waste water de-icer below even painted red.

The print detail and paint is excellent. Some of the smaller graphics could be better but they aren’t noticeably deficient from a distance. Crisp and clean for the most part just as they ought to be on a very expensive model.

2)Wings and landing gear

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Over-glossed of course, but not as bad as some. The wings are a superb mould and everything is a quality fit. The down side is that the leading edge paint on the starboard wing isn’t quite as neat as it could be, but it’s so difficult to see unless you look for it, it’s mostly irrelevant, but it could be better.

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The landing gear is first class, neat, clean, fixed in and on as best as can be expected. Everything rolls and moves as it should. The tyres seem good to, with no lumps.

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3) Engines

First class, all round excellent, these are perfectly made, hang from their pylons superbly and the silver and titanium paint is excellent. Superbly done. You can though see the leading edge wing issue in the photo below.

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4) Nose detail

Excellent. Admittedly the HNCA graphics could be a tad better, but you can’t see any issues even with close inspection from a naked eye perspective.

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5) Tail detail.

Generally very good, but the leading edge red to silver transition is less than precise. Could be better but it’s not a big issue, you have to look closely to see any problems.

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6) Colours

Perfect and they match the previous model made for Gemini, LX-VCB. You see Phoenix, you can do it.

LX-VCJ & VCB at RLSI
LX-VCJ & VCB at RLSI

7) Score and conclusion

The leading edge wing and tail are the only issues that are naked eye visible and therefore because they are so slight, -3 for the wing and -2 for the tail. That gives a very, vey good score of 95%. That’s a brilliant result, for a brilliant model. It really is a quality item and  I am lighted with it. It would have been monumentally disappointing if it had been less than a match for the Gemini, but it isn’t. It’s every bit as good and that makes me very happy. Well done Phoenix.

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