Please note the next post will be Monday 19th September, as I’m off to Salzburg and Berchtesgaden doing some more research for my fourth Book.
It’s taken a while to persuade myself to buy an SAA model, they’re generally fairly bland in terms of livery. I was motivated to try to find the 2012 Olympics A343, having watched it fly over me into, and later out of Birmingham, having been diverted from Heathrow with others due to a storm.
As odds would have it I bid on one on Ebay (the Hogan A346) and won it, at the same time as bidding on another, the Gemini, and won that. Zero to two in 24 hours, because nobody wanted them but me! Quite what that says, I’ve decided to ignore.
So, Hogan are not especially prolific these days in 1:400, and that’s a pity, because there is a desperate need for a third real alternative to the usual Gemini/JCW and Phoenix “competition”. To be fair I don’t really think of them as competitors. There seems to be a defacto understanding that Phoenix never make US airline models, and Gemini rarely make anything from the China-Asia market (except the Philipines which we have to remember was once a US Colony, and rumour has it they’re doing a Vietnamese A321 in 9000th Airbus tiles, but these are exceptions, and not the rule). Phoenix also make things Gemini never would – especially European market (La Compagnie for example).
And yet, on occasion they both break their backs to be first out with something new from Europe’s airlines. Take the Virgin Atlantic G-VNEW, KLM 789 and BA 789 last year. Or the Vietnam A359. Rather sadly both of them screwed up badly on those, especially the A359.
So both of these models are far from brand new, but both are in exceptional condition. They may be years apart even but there are very, very few models that have such high production standards today, you’d be able to tell much of a difference. In fact that’s a double-edged sword. It tells you that there has been little or no apparent investment or technological change on the one hand, and on the other that the system hasn’t needed to change much because it was that good.
And that in my opinion, is why models like Phoenix’s A350 and 787, and JC Wings’ A330 new version (except the wings of course), and their 737-800 really look so very good when they’re finished properly. In terms of print quality that is. The rest – other than the extraordinary ability of the old 744 mould Gemini/JCW use, which can often be utterly superb (it won Model Of The Year 2015 for the Etihad Cargo), are often mediocre even on a good day. Gemini’s A320’s of late – especially the jetBlue Veterans, Alitalia new livery to name but two, have been pretty dire for the last two years. The again, the pressure to produce high volumes reduces quality drastically. Old facilities, old practices, old methodologies, don’t work in a high volume environment. Victims of their own success, and the global availability the internet has made possible.
So how do these old birds perform now in 2016 and which one shall I keep for display?
Hogan’s box is a large heavy-duty cardboard construction that makes Gemini’s look rather feeble. Frankly it’s a perception issue. The Hogan just comes across as better quality, it’s that simple. In reality I doubt the packaging makes that much difference, but that’s not really the point.
The Hogan is A340-642 ZS-SND item number 9468 from 2010.
The Gemini is A340-642 ZS-SNB GJSAA382 from 2003 – 2000 were made. This registration was produced by Hogan and Skymarks in 1:200, Dragon wings did two versions, one an exclusive for SAA in 1:400, Schuco did two versions in 1:600.
3. General appearance
The two fundamental model making difference are on full display. Gemini with the cradle system and Hogan with the slot in wings.
Even to this day, near-bankrupt SAA has done little to the livery, having far too many other issues on its plate, like paying for fuel. As with so many airlines in this situation, they have expensive to operate aircraft but owe little or no money on them, and yet they can’t even fathom the idea of paying for updated aircraft. Being state-owned may have saved it from oblivion, but it hasn’t enabled it to invest as much as a few dollars on anything not deemed essential.
The aircraft are very plain with few significant details visible on the white fuselage.
The mould on the Hogan, especially at the nose isn’t correct. It looks more like a big A320 than the more accurate Gemini, which has a longer nose. The Hogan’s is too stubby. The later Hogan has the Star Alliance logo, the earlier Gemini doesn’t, which is correct as they never joined until 10 April 2006.
Both have the red roof dot amidships, but you’d almost think it was an accident on the Hogan, it’s far more prominent on the Gemini.
The South African wording on the Hogan is too thick and too dark a blue. Indeed in general, the Hogan’s print is very slightly less refined, despite it being the newer model.
The one thing that does work on the Hogan though, is the white. It’s a far cleaner and thicker white that’s been well applied. The Gemini’s appears too thin, and more like an undercoat than a top coat. It makes the Gemini look a bit lack-lustre and rather second-rate.
Both of them have gotten the flight deck printed on reasonably well.
Neither has any detail to speak off underneath.
