Sometimes a concept comes along that is simply amazing. It goes beyond simple marketing and reaches out to become art, it combines beauty with technique, conveys something that you understand clearly and, as so often with modern art forms, involves not just passive observation, but an experience.
The Icelandair Hekla Aurora project is one such concept. Painstaking design, experienced technique and expensive Akzo Nobel Performance Coatings all went into making the exterior one of the most complex and inspired liveries ever applied to an aircraft.
See how it was done here:
The project, unusually, wasn’t just confined to the exterior. Special lighting was installed to give the cabin the feeling of the Northern Lights:
Other than that the aircraft is pretty standard, but she gets used on inaugurals (she was the first aircraft into BHX when Icelandair started their service in spring 2015 for instance).
The aircraft is by no means a late model. She was built for Iberia and delivered in July 1994 as EC-609. Iberia returned the aircraft to its lessor as it was in financial difficulties and she was leased out to Air Europa who subleased it back to Iberia in October as EC-FYK. Between May 2003 and April 2004 she was registered as PH-ITA owned by Itochu Air Lease of Holland, but operated by Icelandair, then transferred to TF-FIU on sub-lease to Volare Airlines (Italy) with her sister TF-FIS. Both were returned to Icelandair full time in 2005 and TF-FIU was named Hekla. The winglets were fitted in March 2006. The paint work was completed in December 2014 and rolled out in January 2015.
Fitted with 22 Business class and 161 economy seats, she’s fitted with 2x RR RB211-535E4’s.
From a model perspective this is an expensive 757. Listed at £39 (US$56) though often discounted by £3-5 off of list plus up to 10% off pre-VAT prices making it around £34 on average, for the second release. The first release was £29 list. Lots has been said that this represents the difficulty of reproducing the paint work to the desired quality. Well this I cannot wait to see, because if they don’t manage that, and they don’t make it frankly, the best model ever made by Gemini, they deserve every criticism levelled at them, and then some. However, if it’s the reverse and it truly is excellent, I’ll be more than happy to sing its praises. What will not do this time is that cynical “commercial acceptability” tag. I’ll admit here and now, I’ve hedged my bets and I’ve also ordered the even more expensive Herpa version. The same applies to that.
The mould should be simple to get right, have no doubt this model, more than any other is all about the paint, detail and finish. It’s globally sold out which Gemini will see as a success. It’s in fact been so successful, that they’ve decided to create a second release due in the Autumn based on pre-orders only and labelled as GJICE1544A. Last UK orders for this will need to be placed by June 15th 2016.
Now, to the model and let’s see just where we are with one of the most anticipated and desired of all time….
Standard mould, no issues. They’ve bothered to put the satcom dome in, but not the aerials. This strikes me as a wise compromise. The dome is so big to have missed it out would have been ludicrous. Not putting the single roof aerial in is really no loss and could well have made printing the detail more complicated. The roof has various markings and all are excellently finished.
Now for the detail; it is, for want of better words, simply outstanding, excellent and I am delighted with it. That feeling you get when something is right, looks like it was worth the money, is so superbly brilliant you feel good inside? This is it. If Gemini were forced to reduce volumes, or do whatever it was they had to do to get this right, it worked and I give them all the kudos they deserve for having done so. THIS is what I mean when I say I expect quality to match expectations. Truly excellent. Everything should be this good!
The dot-matrix type print is exceptionally fine and its subtlety is outstanding, creating a really positive impression. It actually looks even better in bright light.
There are a couple of very minor issues. The silver door handles are not brilliant, but better than we’ve seen in the past and there is the tiniest amount of blue paint bleed onto the forward wing root, but that’s being picky in the extreme.
2)Wings and landing gear
The wings, cradle system that they are exceptionally tightly fitted and with the dark blue-black under body paint, you could almost mistake them for being slot-ins. Superb finish, not over glossy paint and all the right detail. The winglets are spot on and the logo detail first class.
The main landing gear is neat and tidy, rock solid in every way though. Not one tyre rotates. The nose gear is where I have my biggest problem with the model. It’s an ugly bit of kit to be honest, and something Gemini have never done well on 757’s.
It’s old-fashioned solid look detracts from the almost delicate ‘lanky’ look of the notoriously high gear on the real thing. It looks fine from the front, but fat and incongruous from the side. I also think that at least on my model, it leans just that bit too far back.; much more than on the AA, Delta, United and Condor 757’s.
The engines are very good. There’s a very small amount of roughness around the rims, but I know I’m especially sensitive to that and compared to some models this is very minor. The rest of the detail is excellent – the exception as always with this engine mould is the flat back exhaust, but at least it’s been properly painted! An excellent job overall.
Faultless, really it’s just excellent. No complaints
I’ve looked through a mass of photos and I have to be honest, I think the blue is too dark. I have the older TF-FIX 757-300 in the same livery and the blue on that is what I’m seeing on all of the photos of TF-FIU. The Graphic on the tail is far better and more lustrous, but the blue, it just looks a little too deep. It isn’t as deep as the base body blue which is what they seem to have used. Men, notoriously, have far harder time defining shades of blue than women do which is why I lean so much on my Pantone guides. Icelandair’s official dark blue tail colour is Pantone 2747 – the model colour is far closer to 2757. Take a look at the logo snd the real thing photo at the top of the page that displays the correct blue.
For most of you this is an irrelevance, and for me after I’ve got used to it it will always remain one of those oddities. In the end, it’s not so far out to be a disaster and that’s what matters.
The tail, I’ve just discussed, the rest of it is a remarkable success story and it looks awesome.
7)Score and conclusions
- -2 for the tail colour
- -2 for the nose gear
- 96% Is an outstanding score and richly deserved.
This is an excellent model. It has it’s minor downsides – the worst to be honest is the nose gear. The paint job however, is a stunner. Absolutely excellent and a wonderful addition to any collection. Praise all round to Gemini for this one, it deserves acclaim and it will be a serious contender for MOTY 2016.
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