United Airlines 777-322ER N58031 Gemini Jets 1:400 GJUAL1605 March 2017

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This is one of those models you want, despite its already mildly muddled history. Originally United registered her as N58031 and fleet number 0031 and she was delivered on that reg and fleet number in December 2016. After Gemini announced, at the very end of December 2016, United swapped to N2331U and fleet number 2131 in January 2017.  They also added the name “New Spirit of United”. By that time, the model was already commissioned, and probably so far along it was too late to do anything about it.

Some people are a stickler for the correct registrations. Personally I cannot have the same aircraft on the diorama in two separate liveries, not that that happens often. I always defer to the most recent when it does. However models like this I can live with. It’s not like the registrations are especially visible on US aircraft anyway. There won’t be another one of these going into the collection even if (and they will I’m sure), make another version.

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One of the few photos showing her in the original livery used on the model

United has a substantial 744 fleet that is aging (and due to exit in October 2017), and in agreement with a mildly desperate-to-fill-production-slots Boeing, they swapped 14 of their 787 orders for 777-300ER’s. The aircraft would be cheaper, quickly available and offered a good value way of filling the 744’s soon to be empty slot, in the large aircraft sector of the company’s business. It was to make United the last totally new customer for the 773ER. Four are already in service as of March 27 2017, with the remaining ten to be delivered by November.

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Fitted with the new Polaris business class – 60 of them, and 306 economy, they’ve come in for mixed reviews. One of our readers described the economy seating as painfully small and cramped for a 6ft man. A friend who flies in business often, but is a petite female, thought the space was huge in business class, but not very up-market.  She did think the on board service though, was greatly improved, but then she wasn’t wearing leggings.

Now to the model. Gemini have been very hit and miss over the last two years and my expectations are for fair to average. Opening the box however, I’m mildly surprised.

1.Fuselage

The mould is old but more than adequate. The first thing to look for is the coach line. The gold is remarkably precise, straight, not a shred of deviation or paint leakage/over-run. That’s a novelty by itself, and impressive. However if you look closely enough it’s not printed or rolled on, it’s a transfer. The downside of that is that while in the white paint you cannot see anything, in the grey-beige half of the paint there is a colour change below the gold line caused by the transfers transparent backing material.

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Now I know that’s being picky, but this is a review, and I’m saying about it because it’s there. Does it give a detrimental result? That’s the big question. The answer is no, it’s well within what can be considered, a non-problem, just don’t look too hard if you’re a perfectionist.

The under body is both well detailed and painted, with the silver panels looking very neat on the belly. There are no aerials below, but there are two above , although I counted three on the real thing, and at least one underneath. On the upper body, there should be a small rear dome, but not only is it not moulded in, it’s not even printed on.

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The satcoms dome is the weakest point on the model – by some margin. It isn’t pushed in enough especially at the front, and while we’re talking most of a millimeter, I’m sorry, but it does notice, almost like it would rip off in flight!  In some ways it notices more because everything else is so good.

All of the technical print, windows, doors, info panels, logos, are outstandingly good.

2.Wings and landing gear

The cradle system is never going to change on the 777 as its demise is now imminent, but while it’s a reasonably tight fit, it’s not perfect. The rear is lower than ideal and its very slightly skewed to the right (looking from behind).

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The very centre of the under body cradle appears to be a different colour . It depends on the type of light you have, most yellow bulbs don’t show it up so much, but a full spectrum daylight bulb does. The grey wings are fine, just on the point of not being over painted, but it’s close. Colour is a different issue we’ll come to later.

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The real thing just before delivery – the wings are not dark grey, the tail number is visible at the top, and the aircraft clearly has emergency escape over-wing markings, as do the Emirates either side of her.

What is missing is the exit door escape markings – I found one image pre-delivery, and you can clearly see they are there, but they’re missing on the model.

The leading and trailing edges are all good, well painted in a quality silver that works well and is entirely appropriate.

The landing gear – the nose gear, typical JCW supplied over-tall but neat and tidy. Good tyres on wheels.  The only problem with the main gear is none of the wheels on the 6 axles rotates, indeed they’re rock solid. However the tyres are really neat, all but one lump free, and the  struts and doors perfect. Phoenix could learn a lesson.

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3.Engines

These are superb. Neat, detailed rims, titanium fans, they look the business (they look a bit bright in photos but don’t let that mislead you).  The rest of the nacelles are spot-on for colour and excellent detail. Exhausts are spot-on.  So often engines can screw a model up, but these are a highlight.

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Engines are excellent, but that dome is an eyesore

4.Nose detail

Fault free and accurate. Really, not an issue to be seen.

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5.Tail detail

Perfectly put together, superb. Just missing the numbers at the top of the tail – and they were there at delivery so they should be here on this model.

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6.Colours

As good as you’ll ever get on the fuselage and tail, but the darkness of the wings? No other United in my collection has wings that dark a grey. Of late JCW have sort of picked a colour as a matter of guesswork – look at that awful Gemini Saudia Cargo they produced as an example; and the overhead photo above does rather tell you these are wrong. It’s a real pity as they look a little incongruous as a result. United would never have chosen such a colour, so far from their corporate guidelines.

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7.Score and conclusions

  • – 2 for the dome fit being poor
  • – 10 for the wing colour, it’s way out
  • -2 for the numbers missing atop the tail
  • – 1 for the missing rearmost dome – it could have been printed on at least
  • -4 for the over-wing escape markings missing
  • -2 for the wheels being solidly immovable
  • 79%

The big issue here is that wing colour, if that had been right we’d be looking at 89%. In all honesty its a very nice model if you don’t know what’s wrong with it. Gemini claim to be offering product with ‘as real as it gets’ features. It’s so important to them they trade marked the strapline. For heavens sake this is US core market for Gemini and this is the best they can do?

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So while it is a very nice model, not only is it outdated, and something of a curiosity, it’s not even as accurate as it should be. The dome is nowhere near good enough. These models are hideously expensive in Europe and the UK now (£54/$70US). I have to go to considerable lengths to get them at the lowest prices.  My last thoughts are these, it seems we are looking now, not at accuracy or technical merit, but at the manufacturers interpretation. Allow me to expand on that a moment….

There is a battle raging across the world between news reported as The Truth – which is what it is, like it or not, and news as Opinion, which is telling you what you want to hear, in a way you want to hear it, but isn’t necessarily true. This model is the same thing – it isn’t The Truth of what exists, it’s an interpretation,  but it looks like it might be true, if you look at it in a certain favorable light.  You can choose The Truth, or you can choose to believe it’s what you want it to be, even when it isn’t.

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My recommendation: The bottom line, it’s just another commercially acceptable half-truth of a model. If it was delivery-accurate, you could forgive it, but it’s not even that.  Wait for the next one, when they’ve had time to make more of an effort and get the wing colour and markings right at least.

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