Despite the Gemini’s cradle it’s very well fitted and neat, as tight as could be expected. The Hogan’s slot in wings are however far more professional looking, and superbly installed with correct body detailing not possible with the cradle.
Gemini’s wing colours are poor and the dark grey gloss overly excessive. There is little detailed definition on leading or trailing edges.
The Hogan wings however are absolutely amazing, superb definition, detailing that stands out, and outstanding leading edge definition, the likes of which we rarely see. One of the best sets I’ve ever seen on traditional conventional metal wing.
The Hogan has the SAA flag painted inside and outside of the sharklets, the Gemini only on the outside. Now it’s possible this may have changed over the years, but I spent ages looking through photos to no avail. Certainly in images post 2009 they both have them on the inside too.
Bizarrely the Gemini’s under-wings are incredibly detailed and not plastered over with thick paint, while the Hogan’s are glossy, but not excessively so, and yet have no detail at all.
Gemini’s pylons are far better, with detailed dark silver paint that’s well finished. The Hogan’s lack any paint detail and are just grey gloss.
The four Rolls Royce Trent 556-61’s couldn’t be more different.
- They both have RR logos, but the both of them are pretty lousy for definition.
- The Hogan intake rims and fan colour are outstanding in terms of finish and quality
- The Gemini intake rims are very good, none of the issues of half-flakey paint we see now, but the fans are a viciously bright silver and look mildly stupid, a total fail on the realism chart.
- The rears of the Hogan engines are frightful, poorly moulded nacelles making it seem that the bypass flow simply can’t happen! The exhaust cones are an impossible silver and way too bright.
- The Gemini rears are vastly superior, with good colours and the nacelle is correctly moulded.
It seems that Hogan engines are plastic, as each shows a marked horizontal mould line. If you took the back of the Gemini’s and the front of the Hogan’s you’d have perfection!
It has to be said at the end of the day from a presentational point of view, the front of the Hogan’s looks much, much better, plus they are a brighter, cleaner body-matching white. Taken in combination with the wings, they look amazing and the exhaust cone is a bearable compromise.
The Gemini is better for the pylon detail and the exhaust, but in presentation, the fans in combination with the over-glossed wings just let it down.
The Hogan’s is plastic, but roll and the bogies tilt. The doors look feeble. They are also tyres on wheels. The Gemini by contrast is metal (well the hydraulics are, the doors are plastic on the nose gear), but nothing, not one of the tyres on a spigot even move. They may be metal but the tyres look too fat and a little incongruous.
Neither is a winner, but on a sliding scale, I’d give it to the Hogan on grounds of utility.
Neither has gotten this right. Gemini has the sun in the top of the tail in totally the wrong place and too much black has leached in the yellow, making the top of the yellow band too dark, when it should be just a hint of orange. The blue at the base also has too wide a white gap between it, and the colours above, and the silver of the vertical leading edge paint has been ignored, even when it comes over the edge on the real thing into the blue.
The Hogan has a far better job, the silver leading edge, the gaps between colours, the sun position are all superior. However, the sun is excessively red and appears to be setting. This is not wholly inaccurate. SAA were quite inconsistent in their paint application here by the looks of it, almost every aircraft had a different sun version, though not one had it like the Gemini.
Having looked at it, the sun on the Hoagn is too reddish, even more than it is on the real thing. The orange cast into the yellow is also too deep, and too extensive.
Gemini’s horizontal stabilizers however are superior, having markings the Hogan lacks.
On accuracy alone, never mind presentation, the Hogan looks better. The Gemini is not only inaccurate, it’s badly inaccurate. This matters, because on an aircraft that could win “blandest livery ever” award, the only thing that makes it shine is the tail and Gemini haven’t even got close. This is when they were in relatively low volume, relatively high quality production years too.
There is of course one last thing the Hogan lacks, and it’s one thing I really hate them missing out – it has no stand hole! That means no in-flight photos!
There’s no doubt, if you didn’t know who made them, you’d pick the Hogan from a casual once-over. It has what we would have described in automotive as, ‘outstanding showroom appeal’. I put this to the test with my in-house guinea-pig who pointed at it without flinching as, “that one, it looks loads better”. And it does.
Despite the down sides of the engine rears and the detail free pylons, the slightly too heavy blue lettering, it looks, and feels like a far higher quality model.
You might argue there’s been a lot of time between the two, and even more since they were both around simultaneously, but look at some of the older reviews I’ve done of models from right across this century. More often than not you’ll find print, paint and finish standards far better than of late. Only Phoenix 787, JC Wings A330 (new) and 737 have anything truly superior. And even they suffer from issues beyond their detail finish.
So the Hogan stays. The Gemini will be stored. Have a great week! The next review is published on Monday 19th September.
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