Please note that because of my involvement in US Election coverage there will not be a post on Wednesday this week.
After the disappointment of the Phoenix Lufthansa A340-600 D-AIHK Bayern Munich Phoenix 04099 September 2016 which you can find on the link, I became somewhat obsessed with finding a Lufthansa A346 that wasn’t going to cost the usual ridiculous £60+ on the used market.
A scan of the retailers sites found one of these for £34 brand new and unopened. Baring in mind the near 30-50% price rises we’ve seen of late, that was a bargain, and no mistake, so here it is.
You’ll probably recall at the time, and when the above mentioned Phoenix mess arrived, I’m no great fan of soccer liveries, however displayed. If it hasn’t got an engine and goes really fast it’s not a sport I’m bothered with.
Yet now we are at a point in history only more heavily emphasised this weekend, and again when I did the research on this aircraft. On November 3rd Virgin Atlantic withdrew one of their A346’s, G-VYOU. Only when I did the research on D-AIHN did I find out she’s already out of service too! The age of the A346 is fast coming to an end.
Iberia still operates 16 of the 17 it had, Virgin Atlantic now only has 7 of it’s 19, Lufthansa is starting their withdrawal – down from 24 to 21 and they’ll go as A359’s come on stream, on a one for one basis. The only other large operators of the type now are South African with 9 – and they may go on for a while yet as the airline teeters on the edge of insolvency almost every year and can’t afford new aircraft, and Iran’s Mahan Air – who operate 7 of the ex-Virgin Atlantic aircraft, acquired in a plot that could have come from a spy novel. Underhand purchases and transfers through Iraqi shell companies, pilots smuggled in to Iraq to get the aircraft over the border in the dead of night to Iran, before anyone realised, who’d trained on stolen simulator software.
All that apart, D-AIHN named Gummersbach, was only painted in the Fanhansa livery for a short period, June-August 2014 to cover the period of the World Cup. She was withdrawn from service on April 18 2016 (she was only 9 years old), and is stored at Teruel Airport in Spain.
Fitted with F8C44W32Y213 – the Premium Economy had only been rolled out late last year, she was the victim of capacity issues at Munich where she was based. Basically she was too big to operate economically on the routes planned.
The mould is ageing now and while the fuselage part is generally OK, the cradle fit is not the finest.
The detail is however, excellent. Indeed it throws into question yet again, why the A321 Thomas Cook had such horrible over-emphasised details, that on this are neat, focused and work precisely. What goes on in these production sites? Who does what when it comes to laying down the graphics – software and physical print?
The aerials – 2 up (1 at door 1, 1 at door 4), and 1 underneath at door 2, are well seated if not well painted.
There should be a comms dome but that’s just been painted on in light grey (it’s actually dark grey). I’d rather that than they stick one of those badly moulded drawing pin contraptions into it!
The Lufthansa grey is far closer to the real colour on the underbody, but oddly darker than the correct colour used on the 748i’s. Nowhere near as bad as the colour on the Phoenix, but getting there.
I bring colour up now because the grey underbody and the white are printed really well, it’s the wings, and that cradle mould that spoil the lines.
2. Wings and landing gear
The detail and paint are all very good indeed, no moans about that. Enough detail, not submerged Phoenix-style in excess paint.
The problem is the mould at the forward edge of the cradle, just doesn’t fit properly. You hold it sideways on and you can see from one side to the other where the forward edge doesn’t meet the fuselage.
Now that’s not a disaster in itself, plenty of cradles have been much worse than this, many skewed and so badly fitted as to be a joke. The problem here is the cradle grey paint line – which as you can see on the real aircraft is a continuous straight line, is 2mm too low at the front end yet meets the back-end perfectly.
It’s one of those really odd visual moments when you can see the back-end, and the rear of the fuselage are all perfect but the front end isn’t. This wing assembly needs a refurb as good as the 747 and 787 have had if it’s going to be used again.
The landing gear is pretty good, all grey, tyres (though they’re a bit lumpy) on wheels and the bogies tilt slightly. All the wheels roll. Nose gear is excellent.
An entire set of four without an issue! These are the RR Trent 900’s and they look exceptionally good. Good rims, great quality silver paint and an excellent choice of fan colour. Its the nacelle paint that’s too dark.
The “Fanhansa” is perfectly OK in colour and definition. Before you know it another tedious World Cup will be here and it’ll look modern again!
Most of the small detail, all the way down to the Star Alliance logo is excellent. Cockpit windows are excellent, but the nose dome line isn’t present. Some they do, others they don’t. Consistency would be a good thing.
5. Tail detail
No issues at all, all well assembled, good strong colours, the crane logo looks good (sometimes it fades on the dark blue if not applied well).
The issue is the underbody grey. I’m amazed how dark it is when Gemini’s model maker have produced consistently good correct grey’s on their 748i’s both in retro and standard livery. It’s nowhere near as dark and maudlin as the Phoenix, but it’s not right by a long way and is a little disappointing. If you’ve ordered the outrageously expensive Lufthansa A350 and it turns up this colour, you’re going to be horribly disappointed, but pretend you’re not bothered by it.
7. Score and conclusions
- -10 for the colour fail on the underbody. Not as bad as Phoenix, but not as good as, ironically enough, Gemini!
- -7 for the wing mould fit, just not good enough, really it isn’t. If this model arrived like this with the new self-aggrandizing prices having been paid, it would have gone back for a refund. Nobody in their right mind would pay £50+ for this. Even £34 seems pushing it.
- 83% because other than these two issues, it’s actually a nice model. The grey just about scrapes by as acceptable with reservations. If it had been full of other smaller issues too, it would have gone back, but as I say, it’s actually pretty good otherwise.
I’ve been getting a whole battery of people – especially serious collectors, telling me that Gemini have gone too far with these price rises, and that they no longer feel willing to spend that much money on dysfunctional models. The price demanded has finally outweighed the quality provided. We’ll have to see won’t we, what happens.
I rarely ever buy more than 1 Gemini a month new. They don’t make anything I want very often. On the odd occasion it’s two. Phoenix for all their faults do make things nobody else does, even if it is a blindfolded pick and mix in the parts bin.
The bizarre thing is, that it’s JC Wings and Phoenix, who between them will probably gain the most. If JCW can keep production standards high, and prices reasonable, (bear in mind they make Gemini’s models for them), then maybe there is a way forward. It certainly isn’t paying a 25% premium just because it has Gemini’s name on the box.
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