One of the worlds more interesting cargo companies, largely because it has a huge fleet of aircraft and most of them are operated on an ACMI (Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance & Insurance) basis, usually refered to as a ‘wet lease’. Under these arrangements, the client brands the aircraft (The Panalpina and Etihad Crystal Cargo 748F’s being a prime example), they operate in every way as they were part of that airlines fleet, but the monthly fee is paid to Atlas Air, who actually employ the crew, own and maintain the aircraft. Typically these contracts are three years, but customer airlines do abrogate them on occasion – British Airways did with GSS, ditching their 3 748F’s after just 2 years.
Atlas Air’s ten-strong 748F fleet is liveried in several airline colours, (they also have 21 744F’s, 4 of which are Boeing’s Dreamlifters, which they operate on contract), as well as 11 777F’s, a string of various 767F variants, a 752F and several variants of modified 737, including passenger aircraft on long-term sub-lease).
Three of the ten 748F’s were the ex-British Airways World Cargo aircraft, G-GSSD, E & F. These are now in Polar Air Cargo Livery and operated for Polar, along with 2 others. One, N855GT is operated for Eitihad Cargo, one N850GT is operated by Panalpina; leaving only N854GT, 859 and this aircraft 852, in Atlas Air’s own livery but operates for Polar.
Delivered on 30th September 2012, fitted with 4 GEnx-2B67’s, she mostly flies Anchorage-Cincinatti-Hong Kong-Tokyo-Shanghai-Seoul-LAX. However on very rare ocassions she makes trips to Bahrain.
The Gemini/JCW mould is remarkably similar to the Phoenix one. The quickest way to see the difference is turn them over and look at the V shape intakes at the front of the wing root on the bottom of the fuselage. The Gemini/JCW one is a lot more pronounced, the Phoenix intakes are smaller and often buried in paint. Phoenix wings usually fit better, especially the port side wing; on the Gemini/JCW it often has as much as a 1.5mm gap at the rearmost part of the join.
I’ve been looking forward to this model, I love my freight collection and this livery has long been missing on a 748F. So how did it do overall?
The mould is excellent, probably only a tiny bit better than the Phoenix, but they are much the same with only very minor differences.
The eyeball range livery detail and print quality looks good though something catches your eye at the nose end on the port side and it isn’t very pretty. Aerials and most paint standards are high.
2)Wings and landing gear
Neither of the wings is fitted properly, there is over 1mm gap at the rear edge port side and about 0.5mm at the starboard. These aren’t desperatly bad, just minor annoyances.
What is less pleasing to the eye is the way the engine ailerons have been mounted, with visible glue bubbles. The starboard wing also looks slightly rough at its top edge – not badly so, but enough that if you look at with the naked eye it notices during inspection.
While a reasonable standard, they’re probably the worst wing set I’ve encountered on any 748F – I have 9 748F and 5 748i to compare it to.
The landing gear at the nose passes OK, but the main gear is pretty poor. It’s so poor that the wheels can barely stay even. It’s caused by the quality of the gear assembly and it not being closed up enough at manufacture. It’s twisted, and put simply, just very poorly made. Whoever is making them clearly doesn’t give a shit – something we’ve seen on almost every Gemini model this batch.
The starboard side are better than the port side, but only just, when it comes to the silver. the colour is far better, but the rims on the ports side look like they have a couple of small chips in and are a bit rough, even with the naked eye.
Most of it is really rather good. What lets it down is the horrible blurred paint under the door, which is basically just an untidy smudge. The landing gear nose doors are also a little rough in terms of mould.
5) Tail detail
One part of the model that is actually excellent. The Greek Titan, Atlas holding the world on his shoulders looks great.
Perfect. These match the airlines corporate guidelines.
7) Score and conclusions
- -6 for the very poor landing gear assembly, really not at all good enough
- -6 for inconsistent engine quality of finish over 3 of 4 engines
- -4 for the blurred blue at the crew door, quite unnecessary
- -2 for various small but commercially passable quality issues
- 82% is another pass but only just. It certainly isn’t a MOTY 2016 contender
It’s a nice model, it’s OK but it’s not by any means brilliant. Mildly below average. I still think that Phoenix, when they are on form, do the 748F better. As a result of the quality of this model I haven’t ordered the Air Bridge Cargo due later this month/early next.
When you think of the cost of this – some £39 (US $58), it’s far too expensive to be this poor.The Phoenix version would be as good if not better and cost around £6 less.
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