Conviasa A340-200 YV1004 Phoenix 11356 1:400 May 2017

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Now this is an odd one and that’s why I wanted it. Conviasa is a Venezuelan airline, and most of you are probably aware that one of the potentially richest countries in the world, with oil reserves so vast it’s embarrassing, is on the verge of starving its citizens to death, unable to provide medical care, and near bankrupt. Why? Because the former bus driver who mismanages the country, the corrupt and frightened Nicholas Maduro, has backed himself, and his henchmen, into a corner he can’t get out of alive, and so has no choice but to hope massive military and police oppression will let him hold on. People are hungry. Stomachs are more powerful than bullets in the final show down.

Most airlines have stopped flying to Caracas, they can’t get the money people pay for their tickets out of the country and vicious exchange controls have prevented any real way of doing so.

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The airline is officially known as Consórcio Venezolano de Indústrias Aeronáuticas y Servicios Aéreos, shortened to Conviasa. Created in 2004, this A342 is the only one the airline ever had. Built in 1993 it’s had a long list of owners.  Air France 1993-98, Air Tahiti Nui 1998-2003, Air Bourbon 2003-5, Air Europa 2005-6 (they had the engines upgraded to the CFM56-5C2/F version), then she was returned to Airbus Financial Services, and sold to Conviasa in March 2007.

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They then leased her to Iran Air – mostly illegally because of sanctions, but Venezuela’s oddball socialist government sees itself as a pariah state, and likes to kick the world order. They then took her back later in the year, and she was stored at Bordeaux in France in 2013 after a few years service. In November 2014 she was put back into service but has since been withdrawn and stored again, largely because there is no aviation fuel to move her out of Venezuela.

Now this model did not arrive in brilliant condition, yet again some self assembly is required. Not one of the wings or horizontals was fixed again. It’s incredible how Phoenix manage this.

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It’s never a happy moment when one turns up in bits, but I seem to have gotten used to it, and so far 1 in 5 is like this. That’s pretty bad really, Phoenix should find that unacceptable that 20% of their product is duff.

1.Fuselage

The A342 was not a popular aircraft, suffering from excessive fuel consumption, so much so that Cathay Pacific made Airbus take theirs back. As such there are few models, those that went into service are almost all retired and gone off to the great recycler. You could be driving in one or shaving with one even now.

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The fuselage looks surprisingly good, especially give the evident quality issues with assembly.

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Print, detail, aerials and overall quality is actually quite high, with nothing to complain about. It’s actually quite sad that these other problems have beset the model and taken the shine off it.

2.Wings and landing gear

As you can see they do have a problem, namely the fact they’re not attached to the fuselage. I should be horrified and yet, it’s happened so many times I just see it as routine, and because I know my retailer will either accept a deal or accept a return, I know what to do, and that’s that.

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The problem is out of 7 models this month, all new from the factory, 3 have been so bad they’re rejects. Two are just unfixable because there’s nothing I can do about them. This one is fixable, and I got a very sizeable discount (40% off), as I really wanted to keep it.

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The wings, once fixed are fine, problem free. The landing gear is rather good, neat tyres, decent hydraulics and they all rotate. The exception to this is the A340’s centre gear, which has been pushed in too far and doesn’t touch the ground.

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3.Engines

These are odd sized units that would look more at home on an A321 than an A340, as that’s in effect what they were originally designed for. They are quite neat, the paint is white with printed detail on the nacelles. The silver rims are OK, not brilliant but better than we often see. Fans are dark enough to be OK, but not really the right colour.

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The exhaust is rather good; these have the fans in the outlet, and it’s all neat and tidy. All of the engines have the forward facing arrow underneath.

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4.Nose detail

The nose is neat and tidy and whatever that graphic is, because I’ve had a hard time working it out on the real photos never mind the model, it does a good job of duplicating it! The aircfat name is also visible, and overall I think it’s pretty good.

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5.Tail detail

Again, detached horizontals – but the vertical is perfecty fixed. The hook and fix of the internal horizontal stabilizer mounts should make it almost impossible for them to come out, so the only thing that could have happened is they were never properly inserted in the first place. Clearly newbies have come on board after Chinese New Year, lets hope Phoenix get some training sorted post-haste! I know, I know, but you can hope can’t you?

Paint wise the whole rear end is rather good and the graphics are excellent.

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6.Colours

Remarkably good, no complaints

7.Score and conclusions

  • -20 for both wings falling off
  • -10 for both stabilizers falling off
  • -4 for the centre landing gear not touching the floor
  • 66% is a complete fail. But if they’d have been properly installed I would have been very happy. “Spoil the ship for a halfpenny o’tar” they used to say. In this case it’s a half cent of glue.

 My recommendation: It’s a very unusual airline, a one-off aircraft, and a big, colourful livery. A very cautious buy, because it’s very much a one-off aircraft, but beware! And be prepared to send it back or demand a credit for a faulty model.

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