Welcome to the final review of 2016 (dont forget The 1:400 Model of The Year and Brand of The Year will be published at 1300UTC on 30th December), and there will be a major comparison test to kick of 2017 on 4th January.
Four Phoenix models arrived Monday 19th Dec and I had to choose which one was to get the final review of the year. One is part of the big comparison test fo January 4th, one I held off until new year, and the other seemed a bit unfair so soon after having reviewed an almost identical aircraft for the same airline.
Hence the one I’ve been waiting for, for ages; what I sincerely hope is a properly coloured Air Canada 773ER. I don’t know why but an Air Canada 777 has managed to evade me in these colours for far too long. Used ones go for lots of money, and the Gemini versions with their sad build quality from the 2011-12 period just aren’t worth it.
Gemini this month have repeated yet another AC 788 Dreamliner, and if the colour of the last 789 was anything to go by, I’ll avoid it.
I know lots of Canadians have a problem with this livery, it’s not universally popular, but to me it’s head and shoulders above the old version, or the tedious Rouge version which is just so predicatble, yet many seem to think more apropriate, because of its resemblance to the national flag. A flag is one thing, but somehow to me, the current livery exploits a wider national identity far more applicable to the 21st Century, much as American Airlines uses the flag on the tail as a symbol, but the colour expands the brand in a different way.
Now Air Canada hasn’t had the best press lately, doing rather poorly in the best airline categories, and having a low customer service score. It’s also considered a bit expensive – quite possibly the growing prescence of WestJet, and AirTransat in UK and European markets, is pointing that out rather starkly. Add to that Icelandair, WOW and Norwegian all starting to push at the doors of Candadian airport terminals, and Air Canada may well have to step up a little. Shiny new aircraft help, but aren’t enough on their own.
The aircraft isn’t very old, only delivered June 2013, but she’s already been reconfigured to take the new business seat offering (the 3-class V2 configuartion). This reduced C seating from 36 to 28, but the 24 Premium Economy and 398 economy all remain. With 10 seats across, economy is often considered more than a bit tight, and the cabin service is not regarded very highly. A BA 773ER has 9 across and only 185 economy as a comparison.
So what have Phoenix done with this model?
Let me say from the outset, despite Phoenix being utterly inconsistent – I’ve heard some terrible stories about this months Sinagpore A350 having another batch of engines that drag on the ground, for example, this is not in that category.
Once again all of the technical detail – windows, wording, doors and other sensor and cargo areas, are all exceptionally fine, and well printed.
All of the aerials are well installed, and correctly, white up top, along with their moulded-in white dome.
The under-body red waste water heater is correct and present, as are the two black domes on the roof and the red running light.
Even the logo is superbly printed – and it’s quite difficult to do because it has a 3D shade in a blue-green colour behind the red.
2.Wings and landing gear
The wings as usual, are grossly over-glossed, and you’d be hard pressed to know there was any moulded-in detail. In fact, it’s worse than on the Cathay Pacific in the previous review. There’s barely an indication left of the flaps, so swamped are they. It’s not that it looks messy or untidy, far from it, it just obscures everything. Other printed-on wing markings are excellent.
The silver under the wings actually doesn’t exist on the real thing, I don’t know why they’ve used it. How do I know? Because this and many other AC 773ER’s fly over heading into Heathrow, and I’ve got 23 good photos that clearly show there is no huge silver panel under the wings. They’re the same colour as the upper side. Neither the Phoenix BA 773ER or the recent Cathay Pacific have this, so why is it on C-FIVW?
The landing gear is generally dissapointing, the gear doors esepcailly poor, quality that Phoenix seem institutionally incapable of resolving. This problem has been persistent for over a year now and still it’s not resolved. It simply isn’t good enough.
The hydraulics are silver, the tyres and bogies all rotate, and are lump free.
The rims are OK, but No.1 engine has a small amount of thin paint face-on, and I’m not overly delighted by the rim finish. It’s not the end of the world, and it doesn’t really notice unless too much until you look for it. However it’s a decline in the recent quality we’ve seen. Fan colour is an excellent dark titanium.
The exhausts suffer from the same problem as the Cathay Pacific, the dark exhaust cone paint is too wrecklessly applied, and the mould is not quite perfect, so some of the darker titanium is where it shouldn’t be; on the silver. This is especially true of the No.2 engine – exactly as it was on the Cathay Pacific version.
Superbly done. Neat, exact, lots of small detail, outstanding application of the StarAlliance logo on both sides. The Fleet Number (743) is properly applied in the correct colour to the nose gear doors.
The maple leaf is excellent and the graphics spot-on. They are so exact in fact, that the fleet number at the top of the tail, 743, is slightly slopping down to the right on the real thing and they have duplicated it prescisley. It’s slightly spoilt by the port side horizontal stabilizer not being properly inserted. Its about half a millimetre out. I know thats not a lot, but it notices very easiliy.
This I must be honest, is the best part of this model. The colour is absoloutely spot on. You can forgive its minor failings for having achieved a first class result in the one critical area that makes or breaks this model. Once again, Phoenix this year have demonstrated a marked improvement in colour choice – just when the previous masters of, what appears to be a dark art shrouded in mystery, at Gemini and JCW have lost the plot on a scale best described as calamaitous.
7.Score and conclusions
- -2 for the horizontal stabiliser fit
- -4 for the exhaust cone paint
- -6 for the gear doors – very poor
- -6 for the silver under the wings – why is it even there?
- 82% is a pass score.
Minor flaws persist and it isn’t going to qualify for MOTY, but it’s overall a good example of what can be acheived as an average. It’s far from excellent and displays all too readiliy Phoenix’s schizophrenic approach to quality. If Phoenix were a human I’d diagnose it with multiple personality disorder. Those landing gear doors especially, are very poor.
It is though, the colour in combination with superby finished and printed detail that makes this such a compelling model, if only it weren’t tortured by so many small quality fails.
My Recommendation: If you can find one and want it, it’s a qualified buy. If it turns up and it’s not good nough, send it back.
Thank you for your support this year and to all of you who celebrate Christmas, have a good one. To everyone else, seasons greetings and a Happy New Year!
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