LOT Polish Airlines 737-400 SP-LLF Phoenix 11051

Phoenix do tend to charge quite a bit for their smaller models, in my opinion well above their actual quality for the most part and this is no exception.

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SP-LLF arrives at Heathrow

I’d not bought it when first released because at the best part of £28 (US$40) it seemed a bit excessive for an aircraft type I’m not overly fond of, the 737-400. Then I had a business meeting in Warsaw and the only way of getting there in any reasonable time was on LOT. And the only aircraft they seem to operate out of Heathrow are these chronically awful bags of bolts they can neither afford to replace or refurbish. It was a everything I thought it would be; old, worn and outdated. And as it happened it was this very aircraft.

Even then I still held out and never bought it. Finally as numbers of them seem to still be about, although at way to high a price, I caved in and got one for about, £23 still brand new.

Strictly speaking a Boeing 737-45D, SP-LLF was delivered on April 23rd 1997, so she’s fast approaching 20 years old. These small regional 737 types go through thousands of landing cycles – the biggest strain on any aircraft structure – every year, and are old in structural terms far sooner than long haul aircraft of a similar age.

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As an airline, Polskie Linie Lotnicze LOT S.Ais one the worlds oldest, founded in 1929 after a newly independent Poland had been carved out of German territory in the East and cut off a huge swathe of Russian territory (now Belorus and Ukraine), after the Poles defeated the newly formed Soviet Union in 1922-23. Following the 1939 Nazi-Soviet invasions that divided the country, LOT re-emerged after the war in early 1945. As a state owned communist enterprise until 1989 it operated all of the usual Soviet era aircraft as well as a few western aircraft such as Vickers Viscount’s and Caravelles.

The current livery has remained almost unchanged since 1979, with little more than some minor font changes.

The airline achieved some success in  the early 2000’s, but the 9-11 attacks, fuel spikes, poor management, who had been able to gloss over many of the underlying problems with good revenue from record passenger numbers, and then the disaster of the financial crash in 2008-9, rendered it almost bankrupt. The arrival of 788’s and their subsequent grounding tipped it into even deeper financial straights and a bailout was all that saved it from formal bankruptcy. At one point the 788’s were all leased out to other airlines from Finnair, to charters for the British Government flying troops to Afghanistan.

One of it’s more recent disasters was the landing of a 767 with no gear at Warsaw. It took a while for investigators to fathom that it had been, despite protestations to the contrary, pilot error. The crew had switched off a key hydraulic switch in the cockpit and never thought to turn it back on, preventing the doors opening and the gear dropping.

But I digress as ever. What of this odd little model?

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1)Fuselage

It’s an OK mould in general. A little bit more pointy nosed than the Gemini version, it has slot in wings rather than the cradle.

It also has aerials, two up, two down and all are fixed and surprisingly neat.

Print detail is all very good, it’s actually surprisingly fine and I have no complaints about it.

2)Wings and landing gear

Now unusually for Phoenix they have managed to create a set of wings not plastered in thick detail-obscuring paint. The surfaces are unusually well detailed and neat .

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The landing gear however lasted all of a few minutes. I took it out of the box, put it down, and then noticed it had collapsed to the right. The entire starboard gear assembly had snapped off and took hours to get back to rights, so small are the contact points.

The nose gear tyres are also ragged, that’s the best way to describe them.

3)Engines

From an eyeball perspective pretty much everything passes and these are no exception. Yet you can just make out wobbly silver rim paint and the shape of the intakes just doesn’t seem quite right.

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The thing is everything is so small, only close-ups reveal any flaws, and they are so small they don’t actually matter.

4)Nose detail

For the most part everything is fine, just a tiny bit wavy on the nose cone line.

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5)Tail detail

Problem free.

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The effigy in the circle is a flying Crane. LOT and Lufthansa have wildly different interpretations of the same bird.

6)Colours

Spot on, really very good, no issues.

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7)Score and conclusions

-15 for the landing gear escapade. 85%. It is actually a good model, one of the best small Phoenix ones I’ve ever had. And yet I don’t like it very much, and I don’t know why! Maybe it’s because my real life experience of 737-200, 300, 400 & 500 have never been good ones. I much prefer modern 738’s and 9’s. They always seemed old even when new, they’re not a patch on Airbus A320’s in comfort terms in my experience, and along with a Dash-8 Q-400 rate as my least favorite aircraft. However as a model, it is other than its gear quality issue, pretty good. Just not really worth a list price of close on £30.

However it is an invaluable addition the RLSI diorama network, being the only airline that flies to Poland.

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