Lufthansa A350-900 D-AIXA Gemini Jets GJDLH1498 Dec 2016

lufthansa

There is nothing smarter or newer than this right now, Lufthansa’s first A350-900. Due to enter service in January 2017 on routes from Munich to Delhi, the A359 is to replace the ageing A340-600 fleet based at the ailrines second hub. They’re not intended for use at Frankfurt unless the airline sees a need to re-deploy them in the future. I’ve been seriously looking forward to this model, Lufthansa is my second favourite airline, and I want it to be brilliant.

Fitted with 48 Business class, 21 Premium Economy, and 224 economy seats, along with the Rolls Royce Trent XWB-84 engine, these aircraft will be looking at serving for up to thirty years. Twenty-five A359’s are on order.

Lufthansa’s brand managers are quite fussy about what gets made, and its quality (and rightly so). Lufthansa out-sourced their licensing to a specialist company called Bulls, based in Frankfurt, and they handle everything from branding to production for everything you can think of, from Downton Abbey to Parfums Jean Paul Gaultier, and Fifty Shades of Grey, and of course, Lufthansa.

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Please note how white the body is and the small change in angle at the cockpit base, it’s around 3 degrees but it makes all the difference and its missing on both Phoenix and JCW/Gemini moulds. The nose dome is also marginally more rounded on the real thing.

This model in the UK is being sold for £51 ($72US) so it had better not have a single error, fault, failing, problem or quality issue. At that sort of price (if you paid it), only one score is acceptable; 100%.

1.Fuselage

First off there are key items missing, the rearmost aerial on the roof and both of the aerials underneath. Somewhat oddly the forward under-body aerial hole (the red waste water de-icer), is clearly in the mould but has been filled in and painted over. What I wonder was the decision behind that? It’s clearly visible on the actual aircraft.

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The forward smaller dome is not even moulded in to the roof, and is just a painted outline. On the Phoenix A350 this is neat built-in mould item. The same applies to the two smaller domes amidships. Just lines on the JCW/Gemini, moulded in on the Phoenix.

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The large dome at the rear is a push-in item as not all airlines will take this option, and for the most part this has been well installed. You’d almost think it was moulded in except for a poor paint and mould finish marks on the left side that gives it away.

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The biggest issue with the mould is the nose shape which is completely wrong; (it won’t be scored down for this, its not going to change now, but even so, needs pointing out). The place it notices most is the cockpit windows. The mould is a straight, single angle, but fails to change upwards at the point the flight deck starts. That makes the roof line wrong and starts a chain of small detail fails.

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The technical print; sensors, doors, windows, all appear to be excellent with no faults or errors.

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There is one minor quality issue with the fuselage; behind the wings, looking up from underneath, are two flared body sculpts that assist with aerodynamic efficiency. These look almost like the upper half over-laps the bottom half of the mould, but that’s what they should be like. The problem is that the light grey under-body paint has been allowed to splash onto them. It’s very minor, but, I remind you how expensive these models are now. Imperfections are not acceptable.

2.Wings and landing gear

For the most part the wings are excellent, fairly well fitted, but are not seamless, being slightly gappy. Not as good as we’ve seen on the very best Phoenix A350’s like the Cathay Pacific.

They fall down by being slightly over elevated – this is because they use the Airbus diagrams from the A350 website, which is misleading for a landed aircraft.

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The wing fit is not as perfect as on the Phoenix mould, and I would draw your attention to the rather noticeable difference in the cream-white of the fuselage and the bright white of the wings.

Over-glossy finish, bubbles of glue, and blistered paint underneath, don’t help endear it in any real way. The wing tips are not the same as on the JCW/Gemini Vietnam airlines model (they were very much flatter), rather suggesting the mould has been tweaked. They are still too big, but look far more accurate than they did, and are much closer to the correct Phoenix type.

