MODEL OF THE YEAR 2015 WILL BE ANNOUNCED 31st DECEMBER
Alaska Airlines 737-800s/s N560AS ‘Spirit of The Islands’ Livery
You’ll probably know I have a soft spot for two US Airlines – Alaska and Virgin America, but if anything Alaska more than most. Possibly one of the most profitable, debt at less than 18% of its value is a global low (most airlines average 80%), cash rich, ethical as far as it can be. It’s customer base loves it, and it has a seemingly genuine desire to keep its staff happy. Add to that a penchant for some glorious special liveries and we have a very collectable and desirable airline. And before you say but how does it work at RLSI in Middle England, well you can just push a 737-800 at full fuel from Anchorage or Fairbanks! Especially if it stopped off in Reykjavik on the way. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
She joins the Wild Alaska Salmon N588AS, Dreamliner livery N512AS, standard livery N586AS (this year’s first with the split scimitars), and 737-700 N607AS in Portland Timbers livery.
N560AS is a 737-890 and was painted into this livery in June 2013, having been delivered in 2006. She was reconfigured to carry 6 more economy seats in mid 2014 and had the split scimitars added at the same time. She now seats 16 business class and 147 economy passengers.
The good thing about this model is that it benefits from the new 738 mould. Some people tell me they don’t like it, but compared to the worn out lump of junk that it replaces, it’s a massive improvement. Compare it again, to the new Phoenix mould, and it’s vastly superior.
There is a sprinkling of aerials, one above and two below.
My biggest complaint on some models has been that when they produce these complex dot-matrix liveries, the true brightness of the colours suffer. The JCW Istanbul-SFO livery was the worst of the year, looking utterly lifeless in comparison to this, which, although it lacks the luminosity and vividness of the real thing, actually comes as close to it as is possible using current technology at this scale.
The colours have not translated brilliantly – for example the yellow flowers on the model are orange on the real thing and the whites closer to pink. However in terms of quality, they stand up as some of the best this year, especially compared to the appallingly mis-coloured A320 Tin-Tin from AeroClassics.
2)Wings and landing gear
The wings are superb, compared to the Phoenix they come from another universe. The split scimitars are a triumph of moulding and accuracy, detail is excellent.
The landing gear is good and bad. The right hand gear rolls and works perfectly, the left had gear is immovable and doesn’t rotate. The nose gear is not good, the right side wheel is unable to touch the ground. You can see that clearly in the photos. I’ve looked at trying to fix it but without snapping the nose gear, it’s not going anywhere.
Now from the eyeball test these are absolutely fine, though on close inspection the No.1 engine has had paint applied while the blue under it is still wet – this causes dispersion in metallics and thats what’s happened. However, it’s small enough to pass the eyeball test easily. Overall the engines are actually really rather neat.
No issues. neat, detailed, precise.
Now here we go with the good-bad element of this model. Plastic colour moulded stabilisers and tail. They are more refined, this is true, being plastic they can carry more detail. They should fit more precisely. They also cost less, and make more money for the manufacturer.
Herpa used to do them all the time, still do I think (It’s been a while since I’ve had a new Herpa), and Dragon Wings were full of plastic. Does it matter? Actually it does. Legally, the box says “1:400 die-cast model aircraft”. Well if it has a significant percentage of plastic as it now does, they need to modify the wording at the least. Trying to sneak it past us is not really acceptable.
The next question is did it need to be plastic? In honesty I don’t think so. This strikes me as a cost saving issue. I’m paying for die-cast metal and getting plastic. Where does it end? Wings next? Why not just laser print the whole thing? Is that where we’re going in a few years?
Base blues and greens are good, the flower colours are not right.
7)Score and conclusion
Overall, the -2 for the nose gear, -2 for the rigid landing gear, -6 for colours being inaccurate even if passable. 90%
As a model overall, I really like it, it has few faults and it’s generally positive impression is very pleasing. Of all the gripes it’s that nose gear wheel that annoys me the most, but there’s no way of fixing it.
On a strategic level, I just wish manufacturers were more open about there processes and intent when they make fundamental changes to die-cast models and start making them in part plastic. It’s not that the plastic is bad, it’s that like so much these days, they sneak it past and hope you don’t notice, and if you do well, what does it matter? You can’t change it and you’ll get used to it in the end. At least Phoenix haven’t gone down this path yet.
Still, I don’t want to ruin a pretty good model on a negative. Overall it’s a great score 90% and it qualifies for the MOTY 2015.
This was 2015’s last review. The strangest thing is that out of 5 models this month, all from Gemini, this is the best by a wide margin. The Delta A333 was spoilt by those “hands up” wings, the AC 787-9 by the twisted cradle, the KLM 787-9 was wrong on so many levels I can hardly believe Gemini made it, the BA 787-9 is best defined as being not quite as bad as the really bad Phoenix version.
I was expecting a Gemini sweeping of the boards, as new standards seem to have come to light on so many good models this year. However they have also produced a great deal of average and even a few poor ones. Inconsistency is still rife. How long before they understand that average isn’t good enough?
We need a new Witty Wings, we need models not made in China, new ideas, new processes, new materials, new standards. Velocity proved that there is a market. Who knows, with modern crowd sourcing and fund raising methods, what lies around the corner?