I’d like you to think back to the Etihad 744F, by Gemini and remember the extraordinary level of quality it embodied. I suspected that it was almost certainly done for the airline who made quite a big fuss of launching the new cargo livery, even creating a special YouTube video.
I say all this because clearly Gemini were not devoting themselves in quite the same measure needed to make this version of their 744, reach those 100% standards.
PH-BFT is one of KLM’s 15 combi’s with a rear side cargo door. She’s sometimes described as as 744SCD but that’s not correct, she’s officially a 747-406M.
If you want to understand the full complexity of the 744M – not that they often operate in that mode in the current cargo environment which continues to hemorrhage, it’s fairly simple.
Passenger sit at the front, roughly from the rear wing root forward, and cargo sits at the back.
This creates interesting loading issues as cargo can’t be loaded on terminal stands and has to be put on before the aircraft heads over to load passengers. It hasn’t proved to be an overwhelming success and under 60 were sold globally.
There is no first class, just New Business Class, nose and top deck, economy comfort (same seat, more legroom), preferred seats – again economy class but in reserved locations for frequent fliers, and then economy standard.
All KLM galleys on it’s 744’s are mounted to the starboard side, it’s not unique to the M version. The rear cargo section can be retrofitted with seats, galley and toilets in 24 hours.
KLM has committed to using it’s 15 744M’s long term and all are planned for a refurbishment. This was the first to be so completed and to get the new livery.
The most important aspect of this model is the new livery and its position at the nose, which Gemini completely cocked up on the 787-9 in December 2015. Here, it’s absoloutely spot on. Indeed the livery in general, the detail and paint on the fusleage is excellent.
The newly installed comms dome on top could do with fitting a bit more tightly. I despair of these stick-in/stick-on bits and pieces – if you can’t be sure you can make it work every time why do it? This one however is painted KLM grey with a silver grey front panel and it’s just passable.
The aircraft only has one upper aerial and the model has this well seated and finished. Two below are equally as good.
The one thing that seems a little subdued in the detail is the side cargo door, but if you look at images of the real thing, it’s hard to tell it’s there.
2)Wings and landing gear
The wings are of course the old cradle system, but I have to say the front of the cradle isn’t as neat and tidy as we’ve recently, gotten used to, and come to expect. They otherwise fit exceptionally well.
The thing about the wings – and it took ages to find images to proove I wasn’t seeing things, is the red markings on the rear of the hydraulic casings and the back of the No4 engine pylon aren’t duplicated on the port side. Was it an error? It seems not. I don’t know why they’re painted one side and not the other? Something to do with cargo loading from the other side? I have no idea but would love to know if anyone can tell me!
Landing gear is the latest in superior Gemini 744 type, the suspension bounces, wheels roll, neat tyres and grey detailed hubs.
All neat units, nicely painted, printed and fitted. Silver fans, despite the fact nobody makes silver fans. The rims are neat and tidy though, which is always a plus.However here is lack of paint on the inner walls of the nacelle.
It’s all spot on, everything is where it should be. The crucial livery dark blue line is neatly finished and crisp. Flight deck is excellent, and looks every bit the quality it is.
5)Tail and stabilisers
The horizontal stabilisers just don’t seem big enough for the fuselage slots, which seem heavy and black, other than that it’s all very neat.
All excellent, no complaints.
7)Score and conclusions
This is a model that comes close to excellent. Small things take it away from perfection. The dome, well it just doesn’t fit right, the cradle at the front with so much white, looks shoddy the way it’s finished and it’s not as tight and closely fitted as the Etihad (though the Etihad came later I beleieve). The rear stabilisers look slightly odd, just a bit small for the slot size. -4 for the dome because when you see it doesn’t fit it just looks clumsy and poor quality. -4 for the oddly, but not poorly fitted stabilisers, -2 for paint lacking in the engines.
90% however reinforces Gemini’s manufacturer win of 2015. If only these standards were applied to the ropey 787 moulds.