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The landing gear doors are both mediocre, they look a bit like they might have sub-surface metal issues underneath but not as severely as we’ve seen from Phoenix. The paint is a little thin. The bogies tilt, and the wheels all rotate. Only one tyre had a lump on it. Neither side is fitted really well to the wing, by which I mean, not flat into their socket.

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There is also an issue seen on other gears (Cargolux and Silkway), with the nose gear twisted slightly; the nose wheels seem mildly skewed, and the port side main gear is not good to look at, though they do all sit neatly on the ground.

I note again that some type of sealant is being used on the wheels and tyres – there’s a distinct clear coat of something being applied. Does this have something to do with the leaching chemicals that make giant tyre prints on my diorama foils? There have been complaints recently about tyres just dissolving or breaking up after a few weeks. Is this a solution?

The wheels are the grey plastic – and frankly while neat, it really isn’t as realistic as the Phoenix metal wheels, which look far more like the image at the top of this article.

The nose gear looks fine, and the tyre is the correct size, but he wheels are mildly skewed, especially on the ground.

3.Engines

First the blue exhaust cone is grey, how often do I need to emphasize this? I’ll say it again, Rolls Royce engines on the A350 have a permanent non-reactive sapphire blue cone that does not discolour over time! That information is gospel fact, from the mouth of a Rolls Royce engineer who contributed to the design!

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The RR A350 Engine on the carbon A350 test aircraft at Farnborough in July 2016, taken by me, clearly shows the rear detail.

The cone on the model is also far too rounded, over-sized and just wrong. The silver section forward of the cone (the core jet and core nozzle) is the wrong shape and the wrong colour.

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The logo RR is missing, which is accurate, as that’s an option not all airlines like to take and Lufthansa don’t. The nacelles on the model are an excellent colour, matching precisely the colour Lufthansa use.

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The rims are outstanding, as is the intake colour, and the fans themselves are ideal. The engines are see-through via the high-bypass element which is accurate and welcome, but hardly an innovation. Witty were doing it four years ago, and their fans rotated!

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On one side the join is full of dust and glue

The pylons are well made and the engines seem to be well attached, and at the correct angle.

4.Nose detail

Now this again is where the nose shape has resulted in the inevitable creeping series of minor inaccuracies.

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The cockpit shape, and the windows looks superbly printed and finished, but it is definitely too large, by around 10-15%. The reason for that is simple. The upward angle of the nose on the real thing reduced the amount of glass and window space needed. This was a deliberate decision by Airbus, because test pilot simulator sessions fed back that their view could be much better with a small change, and their was also an aesthetic concern that it looked too much like a 787! So they made the angle from the cockpit upwards steeper.

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That design was finalised after JCW and Phoenix started on their moulds.  By angling the nose too far back on the model, that’s increased the surface area and made the cockpit windows too large, just as they were on the penultimate A350 design.

5.Tail detail

Now here we can safely say the model is good, it’s all correct and neatly assembled. To its credit, even the tail doors under the APU are beautifully detailed. However the over-printed yellow disc of the crane logo, and its outer circle are not as good as they usually are, lacking definition. Not a patch on the one of the retro 748i for example.

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6.Colours

Phoenix need to pay attention – and so do JC Wings/Gemini themselves. This is the correct grey under-body colour! Remember it next time, don’t go inventing some new shade of nonsense grey. This is perfection.

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Gemini’s 2004 A333 D-AIKA behind in the correct white (but wrong grey), and the weirdly off-white of the A359, which is just wrong. I photographed it against all of the recent Gemini Lufthansa models too, and they’re all the same white as the A333 – except for this A359

Now here I have my one concern with the model that mars it a little too much. You know, and I know, that Lufthansa aircraft are white. It’s a bright, brilliant white. Just like it is in the image at the top of this article. The wings are a brighter white. So why isn’t the fuselage?

