KLM 777-306ER PH-BVA ‘Orange Pride’ Phoenix 11286 August 2016

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I love KLM and this livery is as KLM, and as very Dutch as anything could be. Holland is a Kingdom, the Head of State is King Willem-Alexander of The House of Orange, a long-standing house that dates back to the 1500’s. He’s the first King in over a century, all three of his predecessors being his mother, grand mother and great-grandmother. His daughter, Catharina-Amalia, Princess of Orange, will eventually succeed him.

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The Dutch, much like the British, love and respect their monarchial traditions and values. The House of Orange has stood for liberty, resistance against tyranny (no Dutch Monarch has ever held absolute power), and the colour orange is loved and revered in ways that are hard to comprehend for anyone outside of The Netherlands.  During the occupation of Holland by Nazi Germany (May 1940-May 1945), Orange was the symbol of resistance no amount of harsh and vicious repression could ever expunge.

I was co-organizer of large international car club rally a few years ago, around 400 vehicles took part. The Dutch, possibly even more than the British, are utterly obsessed with their historic cars. 67 of the 400 – some of whom came from Japan and America, were Dutch.

They organised themselves – something other groups find more challenging, and the whole lot, almost 150 Dutch people who came in those cars, were dressed in Orange boiler suits and hats.  Twelve of the cars had been re-sprayed Orange for the event. I cannot think of a colour anywhere in the world held in greater reverence by its people. You can’t but help admire them for it, their enthusiasm, their ability to stick together, and if you think them slightly eccentric, they’ll more than likely compliment you for saying so.

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That is the general background for this particular livery. From a KLM perspective it was about getting people talking about the airline of course, an on-line media campaign to celebrate Kings Day, mix the orange with the airlines Delft Blue standard look, and get some publicity while appearing to be patriotic. Cynical? Well isn’t everything these days!

PH-BVA entered service in 2008, her official name is Nationaal Park de Hoge Veluwe. Originally she carried C35W40Y350 but with the introduction of a new business class in June 2016 (when she was re-sprayed into the ‘Orange Pride’ livery), she was reconfigured to C34W40Y334. She had been re-sprayed into the new standard livery prior to this. The W is not a premium economy, just a more legroom economy seat labelled Comfort Plus.

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1.Fuselage

Mould issues are fine. Aerials, general base detail, windows, doors and so on, really all excellent. Logos and markings are first-rate on the blue. On the orange, they’re weak and lack intensity, appearing almost too pale when white with the distinct cast of orange showing through.

It’s the paint that excels, it really does, they’ve done a totally amazing job of merging the two colours as they should be, and transitioning them back to either blue at the rear or orange at the front. Exemplary.

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However. This is where it all goes to waste. Having gotten the paint so amazingly right, having separated out the red line above the blue line, just as should be, the dip, as it gets to the nose on the port side, is not quite right. Turn it to the other side, and the last segment of the nose paint from Door 1 rises up, then dips down, then dips down again. It isn’t a match for the port side in any way. What happened? Both sides wrong, but worst of all both sides different, and wrong!  Very sad.

2.Wings and landing gear

No issues with the wings, well made nice detail, over glossed as always, and they fit perfectly.

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The landing gear however is a monstrous quality fail worthy of nothing more than scrap.

The doors are appallingly bad, appearing hammered, rotten, and only a simple effort to hide the issue by painting over them has been made. The silver paint looks more like they were dipped in an unstirred paint pot of silver Humbrol left over from the 1970’s with the lid half off. Every single tyre is an unsightly mess of lumps.  There is brown glue on the nose gear that’s leaked on to the tyres. The starboard bogie is far too loose, and won’t stay level, a problem the Air China also suffered from.

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This problem surfaced last year and we were assured it was dealt with. It was common on A350’s – the Finnair especially. Now it’s making its presence felt again on the 777-300ER. This is two models in sequential months, and it isn’t good enough.

3. Engines

For once, and too my astonishment, we have a high quality set. They’re not excellent, because if you know what to look for around the rims, the paint isn’t 100%, but it’s much better than it has been. The fan colour is spot on and really works. Generally good detail and no problems.

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KLM has this odd habit of marking it’s starboard wings with red paint somewhere. I don’t know why this is. On this aircraft the red is on the back of the engine pylon, but while Phoenix have actually bothered to apply the red, they haven’t done it properly because they’ve never got the shape of the pylon right, one of those things that’s never going to change.

4.Nose detail

Much has been said above in the fuselage section, and it remains a sad fact, that having gone to so much trouble to get the paint right, the details just haven’t been printed in a strong enough way to make them work as well as they should.The weakness of the KLM logo is particularly noticeable.

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This official KLM image clearly shows where the nose line is. (Who wants a 1:400 scale set of those buses?)

If you look properly at the nose, neither side has managed to get the line drop right or into the correct position. It’s actually almost as bad as the atrocious Gemini KLM 789 from late 2015 in terms of accuracy.

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Port side is closer to being right…
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…starboard side is just wrong

5. Tail detail

Everything but the KLM colour on the vertical stabilizer, which is wrong, is excellent. They got the KLM colour, which is lighter blue than the body colour, correct in the 787-9 last year but seem to have forgotten their own work yet again, resulting in a silly inaccuracy.

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In Low light (this is 1500 Lumen daylight equivalent) it looks much darker, but clearly it isn’t different to the body colour.

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6. Colours

A truly remarkable achievement in transitioning the blue across the spectrum into the bright orange, far better than I expected. It makes the failings elsewhere seem even more annoying. The KLM vertical stabilizer colour fail is just a typical Chinese way of doing things; forget what you did last time on the same airline, do each model from scratch, learn nothing, don’t encourage expertise.

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Put her here in a routine diorama setting and who notices the detail mistakes? I do for one and I know many of you do too. Are you really happy paying this much money for something that looks close to, but isn’t a match for the real thing? Afterall that’s what you’re paying for.

7.Score and conclusion

  • -5 for the KLM tail colour, its way too noticeable not to be scored down
  • -6 for the awful main landing gear
  • -8  for inaccurate nose lines and lack of attention to one of the biggest details on the whole model.
  • 81% This should NOT have been scored this low. It should easily have sailed into the top 90’s and been on the list for MOTY 2016.  But it didn’t and it isn’t.

In honesty, if someone else said they were making this model in 1:400, I’d send this back and wait for a better one. I sent the Gemini 789 back and ironically enough, it was Phoenix who made it right.

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Phoenix 777, Gemini 747, Phoenix 789. Even from here you can see the KLM colour on the 789 tail – which is accurate, isn’t the same as on the closer two, which aren’t.

The problem here is a bucket load of good intentions that have failed to be turned into reality by amateur hour at the factory.

As to that landing gear, clearly having thought they’d buried the problem, it’s reappeared. It shows there’s no QC at the factory because they’ve stopped looking at the parts being supplied. Now, again, in typical Chinese manufacturing fashion, they have to re-learn the mistake and fix it. Nobody realises that continuous quality vigilance is an ongoing process, not optional or random. They need to be pro-active and not re-active, stop problems before they start, not let them get out into the world. JC Wings is bad enough, lets not have Phoenix join them again!

Poor QC has marred what could so easily in my view, have been a potential winner this year. It’s a mediocre model because detail and quality control issues have made it that way. The paint is truly superb, but it’s marred by quality control failings and detail management.

NOTE: the UK is sold out so by way of compensation my supplier credited me £10. If you have issues I urge you to ask for similar. It’s the only way manufacturers will get pressured to do better.

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