Air France A340-300 F-GLZO Gemini/Socatec GJAFR1201 2013

This came up at Airpsotters.com for the lowly price of £19 ($33) and it seemed sinful to let it sit there.  As it turns out, for reasosns  I haven’t been able to fathom completely, I became oddly fond of it straight away. Sometimes models have to grow on me a bit before I like them, but this one just seemed to gel.

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I think partly it was because it’s so photogenic; it just really photographed well. Some models are a real pain to set up and get the right type of light to work, the angles never seem right, or the stand is in a place that gets in the way. This last one is a real issue as editing them out is time consumming and requires much patience.

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Wings 900’s database has the registration wrong (F-GNII), so you can only find it by using the product code. I hadn’t realised Socatec were still involved with these Gemini releases for Air France even in 2013. Gemini have only released two AF A343’s, this one in the new livery and and a sister a few years before in the old livery.

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F-GLZO on approach to RLSI yesterday….and honestly this really isn’t a photoshop job either! It crossed my mind it might be possible to do it with strong indirect daylight so it wouldn’t cast a shadow, and I couldn’t use a flash….
Air France has gotten itself in a bit of a mess over the last few years, but CEO Alexander de Juniac has finally put it on a sustainable course. The price was inevitably job losses and he and his board suffered the direct personal wrath of the work force when they literally ripped the suits and shirts off managements’ backs as they tried to escape over a fence, following a board meeting, where more redundancies were announced last year.  It was all too much for the rather aristocratic de Juniac; he resigned this year to go and become CEO of IATA.

Air France has managed to loose money even when some of the worlds worst airlines are making sizeable profits. Yet they have massively improved service levels and their general offering. They even win customer service awards. I had to read that twice. Yes really, Air France won awards for customer service!

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Capital expenditure has had to be slashed and the 787 Dreamliners it was having are but a distant dream. A350’s, much as they want them are the same. Only KLM, once the poor bride in a forced marriage with AF, gets the new toys, because they actually make money.

So while everyone else is ditching old four engine aircraft – Air France did dispose of its last 744’s this year, all 12 A343’s still linger on. At 17 years old (delivered December 4th 1998),  F-GLZO, an A340-313X still flies regularly to places as diverse as Detroit and Djibouti (horn of Africa, formerly French T.I.A.), Bogota and Beirut. Fitted out with 30 business, 21 premium economy and 224 economy seats, they’ve prooved invaluable and reliable. F-GLZO and 9 others are owned outright by AF, the other two are leased.

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1)Fuselage

It’s more than passable, though I always think the nose isn’t quite right on Gemini’s now old A340/330 mould/s. There are no domes or Aerials. By this time the real thing has a quite pronounced forward dome – which is just a printed outline on the model.

It’s the new simplified livery with AIRFRANCE en bloc, and the red flash. As I’ve said before, AF is the only airline with a historical white livery that just looks so classicaly elegant. On everyone elses aircraft this much white just looks cheap (side dig at China Eastern).

The print is excellent and beautifully detailed.

2)Wings and landing gear

Everything about the wings is excellent in terms of paint, detail and finish. It’s the stupid ill-fitting cradle as aways that spoils things a little. This time it has a distinct right hand twist and the rear gap is approaching a full millimeter, which is just too much at even at this scale (400mm or 16 inches in real world 1:1).

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All of the landing gear is excellent, with metal wheels and quality tyres. everything rolls and works as it should.

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3)Engines

Four CFM56-5C4’s are superbly done and highly detailed. Indeed the fans, detail and colour are excellent, the nacelles are also detailed and neat, inculding the big black arrows underneath at the rears, the detailed air brakes, and the traditional crevette logo appears correctly 8 times, one each side of each engine. 

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4)Nose detail

Excellent, with the exception that there is no atempt at a radome, which is quite visible on the real thing.

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5)Tail detail

beautifully assembled, and the EU gold stars at the top of the tail are first class – why they couldn’t have been so well done on the 744 and 777 I don’t know. The only downside is a flash of red paint in the white of the vertical stabiliser.

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6)Colours

Perfect.

7)Score and conclusions

  • -2 for the visible red paint flashing the white of the tail
  • -4 for unsightly cradle fit
  • 94% is a superbly high score for Gemini in 2013. this is a superb quality model overall. It’s really neat and I’ve just fallen in love with it. It just works. I’m not even sure I really get why, but sometimes, these things take you by surprise. I do have a penchant for the simple, elegant, efficiency of the livery, which even on the complex looking old A343, works really well. Yes I know it’s basically all white, but what can I say? The French just make it work. Call it Gallic Chic!

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