American Airlines A330-200 N290AY GJAAL1549 August 2016

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This was the only model from this entire release Gemini issued for July/August 2016 that was even vaguely interesting or of any value to me. Their choices of late have become stale and uninspiring. They may however be limited by JCW’s ability to produce new models as they shift to a new upgraded production line.  It may also explain the frequent ongoing use of this ‘new’ mould. In fact it’s been around a year now, and it’s the larger A333 version that suffers particularly from the atrocious wing angle that beggars belief. The A332 isn’t perfect, but for whatever bizarre reason, it’s nowhere near as bad as the A333 in terms of wing position. Well it hasn’t been so bad on the one’s I’ve had!

Until now that is. This one now joins that far from unique club; “Wingless Wonders”. More later.

While I’m no fan of American Airlines – their latest advertising campaign aimed at telling us, the passenger, how we need to behave to be the perfect on-board guest, may have had its roots in a desire to personalise every flight for everyone, and in the airline’s own words, ‘create a unique flying experience’, but the concept seems to have caused more offence than anything lese.

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If you’re going to explain to passengers how the best of them behaves as an ideal, you have to do so with the moral authority of being the very best airline. The public reaction is hardly a surprise, how did AA and their ad agency not see it coming? “How about you become the best airline with the best service levels, then maybe people will be more willing to reach those ideals”. It rather shows how AA management and the ad agency are completely disconnected from the realities of every day flying, and their own less than decent behaviour in hiding compensation charges and not living up to their own promises.

That apart, this aircraft was delivered to US Airways as an A330-243 only in December 2013, the fourth in an eight aircraft order delivered from May 2013 to May 2014. She arrived in her US Airways livery and was sprayed into the AA livery around September 2014.

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Fitted with 20 Business class and 238 economy, they are at some stage expected to receive the new AA Premium Economy product, being widely used on US-European routes.

The question of course is: Can the body colour match any of the other AA aircraft in the collection? So far every one has had its own unique version of the correct silver-grey.

1.Fuselage

Now it has to be said the fuselage mould is actually really good. JC Wings new mould for the A332 is probably the best. The paint finish, detail, pretty much everything is very good indeed.

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But it isn’t excellent. The American Eagle is supposed to be white at the centre and the head a darker grey, which simply hasn’t even vaguely worked. It looks like the not strong enough red, and not bright enough blue, aren’t really connected in any way. This is a real pity as there is genuine refinement, and finish quality that is heading in the right direction. Something though, needs to be done to give a lift to paint types that are seriously dulled by the darkness of the colour they are printed on to.

Three upper aerials are all secure and well seated, showing no issues and there is minor detail on the aircraft belly.

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The over-elevated wings and the plastic engines stand out

2.Wings and landing gear

Despite the fact JCW have invested in a new production line to lift quality, they must be practising the art on the A330. Just like the SAS A330 and A340, standard fit is a completely loose wing. I took it ut of the box and it fell straight out. There isn’t even a micro blob of glue holding it in. The port wing however is fine.

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The good thing is that there’s no paint cracking, it’s an easy fix and I’m agreeing compensation with my supplier. This was £37 ($49.30US) delivered so no way should I have to be fixing it, even if I can and it’s easy to do.

The wings finish is otherwise exemplary, great detail, love the paint quality and the colours are all spot on. The mould causes the wings to be over-elevated, but they are substantially less so than the A333 mould, so they just about pass, but only just, another 1mm and they would look ridiculous. The sharklets though, too big.

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The landing gear is good. The paint is excellent, Phoenix with their addiction to Toys’R’Us style silver need to have a look, and take note. Good colours, quality tyres and wheels. The down side is the landing gear seals at the back looking too brassy and too visible.

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The wing is in, but not fixed at this point

3.Engines

Plastic engines? Ehmm. The rims are horrible, looking poorly moulded and the silver paint looks like the rim was held by tweezers and pinched. The pylons are also plastic it seems and they all move about and bend way too easily.

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The rim mould and finish is horrible

The printed detail on the nacelles is great, but the rear rims and fans look pretty poor, spoiling the overall look and finish. It makes them look cheap and unrefined. The fan colour is also too silver. They just aren’t like that in real life, why is it so hard to get right?

It’s also the principle of plastic. These are supposed to be die-cast models. It doesn’t say “with plastic parts as and when we see fit because we’re not making enough money and it’s too hard to make them in metal”.

Being plastic, the colour of the silver-grey isn’t the same because the base colour is different.

I know others have used plastic wings, tails, and so on, but these are not great quality models and they lack gravitas and finesse. What’s plastic next? If I wanted plastic I’d buy Skymarks kits. The ANA Star wars 789 shows the limits of plastic quite clearly, even when done really well.

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Wings over-elevated, engines poor from this angle and from behind, but nose looks OK!

4.Nose detail

Excellent. The radome isn’t there but even on the real thing it’s almost impossible to see. The sensors are picked out in silver, but they’re very hard to make out. In any event what is there is extremely fine detail. I’d have used black for the sensors – just as they do on the real thing.

5.Tail detail

This is one complex tail livery and I know the difficulties in getting it right are not easily overcome. In general I think it’s pretty excellent, but I still think it needs a stronger colour. It may be that it just isn’t possible to get refined print with strong enough colours, and for that I’m happy to consider it a success.

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The detail on the under-tail with its grey tone paint is also excellent and well observed.

6.Colours

Fifty shades of grey. One more new variation on a similar theme. I’m so used to it I’ve become numb to the idea that they will ever be accurate or even the same colour. The AA eagle isn’t anything like as strong as it should be.

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Fifty shades of grey? Nearest camera roof of the 788, then 752, A332, 772, 773 – all Gemini. 
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Front to back 772, A332, 752, 788. There’s also a 738 so silver it’s silly, and a Phoenix built Gemini labelled A321 in yet another colour.

7.Score and conclusions

  • -5 for the body colour
  • -4 for the poor colour and detail of the AA Eagle logo
  • -6 for the engines, poor silver rims, bad fan colour, plastic causing colour change that doesn’t match the body
  • -10 for the wing fail, poor QC and it should never have happened.
  • -2 for the landing gear seals at the back looking too brassy and too visible.
  • 74% is simply not good enough.

Because a swap wont resolve any of these things – other than the wing, and because the wing is easily fixed – it was never fixed in the first place, and there is no paint damage, I negotiated a 33% discount refund. I buy complete models, not kits.

Gemini put their name on these models and boxes, but they have to put pressure on to get them made properly. It isn’t good enough. They are responsible for them in every way, and that’s what matters.  Of course there will always be issues, but so many, so often, again and again and again…..And for our US friends: Enjoy your Labor Day.

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