Rossiya 747-446 EI-XLJ Phoenix 11317 Nov 2016

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I’m not making any more than one excuse for buying a Phoenix 744 mould. Nobody else would do it and I wanted this livery, so here it is, and that’s that, faults and all. Scream and wail about the travesty of it all, but to quote Shakespeare; “Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war, how to divide the conquest of thy sight”, sort of explains it best. That‘s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Quite a long chequered history this aircraft has had. She’s been in the JAL red sun tail livery, the grey nose JAL livery, then as JAL dropped it’s 744’s she was moved on to Transaero, whose Russian Government engineered demise left a large number of cheap, and ready aircraft available to whoever was prepared to buy or lease them.

Based at St Petersburg Pulkovo, the airline is an Aeroflot subsidiary. It takes the name of the largest of three smaller Aeroflot subsidiaries (Orenair and Donavia were the other two), the government decided to forcibly acquire, in order to make Aeroflot itself more viable financially.  Originally they had been held by a government investment company, Rostec, but now they’re just an Aeroflot sub-brand.

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Rossiya operates a fleet of 65 varied aircraft, many of them conveniently available from Transaero’s demise. The fact that it was Transaero making Aeroflot unviable is no coincidence. In fact strictly, there wasn’t room for both of them at the best of times. Without state backing Aeroflot would have been the one on the demise. However that was never going to happen in Putin’s Russia. Transaero’s CEO Olga Ploshakova just didn’t have the right friends when it mattered.

The old Rossiya livery was dull as dishwater, typical of state-owned mediocrity, white with a couple of lines. This is something else.

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Someone has said that it’s supposed to represent the red soil of mother Russia covered in snow and ice. That seems as good an idea as any. Whereas most airlines like to thrust their livery meaning under your nose, I spent 20 minutes researching it and found nothing.

These days she flies with 12 business class and an amazing 510 in economy. Who fancies being jammed into one of those seats?

Leased from VTB Dublin (hence the Irish registration), she’s been with Rossiya since June 2nd 2016 and carries the name Vladivostock. Currently she seems to be spending her time exporting cold Russians in Moscow to Phuket in Thailand or Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

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1.Fuselage

We all know the weakness of the Phoenix 744 mould, is the way the wings seem to appear – and this is perhaps generous – to be over-fuelled. It’s the sort of reverse of the stupid wings on the new JCW/Gemini A330 mould. That was the result of misinterpreting the technical and non-technical drawings on the Airbus website. God knows what Phoenix’s real excuse for this was.

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The odd thing with it is that certain liveries make it less pronounced on the Phoenix, and fortunately, this is one of them. The other thing of course is the nose, but I’m not going to get all hung up about it. I bought it and I knew the downsides.

The aerials three up and one down, all work well, are well painted and seated. The rear dome on the roof, again this time, has been amazingly well applied. It looks like Phoenix have indeed cracked the problem with it after what? Nearly 18 months to 2 years?

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The details and print quality are outstandingly good, really first class, even down to making sure the doors in the white zone have red borders and vice-versa.

The livery print which runs on the entire rear two-thirds of the fuselage and rises from a solid red, to what amounts to white on red triangles, and then becomes red outlined shapes, eventually a red ‘v’ on a white background. It’s quite strikingly different and honestly, in the flesh looks awesome, complimented by the red engine nacelles.

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2.Wings and landing gear

Somehow Phoenix have managed to restrain themselves here and used a relatively matt finish. It looks much better than the over-gloss paint they’ve been using on so much else.

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Upper surface detail is excellent, though underneath it seems much glossier and the reverse is true.

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The landing gear is excellent, across the board. A low-shine almost matt silver on the hydraulics, all wheels rotate, and there isn’t a visible lump anywhere on the tyres.

3.Engines

Another success from the Phoenix engine department! How have they managed to do it? Three models on the trot with an exceptional paint job, from rim to exhaust, and the nacelles, it’s a joy to see them look so professional. This sort of quality is what we look for and until lately have rarely received. So much nicer and makes me less bothered by the obvious downside of the general mould.

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4. Nose

Let’s just say all the details are there and beautifully done. Lets not mention what we all know, after all when you buy something knowing it’s faults, you can’t complain.

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5.Tail

The livery, fit and finish are outstanding. Quality build and superbly defined.

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6.Colours

We all know that Phoenix can make some dire mistakes (Icelandair 767), but this isn’t one of them. It looks spot-on.

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7.Score and conclusions

I cannot give it 100% because of the mould. It wouldn’t be fair to do so. Allowing a -10 for the mould, no matter how much we know about it, 90% is more than fair because it’s a stunning paint job, the details are superb, and there’s just nothing wrong with it.

Have Phoenix re-entered a Golden Age again? They seem to have reached a new level of quality – we haven’t seen product quality consistency like this for almost two years. God knows what they’ve done, but even when they get colours wrong the general build and finish is high.

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This matters. Putting aside the mould issues on the 744, it’s an excellent model. The price has gone up – but almost entirely from currency issues. The Gemini version of this would be around £55 ($68US) – £19 ($23.60US) more than the Phoenix – that’s a massive 34%.

There is no way, given the choice, any sensible collector is going to pay 34% more just to get the same thing, made by JC Wings and shoved in a Gemini box for the sake of a name.

If Phoenix  can make quality stick, at lower prices and double-down on their mistakes, which are normally colour issues, then we have a winner. All they need now is to widen the scope of the airlines they cover. It’s quality though, that can, and should, be the basis of any success. Quality coupled to genuine value for money. That means that you are happy paying for what you get. I can never be happy paying £55 for a model that was £36 two months ago and is no better now than it was then.

Keep this up Phoenix – fix the A350 again, check your colours, remember quality is the word, and the road seems clear to make happy customers.

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