You may already have already come across the Gemini Jets version review of sister aircraft F-OJTN which will give you a whole background to these aircraft and the airline. You can find that article here: F-OJTN
You have to remember that 13 years separates these models so bear that in mind. The older model was exceptionally good for it’s age and you have to have hope that things have gotten a whole lot better. You also also have to remember this is a Phoenix model and you know how iffy and inconsistent their product offering can be; perfection one minute and a bag of trash the next.
Now it didn’t help that before the box was even opened (it arrived with Air France JonOne), I could hear the dreaded ‘rattle of death’. Experience tells you something has fallen off, and in this case it was the port side stabiliser. This resulted in micro cracks in the paint where it had separated. The cause was simple – there was no glue at all holding the stabilizer into the fuselage.
My retailer was excellent and offered either a swap or a substantial credit if I decided to keep it. I took the credit as fixing it was easy enough even if I’d rather not have had to.
So, what do we get 13 years later?
F-OLOV, named Nuku Hiva, was registered 13 June 2005 and was the last A340-300 built.
The first big thing you notice with the two models is that they have similar but different liveries. There has been a small amount of individualisation on all of the aircraft, especially as most of them are now on their second repaint. The stripes on the roof do indeed go backwards into a V shape, which they didn’t on her sister (and from what I’ve been able to see still don’t).
The Phoenix version has a much higher degree of fine detail, from moulded-in domes to the four tiny aerials, one aft, one centre, one forward one below. The flight deck and nose dome detail is noticeably improved. And yet despite many of these minor improvements, there really isn’t that much in it.
2)Wings and landing gear
Other than one has cradles on the Gemini and this one the slot-in wings, it makes little difference. The cradles were nearly new back then and the mould was fine, the slot-in’s are aesthetically more pleasing perhaps (and the wings fit perfectly, so again why so much hassle with the A330 mould?).
The landing gear is however a big improvement on the Phoenix. There is nothing about the gear that isn’t better. That’s more about current standards than a complaint, things were different 13 years ago. The gear on the Phoenix is neat, tyres on wheels and a much more acceptable low-key silver.
No sign of the airbrake markings and only a small amount of extra detail, mostly under the nacelles. The rims are visibly a tiny bit rough and don’t hold up well to close examination. What is it with the paint they use that seems to look rough and almost flakey?
The color of the fans though is an improvement and they look a lot more realistic, but overall the old Gemini has a better finish.
The Phoenix is a disappointment, not from detail which is ample, but in quality issues. Modern methods have allowed more accuracy, refinement and detail. Simply better all round. The Gemini isn’t bad, for 13 years ago, more than acceptable, but time has certainly shown an advance here in terms of visible detail.
In terms of paint finish, especially the blue-white transition, the Phoenix is not good, the line is wobbly -and that’s being generous. Oddly the nose is the only area where it looks this way. The worst aspect is where the blue transitions to the red and white at the No1 Door. It is to be fair difficult to see with the naked eye, but it appears blistered close up – I’ve never seen anything like it.
Other than the cracked stabiliser, which will affect the score, it’s all pretty accurate and more than acceptable. Each of the Tiare flowers in the tail is slightly different on each aircraft and this fits as far as I can see. There are black lines on the Gemini stabilisers and none on the Phoenix version, but it’s been impossible to see if one is right or wrong.
For once Phoenix seem to have hit the nail on the head. You would seriously struggle to see the difference in 13 years of paint colour! Rare must it be that two competitor models from so many years apart could bee so similar. The main blues are to all intents and purposes identical, though the rear lighter blue is different, but barely noticeable. From my observations Phoenix have it spot on for this aircraft across the board.
7)Score and conclusions
-8 for the stabiliser falling off, -2 for the slightly iffy engine paint rims, -3 for the wobbly nose paint, -4 for the blistering. 83%.
It’s an OK model, one that anyone should be reasonably pleased to have in their collection and proof that Phoenix can achieve better if they try. Yet they still need to think harder and try harder with quality issues that really shouldn’t be there. 13 years of practice and you cannot yet get this spot on? They either don’t care or Chinese manufacturing deserves the trouble it’s currently in.
I thought I might sell one of them after this arrived, but I’m not going to. Their individuality means they both deserve a place in the collection, and the Phoenix again, is commercially acceptable, but only just.
If you asked me to choose, in all honesty I’d keep the 13 year old Gemini over the modern Phoenix any day.