Air Tahiti Nui A340-300 F-OJTN Gemini Jets GJTHT315 2003

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I’ve wanted one of these for ages, and when Phoenix issued a release, now due any day, for sister aircraft F-ORLV, I ordered it. It seems this may have triggered some collectors to offload a couple of the original 2003 Gemini release and they popped up on eBay so I grabbed one, £28 ($41) delievered seemed like a bargain as they’d often gone for much more. At first I thought this was a 2008 model, but the release date on the box is 2003. Both box and model are mint condition.

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The box is a Gemini Jets II format and it looks like there were 2 1:400 versions (the other by Schuco) and 2 1:500’s by Schuco and StarJets. All were 2003 releases.

I’ve always loved this livery, which they still use though I suspect it will be sharply modernised when the airline gets it’s 2 787-9’s in a couple of years and the A340-313X’s are finally retired. They did operate an A340-200 for a short period, but like Cathay Pacific gave up on it as it’s running costs were totally out of kilter with Airbus claims. Cathay actually made Airbus buy theirs back they were so bad.

The airline based at Tahiti-Faa’a International (Papeete) in French Polynesia, central-South Pacific,  operates 5 A340-313X’s (Airbus rarely uses this designator, officially it’s an E for enhanced), and from a European perspective, I get to see them susprisingly often. They operate to LAX first then fly on to Paris CDG, often using the Central Corridor down the UK.

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They have an interesting seating configuration with an emphasis on couples – the islands are a big honeymoon destination from France and LA. The Moana Economy class are 18″ wide economy seats in 2-4-2 (although even the middle 4 are slightly seperated pairs). The  Poerava Business class are 2-2-2 but not really on a par with most modern airline standards. Service levels however are considered exceptional.

The flower in the tail is the Tiare, long a symbol of the islands. The whole livery and the interior palette is designed to emphasise the blue skies and blue oceans. The five aircraft are named after the major islands. F-OJGF Mangareva, this model, F-OJTN (the only one on lease from AeroCapital) Bora Bora, F-OLOV Nuku Hiva, F-OSEA Rangiroa, and F-OSUN Moorea.

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The Aircraft are French registered because of the unusual status of French Polynesia, not disimilar to that of the US and Puerto Rico. It’s justice system, education, defence and foreign policy are managed by France, and it’s technically a direct part of metropolitan France. It has local elections but no say in it’s actual status. It was well known in the cold war for being the site of 175 French nuclear tests on the Muroroa and Fangatuafa atolls, which went on from 1966 until 27 January 1996.

1)Fuselage

Remarkably well done, when you think this model is now 13 years old, you would be hard pressed to know it was anywhere near that age. Gemini produced some seriously high quality items in the early years and while the mould isn’t the best, and there was a tendency to be over-glossy in the finish, she looks every bit as good now as she did when first made, and from a production detail perspective, it’s as good as anything manufactured now.

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2)Wings and landing gear

The landing gear is the only recently replaced tyre-on-spigot system and it’s not impressive. Neat, but none of the tyres rotate and it looks, as it always did, rather toy-like. Aeroclassics still use the same system, which is just cheapskate 13 years on.

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The cradle system is very neat, tight fitting and the wings, again while over glossed, still show detail though there is less detail in the wing that we might be used to now. At least it doesn’t suffer from the “I surrender” look of JC Wings latest A330 moulds!

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3)Engines

The silver is way too bright, but the intake rims are neat. The exhaust rims though not so much and the cylindrical CFM56 engines (possibly the least pleasant looking of any jet engine in my opinion), while well finished are very high-gloss white and lack some of that detail (the air-brakes for example).

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4)Nose detail

The exceptionally high-glossfinish is slightly detrimental here, it reflects so much light that you can barely make out the dark grey printed flight deck, but it is there and problem free. Not as much fine detail as you would expect today, but more than passable.

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6) Tail and stabilizers

Perfectly assembled, well painted and problem free.

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7) Score and conclusions

I would take off 4 for the engines, the weakest part of the finish, but bear in mind it’s age and the standards then, it’s outstandingly good. I’m delighted with it. 96% is an amazing score many would stretch to reach today.

The big issue for me is that we see rough edged print, blurred detail, poor definition on so many models now, when technology should prevent all that from going so horribly wrong. And yet here we have a 13 year old model with barely a flaw in it.  A tiny bit more detail, new style landing gear and a couple of aerials and you’d have the current standards, and a bit more blown away.

I wonder how the new Phoenix version will compare in a few days time?

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