Norwegian 737-8Max LN-MAX Gemini Jets 1:400 GJNAX1654 June 2017

Norwegian is something of an enigma. Currently its six different companies based in Norway, the UK, Ireland Denmark and soon Argentina. Its existence is dependent on almost continuous expansion – something like a pyramid scheme. It needs constant new income to finance its existing outgoings, and its existing outgoings need ever more cash, as only expansion can feed the cash into the system, to enable the expansion.

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The soon to be Shannon, Ireland based 738Max artist impression (unattributed)

Now this may seem reasonable, but to my mind it looses far too much money to be allowed the level of expansion its been  permitted to undertake. Then Boeing as a manufacturer wants to sell aircraft, banks want to sell loans, and everyone bends over backwards to accommodate Norwegians never-ending expansion – while still making vast losses. Losses that have to be financed by someone.

Norwegian uses its PR machine to drive public awareness. It rarely makes headlines about anything bad, only good things, and it talks down anything negative, and screams from the rooftops about anything that makes it look good. there is something of the early Virgin Atlantic about the way it self-promotes.

It always comes up with daring new ideas (the Argentina plan, the utilisation of aircraft in the Caribbean and Far East over northern winters), all of which create positive headlines. Yet losses rose from £72 (US$92) million to £135 (US$172.51) million in just 12 months from 2016-17.

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Two Sonja Heine’s at RLSI the 788 and the new 738M

Headlines like “carrier hit by cost of launching new routes” make me think this comes as surprise to them! Did they not know? Was it not budgeted? Were there in fact far fewer customers than expected? If you cannot afford to expand at such a pace – RyanAir and easyJet didn’t – then you shouldn’t be doing it, because your model is wrong. The other two mentioned above were tactical, and surprisingly cautious about expansion – but they were new and so was low-cost travel, the world was their oyster. Norwegian is competing in a different world.  Expanding at 30% per year is break-neck speed. I can tell you anything that expands that fast simply isn’t covering every detail, something somewhere isn’t right.  Rapid success (or the appearance thereof) leads to complacency, companies believe their own hype, I’ve been there and seen it, experienced it several times. Sooner or later someone gets burnt.

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front to back: LN-MAX Sonja Heine no 2, Ingrid Bergman no 1 (now retired) and out of focus at the back the chap who designed the Sydney Opera House – AC did the tail graphics far better

Now, I know that seemed lengthy, but you need to understand why this model is here now. It’s because Norwegian wanted to be part of the party, being European launch customer for the 738Max is another headline, showing how marvellously forward thinking the airline is, as at someones expense, it brings ridiculously low (and arguably unsustainable), fares to a grateful public.

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These aircraft are being used to open new routes from Europe to airports away from big cities, (Stuart in New York State, Providence, and somewhere 30 miles from Boston), but that get you close to where you want to be. Ryan Air were first off the mark with that one, even getting airports to change their names (Beauvais 60 miles north of Paris was renamed Paris-Beauvais for example). So these trans-Atlantic 738Max’s are key to opening new markets, essential to feed the Norwegian cash machine. .

So how does it perform in 1:400?

1.Fuselage

The only real difference is the APU, which now has a far more refined 788 cone finish to it, and is neatly painted silver.

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This could be a ‘spot the difference’ with the real thing competition

My personal feeling is that the nose seems just slightly more pointed that the older version of this new mould, but other than that I can’t see any differences.

The Max is supposed to have a lower aerial in the same position as on the current 738NG – it appears in photos of the real thing and on the NG mould but JCW have left it out, this time printing the Gemini logo into the position (it used to go on the forward section).

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The wi-fi/satcomms dome is clearly visible and it’s not small! (Photo: Paul Varner)

Norwegian was the first airline to offer free wi-fi on board all of its fleet – and for reasons that escape me, the dome, clearly visible on the prototypes, and on the first aircraft for Norwegian, is totally missing. This is a significant issue – it’s a big item and it’s not something they’ve even bothered to print an outline for. This strikes me as being typical of a lack of research, and aviation industry knowledge – Norwegian makes a BIG thing about its wi-fi service so omitting it is inexcusably poor. Is it on the 1:200 version? Not according to Gemini’s publicity photos!

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The dome is significant, and below you can see the missing aerial

There are two aerials up top, one mid-aircraft and the other similar again to the 788, at the front vertical stabilizer base. There is one underneath, forward, but it seems the budget allows only for one of the two standard fit aerials. The other is where they always have been on the 738, visible in the photo above.

Overall print and graphics quality is high with adequate detail.

2.Wings and landing gear

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The wings are a new mould, caused by the need to change the split scimitars, which lack the rearward sweep at the tips on the Max. Overall they’re pretty good, plenty of detail, a quality neat silk finish paint that looks very realistic, though there is scant detail underneath.

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Very different to the ones retrofitted to older aircraft.

Paint quality on the split scimitars is excellent and they’re a good size, and well finished. However the colour of the scimitars is wrong.

