Why this particular aircraft? Who knows. An ex-US Airways aircraft delivered in May 2000, and leased from GECAS has become the new A320 mould’s first representative. Now you probably know what I thought of the old mould, and if you didn’t, in simple terms it was a bag of shite, worn out and long over due for replacement, and more often than not, filled with enough quality failings to fill an equally pellucid sack of feculance.
So this new one matters. Even more so when prices have risen to a point where expectations should, quite rightly be through the roof. So what have Gemini delivered this time, or more accurately, what are they selling JC Wings made for them?
The aircraft is very standard, unchanged from her US Airways interior fit C12Y138 configuration, and running on a pair of CFM-56-5B4/P’s typical of the type. At 16 years she’s probably pushing her landing cycles close to the final touchdown.
Generally speaking it’s a very neat, refined new fuselage. The model matches the on-box schematic and seems to be pretty good interpretation of the real thing. It has one fault that really is inexcusable – something that used to happen on the old Gemini 737 mould – a flat spot on the side of the nose dome tip.
The print and technical detail refinement however, are immensely superior in every single way. However it also has to be said that they’ve only caught up with what everyone else is doing, so anything less would have been retrograde.
The aerials, two up and one below seem more than adequate and neat, but the aft-most has an over-large hole, which I find detracts from the overall appeal.
2.Wings and landing gear
The wings are of course slot-in. The paint and overall finish, detail, and mould are excellent. Add to that the wings are actually the correct height for a ground model, there is only one problem. The same problem that has beset JCW and Gemini production for months now – colour. What on earth were they thinking painting the centre panels in the wings such a dismally dark shade of brownish-grey? There is zero detail under the wings.
The landing gear is mediocre, the same hang-over from the old model. All of the wheels rotate, though very loosely, but the tyres appear to be free of lumps. The issue again, is the poor mould of the hydraulic struts, which is full of unsightly flashing. The tyres are properly mounted on plastic wheels.
The nose gear is a little odd at first sight, appearing skewed to one side, but this turns out to be that the axle is so wide, and so lose, the wheels move about all over the place, and rather haphazardly. In the past, you just pushed them together with thumb and forefinger, but if you do that with these the tyres come off the wheel, so best they’re left alone.
Plastic engines on plastic pylons. The rims are a good colour, but suffer from the same issue they have on the ‘new’ 737 mould, a slight roughness that doesn’t quite carry the generally neat finish.
The fans are also not as dark as they should be, being the same as the rim colour. In this day and age that’s just not good enough. In the past 18 months that problem has almost gone away – it needs to go away on this too, fan colours should be closer to the centre wing panels on this model, not matt light aluminium!
Overall though, it has to be said, and despite their plasticity, they’re well finished and detailed, nothing like the mess we’ve seen on the old mould. An improvement.
It’s not been easy to make this nose look right for a photo. The flat spot is detrimental and really very poor on a new mould. Quite inexplicably bad really. It’s bad not just in quality terms, but because a significant investment will have been made in the mould – as much as $50,000, maybe more – so that to have it look like this just leaves me feeling like Gemini just don’t care, and nor do JCW. I’ve always known it, but it’s just a means of making money to them now. The passion for precision seems long gone, which is really very sad.
Other than that the detail is very good but no better than anything else being made to modern standards now, 17 years into the 21st Century.
Unlike the ‘new’ 737 mould, they haven’t made the mistake of going to plastic stabilizers, which is major plus point. The entire tail section is in all honesty, well put together and printed/painted in a way that makes its predecessor look amateurish.
I’ve already mentioned the overly dark, grey-brown centre wing upper panels, they’re just wrong. The main body colour on American Airlines Gemini Jets versions, in this livery, is running at 8 different shades so far, so does this create number 9 or have they discovered some consistency at last?
The answer appears to be yes! For the first time I’ve got two matching colours! The flappy winged ‘new’ mould A330 N290AY, and this A320 are the same colour! Coincidence or did they learn from past mistakes? You’ll only know that when the next AA comes out. If it’s the same, well fine, if it isn’t, well we know where we stand.
7.Score and conclusion
- -5 for the nose flat spot, just not good enough
- -6 for the wing centre panel colour, too odd by far, and far too visible to be ignored
- -2 for the fan colour
- -4 for the shoddy landing gear finish
- 83%. Not a total fail, but much can still be improved. Quality control, especially the landing gear, nose, it needs addressing, because at these prices, £35+, it just isn’t good enough as is.
This is by far and away the best A320 Gemini’s brand has produced in a very long while; which given the score isn’t saying much. Next month we’ll see, at last, the first Neo version in LATAM livery. The Gemini A320 had been struck from my purchasing list – but this model encourages me to look forward to new and better versions to come. Not before time, at last we’re getting there – but don’t hold your breath.
Edit: few models have attracted so many comments through Facebook messenger, over various Facebook pages, and in forums, as this has. Print fails, print missing, wings fallen out, tales of dreadful landing gear, wheels missing, and more besides. Gemini seem to have a massive fail on their hands.
To conclude, you would have thought that deploying the model on a major US airline, literally the flag carrier, JCW & Gemini between them could have really pulled out the stops to wow us all with their new A320 mould. New mould, new standards, new quality. Yet once again what we’ve been given is a half-hearted commercially acceptable level of ordinariness, verging on the mediocre. Is this really the best you can do? Is this really, “as real as it gets”?
My recommendation: If you’re a fan of American Airlines, or just love the livery as I do, you’ll probably want it, if you haven’t got it already. It’s pretty ordinary though, and nowhere near as good as it should be for the price. It isn’t one I’ll keep.
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