This is one of those models Phoenix make on their “04” numbering system, which usually means, from past numbers I’ve had, that the model was commissioned in some way, possibly by the airline. It has all the familiar hall marks of being special we’ve come to see when these things happen; namely a better than average finish. Don’t however, confuse ‘commissioned by’ for ‘official licensed product’, the two aren’t the same thing at all.
Now I have to be honest, I do not in any way like the new Cathay Pacific livery. It strikes me as cheap, dumbing down and mind-numbingly unadventurous. At the same time I never liked the exceptionally bland Dragonair livery either for much the same reason. However, mix the two and we have a winner! The red compliments the white and Cathay Pacific light green in ways that make it really work. The red isn’t over the top, the traditional dragon has been retained on the nose, the wing tips add just the right amount to enhance the overall look.
Now why Cathay Pacific decided to bind it’s lesser brand more tightly to it’s main brand, I understand. The issue is perhaps more complex though and not without risk. Dragonair is not and never has been anything much more, than a mid-level, relatively mid-priced alternative to get around regionally from Hong Kong.
Identifying Cathay Pacific, which has seriously up-market pretensions, is the epitome of ‘full service’, and strives to be the best in class in the intercontinental field, with a loyal following of customers, with the equally as loved, but different Dragonair? It has it’s dangers.
To the loyal Cathay Pacific flyer it looks like the lower end brand is being pulled up a notch or two, but so often, that means the high end brand is pulled down, while not quite meeting it exactly. Yet at the same time both brands feel somewhat diluted. Like pouring coke into a 30 year old single malt whiskey. You can almost hear chins drop and the intake of breath from the appalled but too polite to say anything, whiskey aficionados.
The key thing is that they believe by tying the two more closely, and in marketing speak, “providing a seamless brand experience”, they hope more customers will think to fly on one to get the other and their onward destination, something that currently doesn’t happen as much as they would like. Talk however of, “refining the passenger experience”, sounds to me like thinning and weakening one to mix with the other – the very dilution I mentioned earlier, evidenced by more talk of ,”harmonizing their premium services”.
The fact remains that we now have a rebranded airline and this model is the first one in the new livery, and has just gone into service.
At this stage I have to mention the dark brown box. Two images of Hong Kong, nothing but a lightly printed registration in one corner identifies it in any way. Quite nondescript and verging on bizarre!
The aircraft is not new, delivered to Dragonair in 2004, but her 6 yearly D Check happened to coincide nicely with the need to repaint her.
The basic principle of the Phoenix mould is a good one and from almost every perspective, on this model the detail is to a generally high standard. None of the fluffy transition lines from one colour to the next and no kinks or bends in the lines either. Detail is generally crisp and clean, the windows are all properly aligned and in general it all seems remarkably good.
The font for Cathay Dragon is, I think, comparing it to images of the real thing, a tad too thick, but thats being picky. The Chinese characters however are not refined enough on the model.
The aerials are well positioned, well fitted and correctly scaled, though all three tips have paint missing at the very top.
2)Wings and landing gear
The wings are fitted well – this is a big deal as most of last year they were not and several models were marked down badly for some shoddy work. These are excellent.
They do still have that odd bend in the starboard wing, which a small amount of carefully applied pressure corrects. You don’t always notice it but at certain angles when taking photos you do. It’s easily put right.
Phoenix seem to have used a matt finish paint for the dark grey in the wings and they look so much better for it rather than heavy gloss. The light grey, and underneath is still the usual ultra-thick heavy shiny stuff though! Either way, it’s a welcome improvement.
Landing gear. This is becoming a weak spot with Phoenix again. The nose gear is slightly out, just not fitted right, and the wheels need to be pushed together to keep them on – the same thing happened on the Edelweiss A320 and the Turkish A321. Add to that that the main gear bogies, which are rigid, but are not level, so the port side one looks slightly odd on the ground. And I need to point out this model and the two A320’s came from totally separate retailers in different countries 5000 miles apart, so the odds of it being just a small batch are minimal.
Fine detail is truly excellent, but both suffer from visible wobbly paint rims and the port side has a chip in its fan paint as well as missing silver on the front face of the rims.
Surprisingly good, well finished and the dragon logo looks good. I notice it has the Oneworld roundel by the door. Cathay Dragon is not a member of Oneworld, but an associate member through Cathay Pacific and the aircraft doesn’t actually carry it, nor did Dragonair before it.
Beautifully done. No complaints at all.
Exceptionally good. Full credit to Phoenix for a job well done.
7)Score and conclusions
- -4 for the main gear issues
- -2 for the nose gear issues
- -2 for the bent wing (a reduced negative score because it was easily fixed)
- -4 for the port engine issues
- -2 for the starboard engine wobbly paint
- 86% – once again it isn’t enough to qualify for MOTY, but it is a stark improvement on the last Phoenix A330 that graced my collection. Overall it’s better than average, passes the minimum standards easily and they just need to make sure that small things like paint on engine rims, and landing gear/wheels don’t start going backwards. Too often they fix one thing and the last thing they fixed goes wrong again. As a model, livery and overall package, I rather like it.
I cannot help but wonder if these improved standards are a result of a commissioned model, or at least because the airline had a say in its creation. It doesn’t always work this way; the Transavia 738 Aviation Megastore had made by Phoenix was awful. Either way it’s a bit better.
Having said that Phoenix put up a photo of the 1:200 version and the 1:400 of the Norwegian 789 in Greta Garbo livery, EI-LNI. The 1:200 looks great, but you cannot but help notice the engine on the 1:400 is drooping too far forward. If they were prepared to put that on their Facebook page as a finished article, it speaks volumes.