Air France originally ordered 12 A380’s but, always in financial trouble and with troublesome unions unwilling to face the changes necessary to permit the airline to survive on a cost-effective basis, it could never quite justify the final two. The reality was it just couldn’t afford to pay for them and the onset of the A350 gave it a way out. Though the last (F-HPJJ) had been delivered in June 2014, it was April 2016 before they were formally cancelled.
This aircraft, line number 99 F-HPJH, an A380-861 was delivered on 2nd May 2012. Fitted with 9 La Premiere (first class) in a 1 x 1 , 3 x 1-2-1 format in the nose of the front lower deck, 343 Voyageur (economy class) in mostly 3-4-3 layout on the rest of the lower deck, 80 Affaires (business class) entirely on the upper deck from front to upper deck door 2, in a mostly 2-2-2 layout, then 38 Premium Economy in 2-3-2, followed by another 46 economy seats at the rear end in 2-4-2 layout. With a total of 516, AF A380’s have one of the higher seat layout numbers in use, certainly with the west European airlines.
The video above shows a full 90 degree right turn taxi of sister F-HPJA from SFO on June 3rd 2016. It fully shows the size and scale of the aircraft and the massive wing root.
Economy seating on AF is not rated highly, rarely passing a two out of 5 stars, and even PE, which I’ve experienced myself is nowhere near as good as say BA, Lufthansa and certainly not Virgin Atlantic or Singapore Airlines. Never the less, AF A380’s are usually in high demand, with utilisation around 88%+ .
This model was allegedly one of just 500 produced, and it is a relatively rare sight second-hand. I decided that I should get one if it became available, to complete the in-service A380 fleet – and finally here it is.
As has been proven conclusively, Phoenix have by far the best mould for the A380. The crucial nose shape and fuselage height is the closest match to the real thing, way head of the rather poor Gemini/JCW version where the nose is demonstrably wrong in so many ways, the next best being the Witty/Apollo one, which while almost spot on for accuracy is incredibly heavy.
The Phoenix model is also a shock on the weight front, being almost half the weight of the heavy die-cast models – Phoenix is produced in an aluminium alloy, whereas the others are a traditional zinc alloy mix.
Whatever the metal and process, the Phoenix is undoubtedly the most accurate in almost every way. Check out the article on Who makes the best 1:400 A380?.
It really is a superb mould, and the detail, which shows up beautifully on the white fuselage is excellent. It’s refined, it’s accurate and it looks in all honesty, as good as anyone could possibly expect or want. The aerials are all seated well too. The underneath is perhaps a little bland, with little or no detail, save the aerial up front.
2. Wings and landing gear
The vast wings which are produced at Broughton in the UK, are another Phoenix triumph for the model, beautifully fitted, and wonderfully detailed. Even in 2013 Phoenix were over-doing the gloss paint on the wings and this is no exception.
The massive landing gear with its 4-6-6-4 layout and 20 wheels is an excellent set up. The inner pairs of 6 are actually lightly sprung and tilt, while the outer four just tilt. All wheels roll. The nose gear is also excellent. I’ve always preferred Phoenix’s wheel type – that slightly chrome metal finish to me looks much better than the flat grey plastic effect on the Gemini/JCW models.
Each of these huge GP7270’s is the size of an A320 fuselage and on this model they are superbly done, the paint is virtually flawless and even the silver-titanium is well above average verging on excellent, for rims and fans. The nacelles are first rate and the detail and print, right down to the eight crevette logos, 2 per engine, are all superbly done.
Because of the way the A380 air brakes work – only the two inner engines have these, and the angle of the engine on the pylon, the nacelle intakes are not vertical when the aircraft is on the ground, but the tops lean forward slightly more on the inner engines, and even this seems to have been accounted for.
4. Nose detail
It is by far the best and most accurate shape, and on this model its superbly printed and finished, right the way down to the Skyteam roundel. Every little detail is there and it looks amazing.
5. Tail detail
The massive tail, so huge that when it’s built it’s fully painted and operationally ready before the rest of the aircraft is even painted, is another superbly finished part of this model. Even the EU stars roundel is clearly visible and superbly applied in the blue stripe towards the top. All of the stabilizers fittings and angles, along with the general finish are first rate.
Hardly complex, but what there is, faultless.
7. Score and conclusions
No deductions. 100% score. It doesn’t qualify for MOTY 2016 as it’s a 2013 model, but it’s really excellent and while the A380 isn’t everyone’s favourite, it’s a beautiful example. When Phoenix do A380’s, they often are the best model they make. Only the Asiana A380 ever let the side down.
Overall a pristine and positive addition to the collection, which now has 13 A380’s and another on the way, plus inevitably the ANA version when that arrives. As a matter of interest, 13 A380’s occupy the same storage space (unboxed, in active use on the diorama), as 70 A320 series. The only one I hate – and I do hate it – is the JC Wings Qatar A380. It is truly horrible, the two-tone paint at the nose just emphasises so much how wrong the shape is and what a poor mould the whole thing really is. I’d never buy another. What it also does is show how awesomely good the Phoenix A380 is in comparison.
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