Aer Lingus A320-214 EI-DEK Gemini Jets GJEIN1433 May 2016

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Hard to believe, and the airline certainly hasn’t made much of it, but Aer Lingus has just passed its 80th Birthday on 22nd May. With a fleet of 50 aircraft, the airline has the third largest number of slots at Heathrow. That and the fact that IAG chairman Willy Walsh is both an ex-pilot and CEO of Aer Lingus, made it something of a must have purchase for the expanding group. Having wrestled it away from both the Irish Government and Ryan Air, the airline is now a fully owned IAG subsidiary and will eventually join OneWorld.

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A little bit of history explains why IAG wanted Aer Lingus so badly. The Irish Republic has immensely strong and highly favourable ties with the United States. More Irish people live in the US than in their home country. At the same time as an ex-British territory it has deep ties to the United Kingdom. Irish citizens get to vote in UK elections if they live here (a unique privilege), and especially now the troubles in Norther Ireland are over, that relationship has blossomed further.

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Compare the engine intakes to the ones of the real thing in the top photo

So unique cultural ties, a special relationship with the US, and Shannon and Dublin both have US customs and immigration pre-clearance. It means when you arrive in the US, you’re treated like a domestic arrival, going straight through and away.  British Airways is more than a little jealous of that facility, and the customer draw is considerable. UK airport departure tax only applies on the UK-Dublin route, so the tax and charges savings are considerable.  All over the UK flights to Dublin for onward US travel are growing and they’re low-priced. Aer Lingus already has routes to cities as far away as San Francisco flown on A330’s, and they have A350’s on order.

So IAG inevitably struck. The increased dominance at Heathrow was another bonus and the Irish Government protected the Aer Lingus slots for 5 years as part of the agreement to sell. After that, watch BA gobble some of them up for its own use.

As one of 34 A320’s currently in service EI-DEK  is pretty much an average example, almost exactly conforming to the average age of the fleet at 10.5 years. She flies any of the European markets the airline serves, and she’s in and out of BHX near me on a regular basis.

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Fitted with 174 economy seats and named St. Eunan, powered by 2x CFMI CFM56-5B4/P’s she’s leased from AerCap. In the longer term, IAG may well convert all of the A320’s to fit the standard interior layout the group uses, enabling the aircraft to be re-deployed inside 7 days to any one of the groups airlines, as needed. 

Oddly this was one airline that despite its local operations, has been hard to find models for. In the space of three months I’ve gone from none to two, as she joins the Aer Lingus BAe146 at RLSI.

1)Fuselage

This is the best part of this model overall. From a naked eye perspective it looks perfectly OK with neat painted domes and aerials, and what appears to be a neat finish. The mould is never right at the nose, but its more than passable.  Mildly above average in terms of general overview. I’ve heard a few people complain that they have issues with it tipping backwards all the time, but glad to report, this one doesn’t.

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2) Wings and landing gear

The cradle system wings are a mediocre fit, especially at the rear. I think it’s time JCW & Gemini face the fact that this old A320 mould needs dumping and a new one is long overdue. With the A320Neo now in the world, something will need to be done.

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The way the mould fits has ruined the rear starboard quarter markings at the back of the wing root which frankly look like a smudgy mark. The wing paint up top and below are all good.

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This photo shows the wonky starboard landing gear (left side in this image) and the twisted nose gear wheels.

The landing gear however is by no means adequate. Once again we have misaligned starboard main gear, ropy tyres all round and the starboard main gear at the back is stained from brown glue; it looks like the back-end of an incontinent pigeon. Both the main landing gear and nose gear seem to have some sort of clear varnish dripped on them, and the nose gear wheels are pointing too much to the right.

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Glue seems to have flooded down the back of the landing gear as if it were an incontinent pigeon. The “detail” at the rear of the wing root/cradle join looks to a naked eye like a smear

Yes I know it’s all very small, but its like its been shoved in by a trained monkey that’s had its fingers in vanilla syrup.

3) Engines

Small detail is blurred, and the type of silver rim paint used is old fashioned and too heavy so that it looks rough even from a distance. It is small detail, but for these prices it isn’t good enough, not when the Eithad 744F and Hekla Aurora prove it can be better! At least the colour of the fans was well chosen. To be fair though the engine fans are nothing like the real thing; compare the top two pictures.

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4) Nose detail

Generally, baring in mind the overall scale and detail, very good. The very dark cockpit windows though are a bit too much, a fractional shade lighter would have given them a bit more definition.

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The cockpit in real life, is so dark it looks almost invisible against the high gloss green. The flash highlights the roughness of the engine paint at the rims, and yes it is visible with the naked eye. The nose gear wheel “hook” explains the poor fit.

5) Tail detail

It just isn’t fitted properly. A permanent issue with this mould of late. The one I saw at the Hiller Aviaion Museum shop in California had exactly the same issue. It’s too high out of the fuselage by about 1mm – that’s 15″ in the real world. Not good enough.

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Note the smear of paint between door and tail, and the tail just doesn’t fit right.

6) Colours

Excellent, a quality all round match.

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7) Score and conclusions

  • -5 for landing gear issues
  • -4 for engine paint issues
  • -5 for tail fit
  • -2 for cradle fit
  • -3 for paint smear
  • 81% is a slim pass and nowhere near the sort of standards I’d like to see. This A320 mould needs replacing and soon and the quality levels need addressing asap.

It passes the eyeball test but it’s not a great model. It’s back to commercial acceptability again. It scrapes by the 80% threshold. There’s been worse, but there’s also been better. Lets hope the Vueling A320 is a lot closer to the quality Gemini production can reach when they make a real effort!

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