Phoenix v Gemini: Lufthansa Cargo MD-11F D-ALCN


I had no intention of buying the Gemini July 2016 release of D-ALCN, but found myself in the Manchester Airport Concorde Museum shop – one of the few in the UK with a huge range of models in all scales, though grossly over-priced. However, if you have the Concorde tour certificate they give you 10% off and if you happen to be wearing an interesting T-shirt and strike up a conversation, off comes another £5 so it was no more than it would have been normally. And of course the invaluable opportunity to inspect the model before buying!

Use this photo of the real thing as a reference point, taken in 2014 

I bought the Phoenix version a year or more ago. It’s a mildly odd model, and as it’s already been reviewed, I can tell you it isn’t actually very good.

The Phoenix version: Lufthansa Cargo MD-11F D-ALCN Phoenix 04052 2014 Release


The Gemini version: Lufthansa Cargo MD-11F D-ALCN Gemini GJDLH1371 2016 release

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This particular aircraft was actually the very last MD-11 built, number 200 (and was constructed from new as a freighter for Lufthansa). She was rolled out on 20 September 2000 and delivered to Lufthansa in early 2001.

Like all of the purpose-built versions she has a front load door on the port side. Apparently most of the conversions have a rear port side door (but not all).

 Allegedly only 500 of these models were made by Phoenix but I’m not sure I believe that. Who knows how many Gemini built, but I doubt it was vast numbers being cargo. Besides to be fair, the apparent quality also shows you numbers were probably quite small in relative terms. 

Now my understanding is that Lufthansa like to sign off and have input on what Gemini produce. That was deeply evident with the retro 748i – the Gemini version was superb (and yes I know some of you had wings that fell off), but generally it was pretty awesome, compared to the Phoenix which was nowhere near accurate.

Looks like we have a similar scenario here.


The Gemini mould is simply superior, especially at the nose which Phoenix just didn’t get right in terms of shape.

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Phoenix has moulded-in the small pair of domes just behind the centre of the roof, the Gemini has them printed on.

The Phoenix has no aerials. The Gemini has one (which is all there is) mid-point up and the two red-painted aerials below, one just behind the nose gear (which is the waste water heater), and the rear most which is the air-con/refrigeration condensation drain heater.

Phoenix version

The red detail markings on both sides show various input/output valves and sensors, and are exceptionally well done.They’re not even present on the Phoenix.

The cargo doors on both sides while present on both, are very much a superior print on the Gemini.

The under body colour is completely wrong on the Phoenix – the grey is way too dark by a huge margin. Indeed the nose end of the paint looks like it’s marginally lighter than the under-wing and rear fuselage.

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The Lufthansa Cargo lettering on the fuselage is incorrectly spaced and too tall, although it looks like the Lufthansa font, it’s not right. Gemini’s is spot on, though close up neither do well in the high definition stakes.

The cockpit window arrangement is actually pretty good on both models, though too large on the Phoenix by a small margin.


These would be hard pressed to be any more different than they are. I don’t know what Phoenix were looking at, or if they just made it up as they went along. In some respects it’s best if you look at the photos to see the massive detail differences, they are so numerous it’s verging on ridiculous.

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It’s very difficult to find images of these aircraft taken from above to see what the wing surface looks like. However, through contacts I was able to get a brief assurance that the Gemini was almost uncannily accurate and the Phoenix, “invented”.

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Both models use the cradle system for the wings too, which is a rare thing these days. The fact is though, that as moulds, and moulded detail go, both are exceptionally good. It’s the paint and detail finish that Gemini have excelled at and Phoenix failed completely.

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3. Landing gear

The Phoenix nose gear is truly terrible. It’s either not installed correctly or it’s just way too tall, giving the model a sharp nose-up stance that just looks stupid.

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I prefer the wheels on the Phoenix and tyres, rather than the plastic looking wheels on the Gemini, but overall the Gemini is neater and better produced.

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The Colour and printed detail difference is overwhelmingly  a Gemini win

A downside on the Gemini is visible brown glue – this is happening a lot lately and it’s quite unsightly when you do see it.

4. Engines

Neither really have them spot on when it comes to the exhaust, but Gemini’s is better. The engines vary depending on photo date for colour – they obviously get changed over regularly in servicing and the nacelle panels are often different. However the detail is pretty good on both nacelle panels.

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Look at this more closely and brown glue is running down the landing gear

The paint on the Phoenix rims is nowhere near the quality of the Gemini, which is unusually high. The fan colour is too bright by a mile, and the Phoenix is better in that respect.

The Phoenix engine

5. Nose detail

Shape is a Gemini win, but for whatever reason they didn’t bother with the radome detail and Phoenix did. Generally the Gemini print and detail quality is much higher.

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Now here we have a difference in detail that can only be described as epic. If you purchased the truly hideous Phoenix 737-800 G-FDZE in Thomson livery, the one with the wings that look as if the were a replica of trench warfare in World War 1, we’re talking that sort of epic. The Phoenix tail is full of unnecessary, and over-done detail that makes it look a bit silly.

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Phoenix did get the engine exhaust cone right, Gemini did not

On the other hand, the Gemini looks mildly underdone! However it’s more than preferable to the Phoenix which is either a miracle of observational analysis that’s turned into Frankestein’s Fin Monster or a total cock up. Either way it just doesn’t work.

Phoenix’s tail looks freaky

One thing Gemini have done Phoenix did not do, was modify the ring intake of the centre engine. The front is chrome on the real thing, with a bright silver band behind that before reaching the tail blue. Now kudos to Gemini for doing it, but the front band colour is clearly chrome, not the dark titanium colour they’ve used on the model.

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The Phoenix tail engine intake is more accurate than the Gemini for colour

The thing that Phoenix got right and Gemini did not, is the centre engine exhaust. The cone is clearly longer than the tail extension above it; on the Gemini it’s noticeably too short.

Strangely enough both Phoenix and Gemini got the horizontal stabilizers spot on in paint but the Phoenix version is “over-moulded”, for want of a better description.


The blues and tail yellow disc for the flying crane logo are all perfectly fine. White is white. The underneath however, and the wing surfaces, well Phoenix got those so wrong they must have been guessing. Gemini walk off with this one, except for the curious centre engine rim.

One note, the yellow looks fine with the naked eye but the mix looks very different with a flash, one appearing paler than the other.

The Phoenix version from 2014 with a Centurion Cargo behind. 

8. And the winner is…

As soon as I saw it in the box I knew it was superior, and it is hands down a better model.

The Phoenix scored just 60% last year. I’m not inclined to change that in any way.

The Gemini:

  • -2 for the tail engine rim because it looks wrong and is
  • -2 for the tail exhaust being way too short
  • -2 for visible brown glue
  • -2 for grey-white definition in places
  • 92% overall is pretty good to say the least, in fact it’s the best Gemini this year and enters the MOTY 2016. 1400Reviews-Lufthansa-MD-11F-D-ALCN-Gemini-CpywrtJonChamps2016 10

My recommendation: If you see one, buy it. One of the best MD-11F models I’ve seen – and I’ve got a few!

Phoenix totally botched their D-ALCN; a very disappointing model. I see these Lufthansa Cargo freighters often, in and out of Frankfurt as I am, and Gemini really does it justice. How do they get this so right and the A320’s so hideously wrong?

Either way, it’s a rare but deserved win for Gemini this year. If only everything was made to this standard.

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