Alaska 737-900ER N493AS ‘more to love’ Gemini Jets 1:400 GJASA1641 May 2017

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More to love? Or more to lose? Richard Branson, the essential founder of Virgin America was against the merger, and tried to persuade Alaska to keep the brand, for very good reasons, but there’s history there. Alaska fought tooth and nail against allowing Virgin America to even exist back in 2006, as did every other US airline. None of them are keen on competition.

Service levels, the David Dao incident amongst many others, from lost dogs in cargo this week, to a dead giant rabbit, cabin crew challenging a passenger to a fight, or clapping when a woman was removed from First Class because another passengers dog jumped on her, and she asked to be moved. People being thrown off because they were ‘sweating funny’, or speaking ‘a foreign language’, all go to underline how desperately bad domestic flights in the US have become. Not a day seems to go by without some ridiculous incident or over-reaction being reported. It doesn’t have to be this way!

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So with consolidation, we say goodbye to the best airline in the US, trashed in the name of profits and petty jealousies. Airline managers are the same as everyone else in business, they dress it up in fine words but personal agendas are always what motivates in the end.

In some ways I’m surprised they bothered with this special livery. I’ve heard on the proverbial grape-vine that it was, allegedly, authorised and then unauthorised, and that the aircraft was in a hangar nearly two weeks before being revealed, while managers argued over it. This seems feasible but is unprovable, though leaked photos pre-date its reveal by about that much.

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I’m not quite sure what the colour scheme on this is all about. Neither airline has whole-body colours, and while it certainly stands out, it seems devoid of the trans-brand identity I would have expected.  It strikes me that this was authorised at a point when the two brands were looking like they might be kept separate, which would make more sense in respect of the design, which says two companies, separate but together. That didn’t happen, and left the aircraft painted with no mission, but it had already cost around $2 million to do. Rather than waste it, a low-key launch and a degree of PR re-purposing seems to have occurred.

Either way, here it is and I do have a penchant for Alaskan aircraft. How well then, have JC Wings done in producing this for Gemini?

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1.Fuselage

In all frankness, the fuselage (and I know some people don’t like the mould, but there’s not much we can do about it), is remarkably well done. The detail is outstanding, and the transfer from blue, to pink, to red, is brilliantly executed, quite superb in fact. It’s way better that was achieved on the KLM 777 Orange-Blue from last year.

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A minor issue is the L in LOVE has no bottom left corner

The aerials are all neat and fixed, two up top, one down (though there are clearly two the same underneath, why they don’t bother with the second can only be a cost issue). There are in fact no less than five underneath on the real thing, two waste water, and three comms/navigation.

Overall the fuselage is a first class example though, and the paint work a major achievement.

2.Wings and landing gear

The wings on this ‘new’ mould are superb. The split scimitars are outstanding and the upper surfaces equally so. Underneath however is excessively bland.

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The main gear is fine, but the nose gear, once again, is pushed too far up and the nose gear doors rub the tyres. Not good at all, because it makes it look stupid on a diorama. JCW really need to resolve this issue, it’s ridiculous.

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3.Engines

This set is average to poor, the paint is full of glue strands and dust on the nacelles, and I have to say the hideously silver engine fans are nauseatingly bright, and I’m sorry but there is no way that rim mould is right. It always looks like it’s very slightly kinked, especially on No.1 engine.

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Both engines aren’t fitted as neatly as they should be by a long way, and look messy where it meets the pylon. This is made more obvious as it’s the outer join that looks worse. The exhausts are a good shape but are all one colour, when the cone should be darker titanium (as should the fans). I remain unimpressed with these plastic engines – a very weak point on this model type in every guise its been produced in.

I think the problem is cheapness of the interior plastic and poor moulding. It has two locator pins and they just don’t align properly.

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it’s a messy, dirty join…

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4.Nose detail

I’m not over-keen on the bright silver cockpit window frames, even though that is what they’re like, at this scale they seem too thick, but that’s more observation than complaint.

The rest seems entirely commensurate with the real thing and well executed.

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The nose wheel

5.Tail detail

This is the bit where I have my greatest reservations. Forget the cheap plastic horizontal stabilizers, it’s the vertical stabilizer Eskimo logo that’s not right. They’ve used a standard livery logo with a light tint of blue to replace the white, but it’s actually quite a bit darker on the real thing. On this it’s just too bright.

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6.Colours

Other than the tail, a brilliant job. I have to say that the flash and bright light has diminished the subtlety of the paint somewhat, its better than it looks in the photos. I tried to tone it down, and rebalance it, but it doesn’t quite get the finesse of the merging colours. It’s a lot better than it looks.

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7.Score and conclusions

  • -4 for the tail colour shade
  • -2 for the nose gear issue
  • -2 for the hideous silver engine fans
  • -6 for the poor paint around the engine-pylons and general fit and finish on both sides
  • 86% is an average score

This again, could be so much better if simple quality control issues were dealt with. Engine fit, nose gear and fix the engine mould, and please stop using that silver paint for the fans!

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It’s not a reject, it’s well above that, but I feel very much that it hangs in that zone of commercial acceptability rather than excellence. Bare in mind that the price of this from Gemini is the same as an A380 from Phoenix and that sort of puts it in perspective. It isn’t even close on cost-quality grounds.

From a distance you wouldn’t notice most of this, but that’s not the point is it? It’s good but it’s not brilliant.

My recommendation: A buy, an interesting oddity, just check it for quality issues.  

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