This is the second A320neo from Gemini, the first one, the truly ghastly LATAM version, was so poor it was returned to the retailer, along with that months UPS 748F.
This is also the second Lufthansa A320neo – the first is the Panda version, based on the Aeroclassics A320.
The issues around the engine in the real world have been depressing enough for manufacturer Pratt & Witney. Limited altitude, speed and weight restrictions have all been applied at various times as teething problems with the gearbox, and high pressure seals, have had to be ironed out.
Lufthansa took a very sensible, pragmatic approach to deliveries, and managing the issues, rarely commenting, and doing everything they could to assist – which is the sign of a mature and engineering savvy airline. Qatar on the other hand. got all drama queen about it, eventually refusing to accept theirs, and cancelling many. Impatience isn’t a virtue, and in some ways it demonstrates a very new airlines lack of experience in the real world.
The engines remain an issue in 1:400 scale; we’re lucky enough to have a jet engine designer with 20 years experience in the family who quickly pointed out the problems with the models. This led us to do some investigating of our own.
It turns out that if you look at the manufacturers measurements, the Gemini/JCW PW1100G family used on the Neo, the fan case measurement is the most telling. At 1:400 it should be 5.56mm wide at the outside rim to rim but is 6.56mm wide on the model’s engines; an 18% margin over the correct size.
The length of the nacelle on both the AC version and the JCW/Gemini version is correct, it’s that the later has made it too wide. Now you might think that’s not a big deal – but it sticks out like sore thumb when you see the two together, and there’s something mildly unbelievably big about the JCW/Gemini version, that just sort of stands out. You just know its wrong.
The aircraft itself is fitted with the standard CY-180 seating arrangement and went into service on 12th August 2016 as the fourth to be delivered to Lufthansa (D-AIND was delivered in July). Five are currently in service but no more have been delivered since December 2016, until all of the issues have been resolved. They operate extensively on the Frankfurt-London route.
The odd lump that appeared above the cockpit windows on the LATAM seems to have been removed, a good thing. Three aerials up top are positioned and sized correctly, though the very small standard fit dome in the centre is a print-on line item. There are no aerials underneath at all despite there being a very bright orange one underneath directly below the mid-fuselage aerial up top. It seems the budget only ever allows for three aerials at this scale on this size model. So cheapskate!
The rear has the “First to Fly A320neo” in larger letters above the windows, and below the windows, “Less noise. Less fuel. Less Co2.” in a smaller font. These are printed well on both sides.
The grey of the under body is spot on, a really accurate interpretation of the colour to be commended, as so often this gets done wrong. The divide line is also neat, along with the printed and technical detail.
Indeed other than a lack of aerials underneath, it’s an excellent fuselage, though the nose shape is still not up to Aeroclassics standards.
2.Wings and landing gear
The wings are excellent, superbly inserted and fitted to the point of seamlessness. Plenty of visible detail, a nice level of paint that doesn’t obscure detail. Leading edges benefit from an especially nice finish.
It seems at last, that the issues with the appallingly bad landing gear moulds might have been resolved. Either that or I’m just lucky – if yours still has flashing and blocked out moulds, let me know!
Even the tyres are lump free and after some coaxing, rotated. Nose gear is good, I say that because again, it seems slightly twisted to the left (the models left), but not so bad as to be a crisis. However it seems to be a pattern already on this model type.
The background to the engine issues I’ve given above, so I wont harp on about the size, but have no doubt the size has considerable impact on a number of issues that stem from it.
First off, the engnies are so oversized they are too close to the ground, and again, one side (the left) is marginally lower than the right, almost on the floor. At least this time one isn’t 2mm further forward than the other, as they were on the LATAM.
Secondly, the pylons are wrong. On the real thing they’re designed with the nacelle rising upward in front of them. The uppermost part of the nacelle, at the front where the fan is widest, is very slightly above the grey/white line of the fuselage, and almost equal to the top of the pylon. On the model none of that is incorporated; the whole design aspect has been missed, leading to a general mis-positioning of the engines. Aggravated by their size, the engines just look worse.
It has to be said that the Panda and AC versions have included the design into the model on the Lufthansa and the SAS versions recently reviewed, and the difference is extraordinary. There’s no doubt that in the ‘Neo wars’, Aeroclassics may not get colours spot on, but the mould, and detail is definitely superior by some margin, right across the board. If they put decent wheels, aerials and tyres on, they’d be vastly superior.
It has to be said though, that the colour of the fans and rims is good on the Gemini (but not as good as the Panda, which used a dark titanium for the fans), and the exhaust is excellent too, both in neatness and colour. The Gemini rims don’t need to be examined too closely though. There is a certain rough finish that could be better.
The fins on the engines also don’t suffer from the over-painted blobbiness of the LATAM version, though they are far to big as moulded in items go..
4. Nose detail
All of the requisite detail is neatly printed, with an excellent cockpit, StarAlliance logo and technical detail.
I noticed on this model, and the 737-8 Max model from last week, that there was more plastic film in the box protecting the models this time; a welcome change.
Really rather excellent. It all seems to have been fitted well and is a remarkable improvement over the old A320 mould. Everything is neat, refined and well assembled. Detail and paint quality are excellent, all the way to the APU.
This time, unlike on the Lufthansa A350, white seems to be white, the grey is excellent, the tail colours superb. From a colour and paint quality point of view, this is an excellent model.
7.Score and conclusions
- -6 for the over-sized engines
- -2 for the off-centre nose gear
- -6 for the completely wrong pylons, the fit of the engines to the pylon and lack of attention to the actual design. If AC and Panda could do it, there is no way JCW & Gemini with their resources should have got it wrong.
- 82% is a passable score, but it’s not great. (The LATAM scored just 66%).
I wanted, hoped, to rate this really highly. As a model that is looked at just as a model, and not a twin of the real thing in miniature, it’s pretty good. However, as a twin – and let’s not forget, Gemini are the twins in astrological terms, and the basis for the company name, which coupled to the strap line, ‘as real as it gets‘, have made it one of the most recognised model names in the business, well it’s not as good as it should be, it really isn’t. Especially for the premium prices being charged.
The pylon/engine/size issue is a major undertaking to revise and they won’t do it, so expect nothing to change. JCW and Gemini A320neo’s are always going to be wrong. That’s a ridiculous situation to be in. Built-in mediocrity because people professionally involved in making models haven’t got a clue about what they’re doing any more, seemingly guessing at it? That’s not a good place to be.
The nose gear is another thing – it’s endemic on this model now, the nose gear is off-centre. Will they do anything about it? Eventually, maybe.
If Aeroclassics would build models to the same standard as Panda, and get the colours right, aerials or not, put some decent wheels on, they could walk away with the Neo as champions.
The fact is Gemini look like a bunch of neophytes with this model, you wouldn’t know they’d ever made anything before. Except they have, and that makes it even more inexcusable.