This was one of those rare occasions I actually got to see the real thing in the flesh before the model arrived! To be fair my first view of the livery in the flesh was a Portland-SFO flight coming in over the bay – an E175, E178SY. Then on the return journey to the UK, there was a 737 holed up at the far end of the pier. I could only see the tail end of it behind 773ER G-STBL, the BA285 boarding just down from her. Later she made her departure, and I just spotted it in time! This was N568AS.
Alaska Airlines has always impressed me with its approach to business, the way it treats its customers, which is pretty good by US airline standards, its staff, but last and no means least, how it continues to put up a hugely competitive fight against the US majors. Delta, who have deliberately targeted SeaTac as a Pacific hub, and have put huge pressure on Alaska particular. It’s like being one of three little pigs, and finding the wolf is camped in your garden.
It was this pressure, I’m quite sure that persuaded Alaska to chase after Virgin America. Sadly one of Alaska’s less commendable acts was doing its best to stop Virgin America from ever getting off the ground, and there appears to be no small amount of glee that they will be responsible, I think very shortsightedly, for dispensing with the brand altogether. However on Friday 17th June, the Group CEO, surprised the Wings Club, by announcing they were looking at operating both brands separately. I remain convinced that Virgin America, as a brand inside an Alaskan Airlines Group, will bet the best course of action. You cannot ditch that strength of loyalty from customers, and brand recognition lightly. It costs tens of millions to build that depth of customer love, few ever manage it as well as Virgin America have.
I’ve found that I’ve collected six Alaska 737, one of which is a 700, the Portland Timbers version. Seeing as central England isn’t really a viable destination, they don’t really fit my collecting criteria yet they’ve sort of sneaked upon me over the years! Either way I love the new livery, its traditional undertones are clear, but it’s also bright and modern.
So how has the model fared?
The new JCW/Gemini mould is a neat one, and the overall quality and finish are substantially superior to those on the A320’s. Detail and print quality are excellent and even the quad-tone colour print from grey through green, light blue and dark has worked really well as it goes up to the tail. There is a precision and crispness to the print that makes this currently the best 737 on the market.
2)Wings and landing gear
The wings, especially the split scimitars (and I love those!) are simply excellent and are slotted in with precision. Colour, quality and general detail are all superb.
Generally the landing gear is pretty good, however the nose wheel tyre is uneven and very thin in places, and there seems to be some sort of clear varnish over tyres and wheels generally. This seems to becoming more common; is it to stop the delicate tyres from falling off of the wheels?
A mixed bag of details. The nacelles and their detail are more than adequate, not perfect on very close examination but more than pass the eyeball test. What really doesn’t work is the excessively bright toy-like silver on the engine rims and fans. It looks childish and demeans the overall look of the entire model. In fact, it looks unprofessional. They just don’t look like that in real life! Why is this so hard to replicate?
Really rather excellent, no complaints at all.
I am still not resigned to accepting the need for so much plastic. You can hardly claim it’s a fully die-cast metal model when one end of it isn’t metal. Yes, they look good, but there’s a small amount of principle involved here. Let’s also not beat about the proverbial bush; it’s cheaper this way too, and cheaper means more profit. Does the end justify the means? Yes, if the manufacturer is up front about it, but these changes were sneaked in last year, almost as though we were all considered too stupid to notice. Nowhere does it mention plastic parts on the box. At least in the EU, that’s technically a trades description issue.
Am I being pedantic? Too right I am. I pay for metal, not thin bits of plastic. Presuming I’ll just accept it without being told is arrogance. And yes it is a point of principle. Give them an inch and they’ll take a yard. Plastic engines next? Why not the entire fuselage and wings?
I am not saying that it’s a bad thing, that it doesn’t look better, it certainly fits neatly and you’d be hard pressed, without touching them, to know any different. It’s not seeing the price drop or being given the information, simple basic courtesy of manufacturer to buyer, that annoys me. So that’s my rant over. It’s a minor thing in life I’m well aware, but symptomatic of the world we have allowed to develop around us. We constantly accept creeping incremental change, without seeing it, or realising quite where it’s going before it’s too late.
Spot on, an excellent job.
7)Score and conclusions
- -6 for the engine silver; it’s just too much of the wrong colour
- -2 for the odd tyre-wheel-varnish thing. What’s that all about?
- 92% is an excellent score. Compare that to the poor scores the A320 are getting and it just highlights it is desperately in need of a new mould. Probably with a plastic tail to stop it flipping backwards!
Overall it’s a good model, and I do really like it. It’s a superb new livery and worthy of anyone’s collection.
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