SAS Scandinavian A340-300 LN-RKF JC Wings XX4303 2016

SAS

Another example of the appalling amount of time JC Wings takes to actually get anything delivered these days. This was announced in January 2016 and arrived mid July in the UK, though to be fair it was available in Amsterdam a month before because they air freight theirs – hence how the A333 got here first.

When I ordered it I did so hoping that it was the older mould, indeed I didn’t order the A333 version until much later to use up some left over credit in Amsterdam. That’s when it became clear this too was the new mould. You’ll recall the A333 arrived in several pieces, and because I had to put it back together I was able to fix the more than ridiculous wing angle JCW have inflicted on these otherwise rather decent fuselage and wing moulds.

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The model was announced in late January 2016. The update to the on-board wi-fi added the dome at the rear, during December 2015’s refit when the configuration was changed internally and refurbished, so it’s already outdated.

This was all compounded by news that the A330/340 models were widely expected to be suffering quality problems, and that JCW had agreed some kind of compensation to retailers/wholesalers – probably why it was easy to get a refund out of AMS in Amsterdam, as they’re not always quite so free and easy about them.

So with that as a background, you can imagine I wasn’t expecting much good to arrive. I was already subconsciously hearing a rattling box!

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The first one arrived like this

And so what did finally wing its’ way out? Not a rattling box as it happened, which is hard to comprehend, because the starboard wing had fallen out, and the No.4 engine was broken off on its pylon, add to that the bizarre detail of the rear of the No. 4 engine pylon – which had been snapped clean off!

I contacted my supplier straight away, and he agreed to get me a replacement immediately, and I’m very grateful for that, it arrived yesterday with another model I’m really quite excited about you’ll see next week. JCW may know they have a problem, but would it simply not have been easier to recall the lot, and not let any of this brand, and reputation damaging dross  reach buyers?  Obviously protecting the brand is not a concern.

So with the first one being a pile of rubble (the supplier didn’t want it back so it’s going to be a spares donor), what of the replacement?

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The aircraft itself was delivered as SE-REA to SAS on July 20th 2001 and configured in 54 Business and 207 economy, but in November the same year she was re-registered to Norway as LN-RKF and modified to 40 business, 28 Economy Extra and 179 economy.

On 25 August 2005 she had a major tail strike at Shanghai Pudong on take off, was reconfigured internally again during a 2006 overhaul to 46 Business, 28 Economy Extra and 171 economy, and then during a major overhaul in December 2015 – which JCW seem not to have known about despite it being easily obtained search information, she was reconfigured again, the internals refurbished, and wi-fi installed and a second large dome added to the roof (that the model lacks). So she’s now in 40 SAS Business, 28 SAS Plus and 179 SAS Go – these being the new slimline seats.

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The 5 A343’s that remain in service – and will do until the A350 replaces them at the end of the decade, tend to be used on very long-range routes, such as SFO, LAX, Bangkok, Tokyo & Beijing. Because of the seating arrangement they’re also often used on the Dubai service. SAS Plus is 1 inch wider than economy and has a 38 inch seat pitch instead of 32 inch but it isn’t a full Premium Economy service in the full sense as you’d find on Lufthansa or Virgin Atlantic, though it comes close.

1.Fuselage

This replacement is the first of the new JCW moulds at A333 length, to have arrived a) intact, and b) with the wings in a lower position. The mould is a really good one, as I’ve maintained from the start.

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The detail  print and quality is first class, really outstanding, all the way from the lettering to the doors and windows. Three aerials up are present in the right places with the larger forward dome an extra fit item that seems at last to have been installed with some finesse, though it still doesn’t fit perfectly, its around 90% if I had to quantify it.

They’ve included the under body aerial, but not the two de-icer heater aerials forward of it, which is no big deal.

One of the key colour print elements on the SAS models in general is the three national flags of Denmark, Norway & Sweden. These appear at the nose and at the rear, and really do look first class.

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Another key piece of print is the wording. ‘Scandinavian’ is silver-grey, and metallic, where the word ‘Airlines’ beneath it is not white but a light grey and not metallic. This has been managed exceptionally well.

Under body detail is also above average, where many would bother with nothing, there is a degree of detail in the mould and print which exceeds the norm by some margin.

2.Wings and landing gear

The wing tips are still too high, they should not be above the roof line. However whereas the first one (the Delta HGW badged as a Gemini), was outrageously high and looked utterly ridiculous, these have come down a long way.

