Well Aeroclassics were quick off the mark with this one. A bit too quick. Only delivered on the 3rd June 2016, this is the first aircraft for a new French airline operating out of Paris Orly.
Frenchblue was founded as a low-cost airline – a growing trend in 2016, to compete against the likes of Air France and especially, Air Austral and Air Mauritius. Operating out of Orly in the south of Paris, they fly to ex-French colony the Dominican Republic at Punta Cana in the Caribbean, and Saint Denis on Réunion – in direct competition with Air Austral – and Mauritius, both in the Indian Ocean. Plans are in place to add more aircraft and set up routes to other French TOM’s (Territoires Outre Mare), overseas territories, especially those that are classed as domestic France.
Frenchblue is owned by Group Dubreuil who also own Air Caraibes, a regional airline based on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, and are due to take delivery of A350-900 & 1000 aircraft over the next five years, to service the French Caribbean islands from Paris along with their A330’s.
The aircraft, an A330-323 is equipped with 2 Pratt & Whitney PW4170’s and carries a very high density configuration 378 seat layout, made up of 28 premium economy and 350 economy. with prices starting at just $199 US return flights, many are sold out up to December.
These Aeroclassics models are never cheap, but they also don’t make many, sometimes as few as 200 or so. The packaging is the usual cheap and nasty with a sticker for the model in question, in this case put on upside down.
This is such a randomly minimal airline, that anyone bothering to do one of these is a little daring. You always take the risk with AC that they’ll screw up the colours, it’s almost inevitable, but they do make one of the best A330 moulds out there.
The mould is spot on, always has been. The quality of the print and paint work is actually very high. AC never bother with aerials and other such trifling paraphernalia; there’s always a sort of arrogance about them that thinks their amazingly wonderful and everyone else is just wrong. A sort of Trumpesque approach – say it often enough and everyone will think it true even when it blatantly isn’t.
The problem is once you’re past the build, and the basic print/paint the things that really matter start to show up.
One amusing item is that the registration is on the white sticker panel on the model, because that’s how it is on the photos of the aircraft while it’s testing at Toulouse. Accurate but rather premature.
2.Wings and landing gear
I’ve often complained about the shoddy gear on AC models – especially the A320 series. This set is way, way better than anything we’ve seen from Gemini/JCW and even Phoenix of late. It’s a simpler construction, but that means it’s neater and contains fewer parts. It is in fact surprisingly good.
The wings are spot on. If only JCW had paid some attention to the competitions models and really looked at what they were making. The slot-ins are perfectly mounted. The upper surfaces are reasonably detailed if a little glossy, the underneath are devoid of any detail at all, save for the aircraft registration on the port wing. the sharklets are fine , and the logo is printed into the inside reasonably well.
The port rim passes, the starboard not quite, but infinitely better than anything out of JCW of late. Fans are excessively silver, but neat.
This is where we find the first major omission – and the lack of research and jumping the gun shows up here. They’ve gone by the images taken of the aircraft on test at Toulouse.
You can see the difference on the engines straight away, the logo is missing on the model too, it was only added after delivery, and too late by the time this was commissioned for production.
Cockpit windows are not well defined and the blue bar of the french flag is not correctly aligned.
5. Tail detail
The detail and assembly are excellent.
Completely wrong. Every single colour and shade of blue is about 4 degrees of colour out on the Pantone scale, from where they should be, all of them much darker than the real thing. It’s worse in the metal, because the flash works in the models favour, making it seem lighter than it is.
The “French” word is almost deep navy blue, nothing like it should be. The only colour that’s right is in fact the white! Even that has gone wrong on the tail vertical, because its too thin and the blue underneath has affected it’s shade.
Even when I bought it I thought the colour would be out, so it really is no surprise. Maybe if they had any understanding of French blue and its history they would have made more effort, but I doubt it. None of these colours, are ironically enough, correctly French Blue.
The colours were widely used at the start of World War 1 until the army realised that the Germans could pick the light blue out far more easily than the rapidly adopted darker grey-blue. The colour means a great deal in France, linked as it is with deep loss in a brutal war, and a general air of patriotism. Especially right now.
How many times have I said, you can never get away from some meaning in any livery, no matter how innocuous it may seem on the surface? This is no exception.
7.Score and conclusions
- -15 for the across the board colour fails
- -1 for the cockpit windows and misaligned french flag
- 84% is still a pass, just. I’m glad about that because while the wrong colours are annoying, it’s Aeroclassics, so if they’d have been right it would most likely have been an accident. I cannot mark it down for accuracy based on what it was clearly based on, pre-delivery aircraft. That doesn’t mean I think a bit more patience to see the operational, post delivery aircraft wouldn’t have been a better option.
And yet, despite my natural feelings it’s not right, I actually really like it, even with its erroneous colours, and its missing logos. Let’s see if anyone else does it next, and if they’re more accurate!
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