AeroMexico 787-9 XA-ADL “Quezalcoatl” Phoenix 11318 Nov 2016

“Live” from Detroit this week – thanks to Virgin Atlantic and A330-300 G-VKSS for a safe flight.


This is AeroMexico’s first 787-9, already having 9 788’s in service.  She’s painted in the  Feathered Serpent livery, known as Quetzalcoatl (pronounced kwez-al-co-tul), a god that is seen as representing almost all pre-Hispanic cultures. 


The livery was the result of a competition entered by a number of university graphics departments around Mexico. 1,000 entries were available, 400 were short listed, and the winner was  José Manuel Escudero, a graphic designer.  Escudero’s family had a long association with  Mesoamerican cultures (so had a bit of an advantage), not that it detracts from the success of the design.


With a brief that the images had to represent Mexico, twenty images were chosen and designed to look like hand painted brush strokes had been applied. 


The icons that Escudero chose to represent Mexico are: Quetzalcoatl, an eagle, a monkey, Xoloescuincle, an ear of corn, a toad, a deer, an armadillo, a flower, a butterfly, a spider, nopales, axolotl, a rabbit, a turtle, a jaguar, a hummingbird, a bee, a heron, a wolf and a quetzal. 


Boeing normally manage a livery over 3 working days at production, but this took 9. I think it achieves absolutely what its set out to do. It also reinforces the thought, and deliberation, that even in an open competition, airlines go through. As airlines have found over many years, public perception – especially of national flag carriers even when privately owned, can have seriously unpleasant comeback if judgement goes awry. The BA World Tails is possibly the best case in point. Universally loathed by the British public and hammered by a Prime Minister, it didn’t last long and BA have never deviated since. 

So the question the, how has Phoenix managed to interpret the livery and reproduce on a model in 1:400?

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A standard 787-9 mould, one which has always been extremely good.

The first comments has to be the aerials; 2 at the rear one at door 2. There is one underneath between doors 3 and 4.

 All are fixed and appear to be well or adequately painted, though you can just see a tiny bit of thin paint and metal beneath on two of the roof aerials.

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Next is the domes. One is moulded into the roof  above door 3, and this is a standard fit item. The larger optional comms dome behind door 2 on the roof, is one of those push-in types that so often go horribly wrong.  However, while it’s not perfect, the quality of instalation is significantly higher than on some models – I’d rate it at 95%. At last Phoenix seem to have got to grips with this often nasty bit of detail, this one looks good, and only a hyper-critical eye would be able to see any flaws at standard observation range.

The standard equipment print namely cargo doors, passenger doors, windows, all the tiny printed detail any aircraft would have as standard, is first-rate, especially the Skyteam roundel near the nose  – possibly the neatest I’ve ever seen it.

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The livery print is absolutely outstanding. Truly an example of the best techniques and technology being implemented. The type of print is superior in every way to say, the dot matrix style of let-down we had on the Turkish Airlines SFO livery 773ER.

Every little nuance and detail is present and beautifully rendered, superbly done. they are so fine in detail, you cannot but help admire the degree of success they’ve achieved here. Excellent is not a good enough word; it’s exemplary.

2.Wings and landing gear

Slot in perfection but grossly over-glossed on the upper surfaces, you can barely see the detail. printed on detail is however first-rate and the leading edges have that almost metal looking silver finish that adds a note of quality.

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Landing gear is rigid, but all the wheels roll and the tyres are much better quality than we’ve seen lately, free from lumps and bumps (and in some cases I’ve been told they’ve dissolved and fallen off, though not something I’ve experienced myself).

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Both main gear and nose gear are excellent, neat and tidy, without that cheap silver paint. the doors are also not affected by the A350/777 zinc rot issue.


Utterly superb, really. From the paint to the printed detail, the engine exhausts, the superb rims and the wonderful titanium coloured fans!  A truly professional quality set of engines. Wonderful.

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4.Nose detail

Another example of quality all round, all the way to the nose dome. Cockpit windows are outstandingly good, the head graphic of the Quetzalcoatl is superb. Zero complaints.

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5.Tail detail

The entire assembly and print is entirely in keeping with the rest of the model. The Aztec head and the tail of the Quetzalcoatl are all outstanding. There’s ust nothing wrong with this set up.

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6. Colours

I’ve looked and looked. There’s nothing at all wrong with any of them. It’s possibly the finest graphics colour match we’ve ever seen on a Phoenix. it isn’t just that it’s a complicated livery with a multitude of colours and styles, it’s the awesome detail. Phoenix haven’t made a mistake in copying it, reproducing it and making an outsanding job of it.

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7. Score and conclusions

You may recall I said the Cathay Pacific A359 was the finest passenger model I’ve seen this year. And it was. This however surpasses it. The level of detail and the quality of its execution are outstanding. Totally first-rate. So much so that I’ve decided it deserves a higher than maximum score – 101%.

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That’s the first time I’ve ever done that, but this is that good. It’s an extraordinarily different livery, not everyone’s taste I’m sure, but the technical quality of its presentation and execution requires recognition. Every aspect of this model is better than anything Phoenix have done before.

It makes me wonder what they could be capable of. This standard of quality and attention to detail is exemplary, wonderful, pleasing and worth every penny.  If only it could be consistently applied to every model, all of the time!

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