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Now without going into the full measurements and micro-detail (much as I am inclined to do so), these are the key observations:

  • The wings on the new A343 are above the roof line at the tips on this model. This is simply inaccurate.
  • They wingtips are wrong for height but don’t look as bad as they did, because on this model at least, they are lower and match the wings I was able to re-mount in the A333 version.
  • The sharklets are much too big on the new A343/A333, as much as 40% oversized. That contributes to them looking too high of course, but even so the wing is too sharply angled upwards, I’ve estimated by about 4 degrees.
  • Phoenix and Aeroclassics both have the wings and sharklets spot on for size and shape, despite everything the JCW version – the same one used now by Gemini, is just wrong, even though it’s technically well executed as a finished item.

Now if you can live with these things, fine, if you can’t well don’t go buying any JCW or Gemini A333’s or A343’s any time soon. Strangely enough the only A332 in the new mould I’ve had, the Eurowings, while the first ones quality was terrible (and it was replaced), the problem with wing height just doesn’t happen.

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Landing gear is OK nose and centre, but the brass back and front of the outer main gear and the terrible fit, looseness of the wheels on one side, just awful quality. The bogies all tilt and all the wheels rotate, though one side was stiffer than the other.

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Nicely mounted middle gear

Most notable because nobody has made the centre gear in such detail on a 1:400 before that I’m aware of, is the way this is done. Thetrouble with the landing gear is it’s a great idea horribly executed in quality terms.

3.Engines

OK lets get past the rims right away, the bane of my life that they are, every engine is barely passable when it comes to the rim paint. The usual cheap silver paint failing to bond to the glossy red beneath. Really quite shoddy and unacceptable.

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Port side engine rims are rubbish

The fan colour and detail however is quite high and better than average. The nacelles of these CFM56-5C4’s are the correct colours, and full of detail. Now that places me in an odd position, because I love detail. The fact is however that I cannot find a single photo of this aircraft where you can see the white lined detail JCW have printed on the nacelles. With the exception of the word ‘Scandinavian’ and the fan position line, there’s nothing. It’s a bizarre world, but in this case excessive detail is in fact, inaccurate.

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Starboard side engine rims are no better

The rear segments in the main fuselage colour, and the exhaust cones, and oddly enough the exhaust rims, are actually higher quality than the intake end! The downside – not by much!

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4.Nose detail

Actually rather excellent, everything seems quality and there are no issues.

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5.Tail detail

Superbly produced, everything inserted correctly, exceptional.

6.Colours

The main body colour seems to be as good as anything else I’ve seen, certainly better than the Aeroclassics attempt at it. It tends to bleach out in bright sun, looks almost beige in some light, it’s a difficult colour to get right, but having looked at the SAS guidelines, shown here I’m not convinced.Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 1.48.01 PM The usual mess up in the factory has occurred and the colour on the A333 is not the same as that on the A343, one is clearly lighter (A333) than the other. SAS haven’t changed the colour since 1999.

And yet, the other colours look perfectly fine.

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No flash, pure daylight the A343 at the front is a tad different to the A333, which is oddly very close, if not identical in colour to the Witty 738. The Aeroclassics A321 is way out in every respect.

7.Score and conclusion

  • -10 for the wings and angle
  • -8 for the engine rim paint
  • -2 for the body colour, which is close but not quite close enough
  • -4 for the landing gear – so badly made on the outer main gears

76% is a low score. Correct the wings angle and sort out the engine paint and all that really goes away. It should be so much higher. The model is certainly capable of being that much better than it is. As usual they love to ‘spoil the ship for a halfpenny of tar’ as they used to say in the days of sailing vessels.

It is mind boggling and annoying that an airline we have seen so little of in model terms for so long, SAS, should get its major aircraft built in 1:400 only for them to be awkwardly erroneous.  Of course it doesn’t matter which airline it was in the end. It’s the faulty wing fit and over-angled mould with excessively large sharklets that spoils an otherwise potentially excellent model.

And that is the real nub of the issue. It could be and should be outstanding in terms of quality, all the hallmarks of potential excellence are there. As usual though, rather than ask anyone who knows (like the retailers for example), or wander the halls of forums, or websites like planespotters.net, which are filled with details and imagery, or do proper research, the manufacturer chucks out this and thinks we should all be delighted with it.

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The real thing back in 2014

That is so very, very Chinese. It’s why, until they change their attitude and dispose of central, controlled ideology and rigid thought, and learn to innovate, China will never be truly great. When this model will do, and they think it perfectly acceptable to spend a great deal of money – and still get it wrong – it sums up why, despite all the best will in the world, they never make anything of their own that is truly, 100% home-grown, and technically excellent, that anyone actually, freely, wants outside of China. Quality and excellence are still difficult concepts for model manufacturers to grasp. How many years does it take?

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