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The colour variation is quite bizarre but right out of the box it’s obvious something is wrong

There is no way this is the correct version of white. It’s off-white, with a mild cream-like tint. It’s almost like it’s a silk finish rather than a gloss finish too. I’ve put her out with the 748i’s – D-ABYC, and D-ABYT, as well as A346 D-AIHN (all by Gemini) – and there is no way the A359 is the same white.

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Gemini Lufty 748i -again the colour on the A359 is clearly wrong

JC Wings make these models for Gemini and they have a serious colour management problem right now. This isn’t a single model problem, as you’ve seen with the weirdly painted Cargolux and Silkway 748F’s. The next review will demo it yet again – possibly worse than anything so far.

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Colour fail on the fuselage is very disappointing

How can anyone get white wrong? Yet they have and it’s very sad. The question is, is it fatal? Can I live with it?

7.Score and conclusions

Before I score this I need to point out that given the overall quality, fit and finish, which is pretty good, stand it alone and it looks OK. You can see the white isn’t right though, and under a full specturm daylight bulb it does notice rather sharply; but you can almost ignore it. Put it with the other Lufty models though, and it stands out like the proverbial sore thumb.

  • -15 for the creamy white colour and silk finish paint – I’m dumbfounded at such a horrible mistake on such an important model and I’d bet that Bulls would never have agreed to it. Indeed the Gemini advertising photo shows no discolouration.
  • -6 for the over-elevated wings
  • -2 for the engine rear detail, the mould is just wrong
  • -2 for deliberately missing off the lower aerial and filling the hole
  • -2 for splash paint on the area behind the wings, even if it is out of sight
  • -2 for the oversized cockpit windows
  • -6 for the variable quality issues with the landing gear
  • -2 for the poor definition on the Lufthansa tail logo
  • 67%  is a very poor score – A complete fail.

You know the thing with this was, that a cursory look at it and you’d just pass it and go with the flow.  The fully grown bull elephant in the cabin however,  is that it cost way, way too much to be this far below average. And that’s its failing. There’s an old saying “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”. This is a £30 model not a £51 one, and even then I’d be unhappy with the colour, even if the over-elevated wings are survivable.

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Compared to the Phoenix Cathay Pacific A359 from a few weeks ago, this superficially looks like a competitor. It isn’t. Not by a long way. The mould is much less accurate, with all the domes and aerials it has missing.

If you know nothing about aircraft, have no passion, don’t care if its ‘just OK’, but it’s a model, and that’s that; well your choice. If you paid even close to retail for this, you have every right to be deeply disappointed. In fact I’d be insulted that this is the best they can manage for such extortionate prices.

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Why did I buy it? Because, and here’s the irony, if Phoenix do one they will never get that grey underneath right, which also affects the engines. I’m pretty sure though they’d ensure that white was white, not pale ivory. I’m actually at the point where I’d rather accept the wrong grey than this cream-white fuselage.

The bizarre thing is that Gemini’s box has a detailed line print of the correct aircraft, correct at the nose, and shows the correct wing position. And fuslegae colour. The model inside is little more than superfically similar. There is a grotesque failure to research moulds, add that to low quality landing gear, unacceptable production standards that in no way represent the prices being charged, and you have a sub-average box of mediocrity.

Yet this model is sold out, because expectations and the pre-ordering system ensure that they are sold before they’re delivered. Nobody will return this faulty piece of over-priced mediocrity if they don’t think they can get a replacement, so Gemini and the retailers, who know how weak collectors are, win again.  Yet again, the retailers, and therefore the manufacturer, have no problem to deal with, and laugh all the way to the bank. How are they ever going to be wilding to do anything if they don’t have any come-back from buyers?

JC Wings and Gemini need to have a chat about what one is making for the other. Whoever is responsible for colour choices has lost the plot, and this week, you’ll see quite how bad its become, in the next review.

My recommendation: Honestly, if I saw this in a shop priced at £51/$72, I’d leave it right where it was and walk away. If you must buy it, get it cheap from Hong Kong or Europe. There is no way it’s worth more than £35 and even then it’s not good enough. Not a recommended buy.

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