BA Cityflyer E-190 G-LCYO Gemini Jets GJBAW1247 March 2016

The first of the larger Embraer E-jets Gemini produced was the pretty ropey KLM whose engines were not the best and the model was generally not well assembled. That must be around three years ago. There have been very few of any type made since. I can only think of an AA E195 (I never purchased it as E-195’s are slightly longer by 6.25mm at 1:400 scale and the model was’t), and I think a recent-ish Virgin Australia, which doesn’t fit my collecting criteria at all.

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Herpa made a really nice if expensive 1:400 E-170, G-LCYF that the E-190 joined in BA Cityflyer’s fleet when delivered – in 2011. It’s taken Gemini a long time to produce an aircraft type BA has had in service since 2009. And still no Lufthansa version though they’re all being moved to Austrian to replace their Fokker’s), or Flybe (who still have 5).

It has to be pointed out that while a wholly owned subsidiary of British Airways, Cityflyer Express Ltd has its own call sign, “Flyer”, IATA code, CJ and ICAO code, CFE. It’s main base of operations is London City (LCY) and it effectively services the East End and Docklands/Canary Wharf financial districts. BA operates 2 A318’s from LCY to JFK, but not under the Cityflyer brand, which is mostly near-Europe regional and UK domestic services.

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London City Airport (LCY), Home of BA Cityflyer and the A318’s. Special steep approach training for pilots is required along with aircraft certified for the purpose.

In the summer of 2016 Cityflyer is starting to operate from Stansted, partly down to space and slot restrictions at LCY, but also to cope with increased fuel and luggage requirements – LCY is very limited in terms of runway length.This allows them to service up-market holiday destinations like Mykonos in Greece and Malaga/Puerto Banus in Spain. With 13  E-190’s, 6 E-170’s, along with 2 Saab 2000’s it uses on lease from Eastern Airways, it’s a fairly substantial specialist regional airline with a unique market.

Only today, 23rd March 2016 it was announced that E-190’s would be wet-leased at weekends to Aer Lingus now owned by parent IAG. This gives better utilization of the       E-190’s  which have little to do at weekends, and relieves Aer Lingus Dublin-UK routes, now at capacity.

While the ERJ-170-100STD’s are 76 seaters, the ERJ-190-100SR’s are 98, and only when you see them side by side do you realize fully how big the E-190 is. Having flown on both I find the E-Jets extraordinarily plasticky inside, though they are quiet, and the slim line seats are comfortable.

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The interior on BA’s E-190’s has a moveable divider so that when flying domestic, all 98 seats are economy. The final position of the divider is usually only decided just minutes before departure on European flights, so that those paying business fares, who still get the same economy seat, are separated from the rest of the passengers to have their expensive in flight meals served.  The seats are 18.3″ wide with a 34″ pitch – better than economy on a BA 744! Can’t have those City fat-cat’s complaining can we?

1)Fuselage

Generally it’s OK. A small thing, is that the structural ridge under the rear of the tail section (which correctly, has an aerial at the front end of it), just doesn’t stick out as it does on the model at the far end, it’s flush with the main body.

A bigger thing is a defect in the mould that has left a slight, but discernible, dip in the roofline in the centre. The only other model I’ve had with this before was an Apollo 744F Asiana cargo converted from passenger use.

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The dip in the roof line is clearly visible here, right above the B in British

While having gone to some trouble to have the aerial at the rear underneath in, none of the other three are present.

There is also something about the Gemini production number that suggests this has been sitting around for some time waiting to be produced and nobody updated the file before production. As a result, it lacks details like the TFTS shield, the lettering YO at the top of the tail and the CYO on the nose gear doors, all of which are present on the real thing and have been since a service in October 2014. She is in effect, in her delivery livery.

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Kink in the paint line on one side is very noticeable

Other than those omissions (or not depending on your point of view, Gemini don’t specify which year it’s meant to be), this is so much better made than the KLM one, and totally, vastly, superior to the latest batch of A320’s Gemini have produced.

Even so the rear blue-white transition line is poor on the starboard side especially, where it has too-visible a kink upwards, that just shouldn’t be there. The rest of the detail is otherwise very good.

2)Wings and landing gear

Excellent wings, really good. Detail and paint application are first class. Slot in wings are well fitted.

Unusually, the hole for the stand on this mode (which fits well) is rear of centre, an observation only!

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Landing gear is all round excellent, its ideally sized tyres on wheels work well, they all move, good detail, well made.

3)Engines

The two GE CF34-10E5’s look excellent side on, but the silver rims again! Why is it that they cannot find a paint that wants to adhere correctly at a fine enough particle size, to look good? The rims look flakey, they look like the silver was applied before the blue gloss underneath was dry and any model maker knows that that’s a no-no! In general, silver paint doesn’t like sitting on gloss paint that is dry, it just doesn’t bond well.

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Flaky silver rims and leeched blue paint – a direct result of poor bonding

The engines also have a silver over-cowling at the top of the exhaust that’s missing. The silver exhaust paint is too bright and the rear of the exhaust cones aren’t silver. You might say this is being picky, but they’ve managed this type of detail on other models when it suits them, so why not here? Herpa’s much smaller E170 engines are far superior.

Sadly it doesn’t quite pass the eyeball test, you can see blue leeching through the silver, especially on the rims. Average.

4)Nose detail

The blue-white line is very shaky, and that’s being generous. It’s an eyeball test fail as well which is even more annoying. Cockpit windows are all pretty good though.

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The dip in the roof really notices at this angle

5)Tail detail

The vertical is fine, the horizontals are stuck in well but they are tilted too high, they should be much flatter. It’s not a terrible fault on such a small model, but it’s just not ideal. The port stabiliser has paint missing at the end of the rear edge.

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6)Colours

No issues, perfect.

7)Score and conclusions

As far as I’m concerned this is a current model and it’s never been advertised as anything other than that.

  • -7 for various paint issues, the blue kink, uneven nose paint, wobbly lines
  • -6 for missing detail, the TFTS x2, tail lettering x2, nose gear door x2 (both of these should have been there anyway, the much smaller Herpa E170 has the nose door lettering for example).
  • -1 for the under-bar shape
  • -4 for the engine paint fails
  • -2 for the dip in the mould roof
  • 80% is a marginal pass. It’s not really Manufacturer of the Year standards is it?
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Herpa’s smaller, E-170 may have been more expensive new, but it’s a much better model in almost every way than the larger Gemini E-190

In all honesty, the much smaller 1:400 Herpa E170 is a better model, though now very rare, I can’t even remember seeing one on eBay in the last 12 months.Even the Delta and Air France Régional versions of that have vanished, and they were around a lot longer, having been released at the same time.

The engines on that are barely a third of the size of the E-190 and yet they’re far better finished.

So how to conclude? It’s a must have model this one, it’s been on BA collectors wish lists for an age. That’s why nobody will complain. And yet while superficially it looks fine, it’s actually not outstanding in any way. It’s OK, it’s average, which, as we keep seeing, is the best anyone seems to want to make these days. The word “excellence” doesn’t seem to come into it.

I so wish this business wasn’t dominated by just two major manufacturers, one minor, and four brands. It needs more competition and it needs it now; only that will drive up quality.

I’ll be back on April 4th after a family celebration and a week in San Francisco, I’ve got hold of a model of possibly one of the most interesting – and long serving – aircraft still plying the skies!  Have a great Easter and if you’re on vacation, enjoy!

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