Gemini have long been the supplier of official UPS merchandise and they usually go out of their way to make sure UPS models are pretty high quality, the same way they do with airlines like Emirates and Etihad. They’re always a little better than the run of the mill we collectors have to live with. So, my hopes for this pre-delivery-of-the-real-thing model, are quite high. I’m even thinking that it might have been possible for Gemini to have discussed it with UPS, as they do with Lufthansa (most of the time).
UPS almost took the aviation world by surprise – they certainly saved the 748 programme from an earlier death than it will suffer anyway, by ordering 14 aircraft.
The global freight market – food stuffs, electronics and non-express freight has picked up slightly, but is often volatile. What has shot up however, is the express parcels business. E-commerce around the world is changing the retail landscape like nothing before it, and this is what encouraged UPS to look to the larger capacity of the 748F. Operating full loads of fast-moving parcels around the world is where the business lies, but it’s a challenge in anyone’s book, to fill a 748F.
Fill it they must, the plan being to port long-range scheduled flights to and from key market areas, China-US, China-Europe, Middle East-US, SE Asia – US and Europe. The 748F can operate faster and direct routes, by-passing the multi-stop 744F/777F and MD-11F types mostly in service on these routes.
Profitability on an aircraft like this is an illusive creature, running costs are high and utilisation below 80% will mean an operating loss. The pressure is on.
Boeing has been a bit crafty with its order book reporting for the 748, and it depends where you look and what you know to identify the real numbers left to build. However it’s not many, and a 6 per year it’s dragging on. The first UPS will be a white tail left over from a cancelled order, the other white tail is allegedly allocated to be the Air Force One replacement testbed.
I have a small UPS fleet, a 757, MD-11F, 763ERF and 744F, which this one joins.
So, how good is this model?
The first thing you notice; there is no registration, fake or otherwise. Nor does it have the “synchronizing the world of commerce” strap line as that was dropped a year or so ago. It appears to have been based entirely on the mock-up images provided by Boeing and publicly available for some time. So there was no chat with UPS then!
The fuselage technical print and general detail for doors, windows etc. is all perfectly good. Nice quality, HD details.
Sadly the quality deteriorates as we head aft, with the gold colour band loosing definition as it merges with the white – again an issue with the port side – why is it always the port side on JCW/Gemini models? It’s especially bad underneath but at least there it’s much less noticeable. The merge with the brown is fine, and prescise on both sides.
There are three upper aerials, one aft of the upper deck in white, and two aft in brown. There are none below, although the images above suggest there should be at least one.
The other issue is that it’s not an easy model to get to fit on Gemini’s own stands.
2.Wings and landing gear
Utter guesswork. They didn’t even bother looking at the publicity images – which would surely have been approved by a brand concious UPS, and show a very pale grey wing. These are much darker, but not as ludicrous as the wings on the Saudia, and I suppose, if I was being generous, they might pass as OK for most of you.
The level of paint is good, with lots of clearly visible detail in the mould. However, where the wings join the fuselage there is a very small amount of chipped paint.
Leading edges are a very nicely done silver silk finish, and look first class.
The landing gear isn’t the nice spring-loaded 744 type. Its rigid with slightly tilting bogies, but the wheels on the outer sets are stiff to unmoving, and don’t turn. The tyres are seriously lumpy in places, and prevent the gear sitting on the ground properly – utterly ridiculous! They’re also not centred, well they weren’t, but after some gentle twisting they are now. The nose gear was also not vertically centred, and the wheels were turned to the left and had to be very carefully twisted back to centre. Appallingly bad for this much money.
Something of a highlight, these engines are see-through around the fan blades – far better fit and finish than on the Atlas Air 748F for example. Rims are neat and tidy, give or take a couple of small inner rim chips, and the fans are an excellent titanium colour.
The rears aren’t too bad either, with a darker grey exhaust cone, and all are neatly levelled, a great set of engines across the board.
The UPS shield under the nose is off centre, again you won’t see it often so it matters less, but that’s not the point – this is way to expensive to have anything wrong with it. Other than that all of the nose detail is nicely produced and detailed.
Build and paint quality, no issues. However the APU is surrounded in a grey-white lumps that won’t come off and looks again, like they couldn’t be bothered to remove mould residue and left it to go solid. Except it’s outside of the paint so what is it? Unacceptable.
The wings are iffy, but the core white is white and the rest of the gold and brown is as spot on as you’d expect – Gemini have done more than a few of this livery over the years.
7.Score and conclusions
- – 8 for the multiple landing gear issues, tyres terrible, minor issues the rest, but they produce overall, a totally unsatisfactory result. I shouldn’t have to correct them, twist them, cut or trim ‘rubber’ off them, in fact do anything to them!
- -5 for the gold wobble on the port side rear paint – it’s not good enough for this much money
- -2 for the off-centre UPS shield – not good enough.
- -5 paint in places has small lumps of dust in it – sometimes quite visible, unacceptable.
- -4 for the spotty white lumps that won’t come off the APU
- 76% is a fail – it’s not simply good enough for a UK list price of £55 ($71US). I didn’t pay that, but even so, I paid enough, and so did anyone who bought it. Either way you can bet it’s the retailers taking the hit on prices and not Gemini.
Utterly disappointing and below average, based on its price it’s not acceptable, by a long way. Gemini continue to extract premium prices for sub-par product.
If you need a registration, if you need a decent, high quality model, – this one is NOT for you, I’d keep well away. It’s a bizarre thing really, one more of those models that makes me think they just make it to make money, rather than for any interest. It’s an exploitation of enthusiasts tendencies to get it while they can, and you know full well they’ll make another, just like the United 773ER.
Gemini should be ashamed that this is the best JCWings can make for them, and they have the gall to charge outrageous prices for utter mediocrity.
My Recommendation: Don’t bother unless you’re a diehard UPS fan or like to collect odd models with strange quirks and poor quality control, in the unlikely hope it may have some value one day – it won’t. This model is going back.
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