Having just flown on a Virgin Atlantic A333 twice in the past week it was nice to have his now historic model to come home to.
Virgin Atlantic has been going through some odd times. It’s focus on North America and its endless swapping of routes with Delta has seen mixed results. Now it’s going to Seattle, but dropped Detroit. It’s Washington DC service looks to me, to be under threat, unable to fill an aircraft mid-week past 203 (76%) passengers, and a Sunday night flight (which should be busy) with just 178 (70%), isn’t efficient.
They seem to have decided to cancel flights with insufficient passenger numbers, and roll them over into the next flight. Once unheard of, these happen almost daily now on New York, Los Angeles and even SFO. Three daily flights to LAX seems to be a struggle – all they’ve done is spread the same number of passengers over more aircraft, the result is the third flight seems to get cancelled quite frequently.
Despite significant turnover, the ditching of old aircraft, the benefit of new 787-9’s, along with diligent cost cutting, they still turned in a barely minimal profit for the year, far less than was hoped for.
The A346, of which Virgin Atlantic was launch customer, and at one time had the second largest fleet after Lufthansa, is now fast declining. Out of 19, just 6 are now active. The only one left in the current livery was G-VGAS, and there were only two, the other being this one, G-VEIL. EDIT: as it happens G-VGAS was withdrawn and flown to San Barnardino the day this article was published, 17 May 2017. Many assumed G-VNAP also had the current livery but that was never the case, although Gemini did make a model of it in the current livery, she never carried it in real life.
G-VEIL has now been gone a year, having been stored in San Bernardino California in April 2016. Now transferred to the US register as Unical Aviation N575UA, that’s normally a precursor to break up, as nobody wants them second-hand. This is also one of only 3 1:200 models I have, so makes for an interesting comparison.
Despite their lumbering long-roll take off that makes you think you just missed the fence at the end of the runway, and their long climb to cruising altitudes (it takes a 744 24 miles to reach 25,000ft, and your average A346, some 50 miles to do the same), they are much quieter than a 744, and frankly a lot more comfortable.
With so much junk coming out of Gemini recently, I’m desperately hoping this isn’t in the same depressing league…let’s see where this one takes us…
This is the venerable Gemini/JCW A346 mould, and it’s pretty good. The first problem become evident straight out of the box. The foremost roof aerial is already out, but some careful reviewing of the box finds it stuck up the side of the clear plastic carton. Then the second one over door 4 comes straight out as soon as I touch it. The third one is fixed in fine. Really? Are we going back to the dark days of 2013 when aerials were placed on a trial and error basis? Talk about dispiriting.
It takes a few minutes to settle some glue, get hold of the miniscule aerials and place them in their over-large holes. Having bothered to put three up top they didn’t bother with either of the two underneath.
The detail isn’t as good as on the Phoenix version of G-VGAS, there’s no dome, just a white paint-on oval, but otherwise it’s pretty good.
2.Wings and landing gear
Despite the cradle, it’s superbly fitted, with a nice tight finish, a superbly done paint job overall, neat tidy and the right colours. Unusually precise.
Some of the tyres are a bit lumpy again. It really is pathetic that this happens so often, it can make the model look stupid on a diorama as it goes lope-sided, and it’s not pretty when the model’s on a stand either. Just a bit of quality control, that’s all we ask for, is it so god-damned difficult to manage something so intrinsically simple?
Other than that the overall gear assembly is pretty good. The nose gear is neat from the side but you can see the paint hasn’t been properly applied to the nose gear door left side front edge, and its bare metal. The starboard main gear has that brown glue stain running down the back of it, that looks quite unsightly. The middle gear is saturated in it, but you can only see it fully in certain light.
I love these big Rolls Royce Trent 556-61’s, they’re a surprisingly elegant looking unit and really suit the aircrafts aesthetics. The fans though are still too silver, though it has to be said, not the bright toy-like type, which has to be a good thing. Rims and exhausts are good. I say only good, because you can see the red showing through if you look hard enough. Nacelle detail is minimal and not HD brilliantly printed, but it’s passable.
You can see the aircraft name, “Queen of the Skies” clearly and the Varga Girl image is very neat from a distance, as are the cockpit windows. Sensors and technical print are good. However the nose has rubbed on the box and left a black mark. Nose protection is required during shipping, so stop stinting on quality packing materials Gemini! You charge way to much not to be able to afford half a cent’s worth of plastic nose cover – just like you always used to provide, before profit mattered more than quality.
Excellent, no issues to complain of.
If you’ve been coming here for the last three years, you’ll know ho hard it is for anyone to adequately duplicate these very special customised colours. They’re made up of some complex layers and they’re not easy to duplicate. However Gemini finally managed it on the 744 G-VXLG last year. You can find that review here: Virgin Atlantic 747-41R G-VXLG Gemini Jets GJVIR1503 2016 Version
Shockingly, they’ve done something they never do (just look at American Airlines models to prove it), they’ve actually used the same paint mix! Yes folks, they actually learnt from their success, and stuck with a colour! Can you believe it? Someone at Gemini has learnt about consistency. It won’t last, but at least they’ve managed it this time!
It’s even more shocking, because for once, the red is the same, that deep, lustrous, 1966 Candy Apple Red opalescent metallic looks amazing. And there’s more, the Virgin Atlantic logo is actually the correct aubergine metallic, and not black!
Colour wise, this model is a triumph; really rather excellent. Getting it right matters. Now can we have a 789 and an A330 (without flappy wings) in the same colours? But with the aerials fixed in and lump-free tyres?
7.Score and conclusions
- -6 for the extra-vehicular aerials. Good job I was able to find them and glue them in without causing any damage. If I hadn’t found them, the model would have had to be replaced.
- -1 for missing paint on nose gear door leading edge
- -2 for lumpy tyres
- -2 for glue stains on the gear
- -2 for the lack of packaging protection rubbing the nose.
- 87% is a reasonable score, juts a pity the whole thing was marred by an aerial problem resurfacing for the first time since what? 2014?
Overall this is a reasonable model from Gemini. It could have racked up the magic 100%, but once again let’s spoil the model for a half cent of glue and some lumpy tyres! Why does it always have to be this way? Why spoil a perfectly good model for the sake of some ridiculously small quality control issues?
My recommendation: A definite buy, but check the aerials and nose! Don’t be afraid to send it back if it’s not good enough.
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