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They should both be red with a blue-on-white line through the centreline horizontal, again, depicting the Norwegian flag. These are red up top and blue at the bottom.  Again a lack of research. Do they not have the internet in Las Vegas or Hong Kong/China? I think they do.

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I think JCW and Gemini have been playing a guessing game

A highlight of the landing gear is the fact that the nose gear is, at last, the correct height and the wheels are not rammed up against the doors. The main gear is grey and neatly made, with good, lump free tyres on wheels. All together far better than we’ve seen to date.

3.Engines

These are a big deal, and a defining, obviously visible representation of what’s different with the Max, and at this sort of scale that does matter.

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In certain lights, because the plastic engines take to colour differently to metal, they look a bit yellowed.

The mould is slightly better (on this example at least) than the one on the normal 738NG. The rims are still far from perfect in terms of mould shape, looking a bit wobbly, but that’s only if you look up close. The paint and the fan colour is good, not cornea-burning reflective bright silver but a silver-grey, more matt than aggressively metallic, and it works fairly well, but could be better.

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Now you can call me super-nerdo-detail-geek, but, there are only 10 serrations (I’m counting indents not points) on the models noise baffles, and there are 14 on the real thing. There are 12 visible pointed baffles in this photo alone, excluding the different part at the base, and 8 on the model. Not as real as it gets. If they used quality metal mouldings rather than blobby cheap plastic perhaps they could get it right? At these prices, and the tens of thousands they’ll produce over the next ten years, they could at least try and do it properly. I’m saying nothing more. For now.

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Taken by me at farnborough 2016, for the very reason of revieweing this model at some time in the future. You have to plan ahead!

The exhaust is also silver matt with a darker exhaust cone on the model, for reasons I’ll never understand, but I suspect indifference by JCW and Gemini.

Under-engine markings are good and everything else seems to be where it should be.

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4.Nose detail

It’s definitely a slightly different, more pointed nose. It’s only just perceptible, but I’m sure it is.

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If you look you can see the hair under the paint above window six

Detail appears excellent, especially the red-white-blue nose end that represents the Norwegian flag. However it appears they’ve left the 737-8 on the nose, even though it appears to be missing on the first delivery test flights of Norwegian aircraft, and any mock-up, official and unofficial I’ve seen. There is also a hair stuck under the paint on the upper starboard side.

5.Tail detail

Really? Sonja Heine the Olympic skier again? She appears on the first 788, which I’ve alredy got. It’s bad enough we had two Ingrid Bergman – one on a now retired 738 Aeroclassics made and then the 789 Dreamliner by Phoenix. 85 aircraft in their fleet and we have four with the same tails in model form? I haven’t been able to confirm the registration either; it exists but on a DeHaviland DH2 biplane according to the last record I could find.

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Sonja’s graphic is good, especially at about two feet away, which is where these things are best seen from. However, in all fairness to the often maligned Aeroclassics, their graphics on the tail are better, much more realistic.  The tail has the new APU and that’s well done. Everything else is well assembled and fitted and here’s a thing I didn’t expect – The horizontal stabilizers are metal, not the usual bendy plastic! Thank you JCW for that change for the better!

6.Colours

No issues at all, a great job.

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7.Score and conclusions

With the real aircraft delayed (the model release was timed for their introduction), it’s hard to tell how truly accurate this is, but one thing’s for sure; the wi-fi dome is a big deal of an omission. My understanding is it’s a standard fit too, not an optional extra, especially as connectivity is one are airlines are racing to provide, because passengers can’t cope any more being detached from the internet. Personally I love that 11 hour gap of silence, but that’s me. It also houses the capacity for all the forthcoming compulsory tracking systems being introduced after the Malaysian Airlines 777 ‘vanishing’.

  • -5 for the missing dome
  • -4 for the missing noise baffle serrations in the engine nacelles (remember the Gemini strapline; “as real as it gets”)
  • -2 for the exhaust colour, really it’s time this was sorted out properly – it isn’t “as real as it gets” or anything like it.
  • -2 for the split scimitars colours
  • -2 for the missing under-body aerial (are we on a budget again, at these prices?)
  • -1 for the hair in the paint – just a YUK!
  • 84% However is 1 point higher than the average JCW/Gemini score, which normally resides down in the low 80’s.

We pay a lot of money for these models and we’re entitled to see them as accurate as it’s possible to make them, and that we’re not getting. This is as ever, built to a budget and commercial acceptability – the fact you’ll put up with it being vaguely, rather than exactly alike – is the target, and from their point of view, that’s all they care about. How about you?

Is it a bad model? Not at all, it’s quite good as a model without any reference to the real thing in the real world. But if it isn’t like the real thing in the real world, what’s the point of it?  Making money for Gemini, is all it’s about.

Am I disappointed? Yes. Am I surprised? No. I  keep hoping we’ll have a breakthrough moment, and they’ll go back to caring as much about the smaller models as the big ones – which as we’ll see, are improving. In the meantime, it is what it is, but in the words of a major hotel brand; Never Settle.

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ALL Photos and text unless specifically stated otherwise ©Jon Champs 2016-17.

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