Malaysia Airlines A380 9M-MNE Apollo A13025 2013

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Witty/Apollo knew how to make a model like few before or since. They also knew how to present it in heavy foam packaging, an outer heavy duty box and a thinner labelling card sleeve. Opening one of these is a rare pleasure and needs to be savoured. There’s a Big Bang Theory episode where they open up a new iPhone and peel back the screen protector. It’s the same thing with these amazing boxes.

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It isn’t just that the packaging is amazing, it’s when you get to the model, even an inexperienced eye can appreciate you’re holding something special. You can feel the weight, which isn’t far off 400g, you can see exquisite paint, outstanding print, almost other-worldly definition. Indeed I would say that Witty/Apollo, when it came to the 773, 787 and A380 especially, produced the equivalent of a 4K image when the others were barely managing to cross between VHS and DVD levels of quality.

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All I needed to do was remove the nose gear and stand for this one

Now it is true that the best mould for shape is Phoenix’s ultra-light-weight aluminium alloy version. But a close second is the Witty/Apollo, well ahead of the JCW/Gemini version which is just wrong.  Yet when it comes to overall quality, nothing has ever touched Witty/Apollo in the A380 stakes. Part of the reason for that is the small number of models produced. In this model’s case just 200 copies. It’s taken ages to get one – never mind a new, unopened still in the cellophane one. It wasn’t cheap.

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Malaysia Airlines, as well all know, suffered two appalling tragedies in less than a year during 2014-15. It resulted in near collapse. It’s 6 A380’s are the core of its international operation, all of them required to run the twice-daily London Heathrow service from Kuala Lumpur. The 17 777’s are now all gone.

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9M-MNF Manchester-Kuala Lumpur. Had been diverted to MAN on 27th March due to storms over LHR,  ferried back without passengers. 100th A380 built. It was this photo at 100x zoom range 9 miles and height 33,000 ft that made me get this model, of sister 9M-MNE

Malaysia was keen to rid of itself of at least two of the A380’s during its restructure, but nobody wanted them, though Turkish airlines is said to have considered it.  They’ve recently announced a policy decision to deploy the 6 A350-900’s on order, and due for delivery from 2018 through 2019, on the London route – the 6 A380’s will be removed from service, and either sold or leased out to anyone who wants them. Frankly they’ll be a bargain second-hand, and I can see British Airways trying to pretend it isn’t interested. They would love more A380’s but don’t want to pay for new ones, something Willie Walsh has made quite clear.

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Of the 6 A380’s delivered, 9M-MNA, B, C, D, E & F, the last was the 100th A380 delivered and carries a “100th A380” tile – this is the one Phoenix produced. This is the only model of the fifth aircraft, 9M-MNE, The first four were delivered in 2012 and the last pair in 2013.

9M-MNE was delivered on February 7th 2013 and fitted with 8 first class, 66 business and 420 economy seats, totalling 494, which puts it in the median for seat numbers on A380’s (the lowest was 388, highest at present is 612).

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The six aircraft had an interesting paint livery history. The first was delivered with the red and blue moon kite tail (which is still the official logo), but no fuselage paint (other than white). During the delivery of the first four the corporate image was changed for the A380’s only, and the moon kite on them changed to all blue. This meant that the first four were lacking the blue fuselage paint for a while, while the last two were delivered with it. All six are now in the full blue livery.

1.Fuselage

The mould is remarkably close to being perfect, but the nose is very slightly misshapen and the fuselage is a fraction too tall, but you’d have to really know what you were looking at to tell it apart from the real thing, or the excellent Phoenix.

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There are no aerials. This was just at the period they were being introduced – and we all know most of them fell out back then, so to me it really isn’t a big loss. Witty/Apollo never had time to deploy them before their demise.

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The quality of the print and it’s definition is first rate, putting to shame everything else from 2013. The vibrancy of the blues, the sheer refinement of it all is something that’s difficult to emphasise. It just stands on a pedestal of perfection compared to its peers, and it still outdoes may of the current Gemini/JCW and some of the lesser Phoenix models.

2.Wings and landing gear

The massive over-engineered wings (they were designed to work for the freighter version, and for the longer extended version that was originally planned), are beautifully inserted into the fuselage. As an exercise in modelling they are in a class of their own. Not one other manufacturer ever managed to merge the wings in as seamlessly as they are here.

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The wing paint and detail is also a triumph, colours, shades, paint type is all much more realistic than anyone else has managed.

The under wings though are a little bit too devoid of detail, as is the under body.

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The landing gear, especially the main with its 20 wheels and superb, lump-free tyres (although Witty/Apollo tyres do leach a chemical into the diorama surface), are excellent and all rotate. The middle bogies also tilt slightly. The nose gear wheels and tyres are also first rate.

3.Engines

Four Rolls Royce Trent 970’s are a highlight. The rims are perfect, looking like polished metal. The hi-bypass fans are too bright, but they are see-through and the engine exhaust cone is the correct and beautiful metallic blue, which doesn’t change over time with engine age. First class, beautiful, engines. Only Phoenix has managed to get close with their A350.

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4.Nose detail

The side sensors are excellent, but there is no radome nor are the top of the nose sensors shown. The Malaysian flag is excellent, as are the nose gear doors. Cockpit windows appear accurate for size with the real thing.

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5.Tail detail

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A faultless exercise in how to build a quality model.

6.Colours

Perhaps the crowing achievement. The blues and their depth of quality are simply superb. The silver is something else. It’s beyond mere paint and looks almost as if it was actually silver inlaid. The quality of the silver paint on these models is what stands them so far above everyone else. They just got it perfectly right, and nothing has come near it since.

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7.Score and conclusion

As a model, it is to all intents and purposes, perfectly made. It may have things missing, like the radome detail, but that’s minor and a not infrequent failing – the Gemini MD-11F D-ALCN from July 2016 didn’t have it either as just one example.

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It’s the sheer quality of these models that makes them stand out so much. yes they were expensive, and that stopped many people buying them. When you have one in your hand you really understand why it’s so worthwhile. I’d rather have half the models I do now and they all be built to this standard, than have as many as I do, many of which are barely passable.

Witty/Apollo made the Patek Phillipe, the Rolls Royce, if you like, the haute couture version of 1:400 models. I miss them terribly.

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