Thomas Cook A321 G-TCDC Gemini Jets GJTCX1431 October 2016

Thomas-Cook-Airlines

The UK based arm of the Thomas Cook-Condor airline and travel group has now had three models in the last 18 months. Some would say not before time. For me it’s interesting because they are a part of daily life, in and out of BHX, and one of the nearest retail outlets to me at home is a Thomas Cook agency. Most people round here know somebody who works for them.  This is one of those small towns so tied to airlines and travel it has a Thomson, and Thomas Cook agency next door to each other, and four other travel agents, plus a Virgin Atlantic implant, in an age where they’ve pretty much lost most of their relevance. Brexit or not, 83% of Brits have a passport, and they like to go places.g-tcdc-thomas-cook-airlines-airbus-a321-211wl_PlanespottersNet_518537.jpg

So we’ve had what can best be described as “one of those JC Wings (Gemini branded) flappy winged A332’s”. The model is not a favourite. The colours leave a lot to be desired and poor research led to the worst wing configuration in the history of 1:400 model making. See the review here: Thomas Cook A332 G-TCXB

Prior to that in mid-2015 the Phoenix A321 of G-TCDG which you can see reviewed here: Thomas Cook A321 G-TCDG (Phoenix) , and before them both came the less than salubrious Gemini Condor 753 from 2014, D-ABOJ reviewed here: Condor 753w D-ABOJ (Gemini),  which had few redeeming characteristics and enough glue to make UHU jealous.

G-TCDC was delivered in November 2013 and is leased from ALC. Configured in a 220 seat economy layout, the two CFM56-5B3/3’s take her all over Europe, Cyprus, Turkey, the Canary Islands and some parts of Egypt on various holiday flights.

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1.Fusleage

The mould is good and I have no serious problems with it. This has three roof aerials but none below which distinguishes it from the Phoenix. The wing root is also a lot narrower, possibly a little too narrow. The good thing though, it has slot in wings! 

The issues with this fuselage are ‘quality of detail’ related across the board. Baring in mind that Gemini is now seeing fit to charge an extra premium just for having its name on the box, there is no indication that quality has risen to match the price. Who is really surprised at that?

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  • The Thomas Cook wording is very poorly defined in places on both sides, with a small lump out of the second ‘o’ in Cook and the k on the starboard side. They’re just not crisp or anything like it. They have absolutely nothing of the quality we see on the latest 787’s or even 747’s.
  • Both of the cargo doors (starboard side) have almost miniscule and unreadable wording in some of the HD photos of the real thing. Gemini decided to include this for some reason, and its been a disaster. All we have are two black smudges, that look like a roller printing accident. Indeed that is honestly what I thought they were, until I looked closely at the real thing. These would have been better off ignored.
  • There is more than a little orange peel effect in places in the white paint. This occurs when the model is either dusty, or the air too cold and the spray nozzle too close.
  • The under-door escape mechanism markings at doors 1 & 2 are too far from the door base; that’s because the entire door-window line has missed its target and not been printed accurately enough. It appears to tilt up towards the nose by a very small amount, and the dark windows are not quite aligned with the silver frames – very 2012.
  • On the port side behind door 4 there is a small chip out of the paint down to the metal.

On the good side, it doesn’t suffer from the things the Phoenix suffered from – an odd overlap between the tail colours that looked like someone had stuck on coloured tape. The colour lines and differentiation are well-managed on the Gemini.

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The blurry black markings on the cargo doors are over-emphasised small details that look more like a print accident.

2. Wings and landing gear

The level of detail on the wings is just right and the paint not excessive. The slot-in wings look so much more professional than the ghastly old A320 mould, though it looks like that’s finally being replaced.

What hasn’t quite worked, is the forward edge of the huge sharklets. It should be bright metal on the leading edge that matches the wing leading edges. Instead it’s just missing the detail and they’re painted dark grey across their entire width. The attempt at silvering them seems to have failed.

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You might say I’m being picky in the extreme, and I am, with good reason. Gemini are asking us to pay the best part of £40 ($50) for an A321 model these days, because it has their so-sacred name on it.  That’s about £10-14 more than  a couple of months back. And that’s not all exchange rate changes I can assure you. Therefore I expect perfection – and so should anyone else. Price paid and expectations are legally linked. In Europe and the UK we are entitled to expect better the more we pay.

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The landing gear is another issue. The tyres/wheels on the main gear aren’t big enough, nor is the wheel/tyre combo on the nose gear. The nose gear mechanism on the model is indelicate, and frankly overly large. Nose gear tyres are thin and barely attached. The axle protrudes on one side and the whole thing looks a bit ugly. Reality also has a part to play – oddly enough the nose gear should be silver, not over-painted grey.

The main gear moulding is also faulty; extreme shodiness would be more descriptive and accurate.

The port side has the mould but with the gaps between hydraulics all open, however there is excessive metal flash that’s been over painted. The Starboard side the mould is solid, all the gaps are moulded in – and painted – over.  It’s frankly an abysmal quality fail and utterly unacceptable. In addition the starboard wheels don’t roll and appear to be covered in some sort of sealant. Singularly unimpressive.

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The engines may be OK but the main gear and nose gear mould/flashing issues are appalling

3.Engines

The yellow paint is too thick and contains a small amount of dust. The rims are much improved as is the paint colour on the rims and fans. Exhausts and engine pylons are good.

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4.Nose detail

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The nose is generally OK, but once again the excessive over-interpretation of details – the red squares especially, is just way over the top. We have seen vastly better print definition and quality than this. Once again it hardly fits the premium brand prices and image Gemini seem to want to claim.

I don’t know about you but I find the Thomas Cook lettering awkward. The ‘S’ seems to be tilting forward.

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5.Tail detail

Under the tail, the rear paint looks like the model tilted back when wet and rubbed some of the paint off where it forms the V shape join. Other than the dark grey of the vertical stabilizer being a bit dusty it’s OK.

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6. Colours

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Above: Amazingly the Gemini 753 Condor and G-TCDC actually match for colour! The A332 though, as I said earlier this year, is way out. Below: Add the Phoenix G-TCDG though and we have yet another interpretation.

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Overall the colours are very good on this model, but not perfect. They lack the depth and lustre of the real thing.

7.Score and conclusions

  • -10 for the truly horrible landing gear, bad in so many ways.
  • -10 for paint details over-emphasised, failings, blurs, definition, and general overall print quality
  • -2 for the chip out of the paint
  • 78% is no Model of The Year entrant.

This is just not good enough for a supposedly premium priced “valuable brand”. Quite unacceptable. If Gemini think this sort of quality is even vaguely OK for their new high-price strategy, think again. This is why just raising prices and pretending you’re amazing won’t work, and the so-called ‘as real as it gets’ tagline? Please, if it looked like this in real life it wouldn’t even get off the ground. The reality is: It looks like more of the same, higher prices for lower quality.

Conclusion: Replacement requested, but unlikely due to shortages of models and same issue with faults. 

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