This may seem ironic, but juts a few weeks ago this model was taken out of service at RLSI and lodged in the “to be boxed and stored” shelf. Why? Because while it’s actually not bad as models go, it’s not the right colour – the reds were never accurate and the body colour was not even close, she looked out of place with the new A346, A343, 787-9, and even the JCW A330, which is close enough to being accurate as is the Apollo 744 G-VROM.
Phoenix recently did a release of this very aircraft, but that mould is just too difficult to look at with its dragging wings, on a model for an airline I love so much. Yes, it had all the right colours, but, no way was I buying it.
Now Gemini, having just produced a 1:200 version, have produced a 1:400.
This model was purchased back in mid-2013 from Virgin Atlantic’s on-line shop for £35. She arrived as they all did in a red box, has a chrome stand, and a ‘signed’ by Branson and somebody at Gemini numbered card. She was 0537 of 5000 and some odd number (sorry but I can’t be bothered to rummage through 16 crates of boxes to find it).
The box doesn’t have anything to indicate where it came from or who made it, just the company who ordered it and supplied it to the Virgin Atlantic licensed retailer, who operate the on-line shop on the airline’s behalf.
There was also the Gemini version, GJVIR1082 that they released in 2011. That never had the Virgin logo in the winglets. The one produced for Virgin was supposedly fixed and updated. This one most definitely wasn’t, so who knows what really happened? I’ve spoken to my associates at Virgin and nobody seems to be left who even remembers!
The GJVIR1082 version was based on the original interpretation of the new 2010 Billboard scheme. There were several large-scale models made – 1/100’s of the 789 in the old livery but with a new red that was never used. They still have one in Upper Class reception, and if you ever get chance to watch the Virgin Atlantic documentary from 2015, Up In The Air, the project office has models in old and newer liveries, one of which has two types of red! It’s no wonder nobody really knew when the airline didn’t seem to have a grip on them itself.
However, after years of both Gemini and Phoenix producing the wrong colours, Aeroclassics screwed up the A320 of Little Red and so did JCW, it looked like we might never see it resolved.
The Dreamliners however gave them an opportunity to try again.
The New 2010 Paint:
Virgin worked with PPG Aerospace Coatings Group – they also provided Air New Zealand with their All Blacks scheme amongst many others. Special-effect coatings by PPG enabled Virgin Atlantic to have the unique reflectivity and the bright, vibrant colour the airline’s design and engineering teams wanted for its new livery.
Painted with DESOTHANE® topcoats by PPG Aerospace coloured, with ANDARO® special-effect pigment, the proprietary PPG pigment was used in coatings that create the red tail and engines, and the aubergine Virgin Atlantic lettering across the aircraft. The fuselage is painted with DESOTHANE® topcoats in very light high-sparkle silver mica.
Traditional mica aircraft coatings have about 30 percent reflectivity, while coatings with ANDARO® pigment reflect about 90 percent of visible light, which gives the colour its unique lustre and its tendency to reflect surrounding colours.
The base coats are a standard white-grey undercoat, on top of this a very light mica-metallic pearlescent is sprayed using the ANDARO® pigments. That in turn is over sprayed by the DESOTHANE® topcoat.The same process is used for the 1966 Candy Apple Red which uses the ANDARO® pigment instead of the very light silver. The aubergine lettering of the Virgin Atlantic name on the fuselage is similarly applied.
The irony is, other than the aubergine, none of the above information was used on this model.
Delivered 30 september 1998, the aircraft is entirely Gatwick based, with jaunts up to Manchester, Belfast and Glasgow. These aircraft are used by Virgin Holidays to destinations like Orlando, Las Vegas, Miami and the Caribbean, including Cuba.
She was repainted into the new livery in October 2010, but the interior was reconfigured in November 2012, with an odd upper deck arrangement. Split with 20 Premium economy in 5 rows of 2-2 and 33 economy in 5 rows of 3-3 and 1 of 3 on the starboard side.
The main deck is 14 Upper Class in 7 rows of 1-1, 56 Premium Economy in 3-4-3 and 342 economy in a mix of 3-3 and 3-4-3.
No matter what awfulness Gemini produce at times, the one thing they seem to be able to produce consistently well is a quality 747. This one is no exception. The colours may be wrong, but the detail is first class and the main metallic fuselage is really rather good. This is pre-aerials of course but it’s a first class example of what they can do, but so often don’t on so much else.
2.Wings and landing gear
The cradle fits well, though it’s a bit gappy at the rear of the wing. There’s none of the twisted wreckage we’ve seen on the Dreamliner models late ast year.
Detail is excellent and the paint is excellent quality. However the Virgin logos in the winglets are missing.
The landing gear is the older rigid style, tyre-on-a-spigot that’s since been replaced and improved.
4 CF6-80C2B1F’s are pretty accurate, but they look so small in an age of ultra-high bypass efficient engines now though. Rims and fans are remarkably good.
Perfect, other than the flying lady, which is alright from a couple of feet away, but isn’t as impressive much closer. It looks like the nose cone line is missing, but it isn’t, you have to strain your eyes to make it out, it’s so fine.
5. Tail detail
No issues except of course, the colour.
Only the aubergine lower case ‘virgin atlantic’ lettering is correct. Everything else is just wrong. They tried with the body colour, but sadly it was too heavily based on photographs – the paint absorbs and reflects surrounding colours, it’s painfully hard to find it in a ‘natural’ light that shows what it’s really like. Phoenix and Gemini have tried since – different interpretations admittedly, but close enough as is ever likely to be achieved. And that is what we should be seeing on the new version in September. Please though Gemini, one wrong colour – including the font – and it’s going back.
7. Score and conclusion
- Two huge colour fails -20
- Flying lady image not brilliant -4
- Missing Virgin logos on winglets – 4
- 72%. That is a qualified score really because if you knew no better, it looks pretty good from a build quality point of view.
Well, at retail list prices of £51 – $68USD – though it’s often discounted down to around £40, the new version had better be perfect, and I mean PERFECT, or it will be going straight back where it came from! This one will be packed up and stored as an interesting, if somewhat valueless anachronism.
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