I wouldn’t normally have bothered with buying three A320’s that are (‘should be’, I suppose is more accurate) the same, but the idea of having three of the first four A320neo registrations in my Lufthansa collection proved too much.
First we have to remember that Panda is very low volume production, around 120 models were made. Aeroclassics (quite rightly in my opinion) are convinced they ripped them off and copied their mould. The Gemini is the new A320 mould and the only one of the three with aerials.
The Panda was based on the immediate delivery aircraft – these had no Lufthansa applied graphic tiles on the rear quarters, so visibly, is instantly recognisable.
Two of them have painfully erroneous fundamental problems that you just cannot overlook, and at the end of the day, none of them are perfect. However one is in terms of overall quality, head and shoulders above the other two.
The fuselage is an excellent mould – it’s still better than all of the others, and as Gemini/JCW have recently improved theirs, it still looks to me as though it’s ahead of the pack. It just has the exact shape, and I know for many that matters more than anything else. There are no aerials of course.
The rear quarter “first to fly” graphics are slimmer and less bold than on the Gemini. The exact words ‘First to Fly’ are also meant to be grey but both Gemini and AC did them in blue, the rest of the writing is in blue.
When it comes to rooftop markings, D-AINA has none, whereas the Gemini and the Panda have the correct ones. The same applies underneath, Aeroclassics haven’t bothered.
There is something about the Gemini that you don’t notice immediately, but put the three together, and you soon see it. The Gemini mould is even more inaccurate than I expected. It looks too big, not in length, but just bigger. So I did a circumference test, and it is. The AC/Panda moulds are 36mm (which is correct) – the Gemini is 38.5 mm. You might not think that matters, but if you’ve ever tried on a ring, 2.5mm is the difference between it fitting, and cutting the circulation off in your finger.
To put it into 1:400 context, 2.5mm is 1 metre, (almost 3ft) wider than it actually is! That’s big enough for 4 per side seating! The failings of this new JCW/Gemini mould are really starting to hit home.
It also accounts for why everything else seems thicker, bigger, larger than on the other two, it’s all scaled to match. Yet, despite that fact, the doors are all exactly the same size on all three.
This is closest in detail and quality finish to the Gemini. The Panda is equal in every respect for detail, but actually has a slightly higher standard of definition quality. In all fairness, if it had aerials it beats the Gemini, and it certainly outshines the AC. It has something about it, that when you look at these things as often as I do, you just know it’s better.
2.Wings & Landing Gear
The AC has the least visible detail above and below, the fewest mould features are visible, and the paint is thickest.
The over-wing escape markings are for some reason, red. On both the others they’re black.
Both the AC and the Panda have “Do Not Walk” markings on the upper wing and the same, let’s call it traditional black ‘triangle’ marked area. The Gemini one lacks the wording, and the ‘triangle’ appears to be printed too far forward on the wing, to the point it looks like it has no forward edge, even when it does.
Aeroclassics landing gear is a travesty when it comes to accuracy. Their cheapness in using poor quality gear has consequences this time, not only do they look pants, stupid tiny little blobs of rubber on the nose gear, one of which has already fallen off, requiring both to be permanently glued on.
Worse still the height of the gear is way out, so much so that the AC almost slides underneath the other two – if it wasn’t for the sharklets, you could push it underneath both of the others wings!
The Gemini lacks the wording, and the “don’t walk” ‘triangle’ appears to be printed too far forward on the wing, to the point it looks like it has no forward edge, even when it does.
The Gemini and Panda do have a silver painted leading edge, the AC does not.
While the wings are a nice mould overall with good detail, it has to be said that the sharklets are too long by about 1mm. The wing angle is totally wrong, the base of the sharklet on the Gemini is level with the roof, and it really shouldn’t be. The wing end, where it joins the sharklet should be level with the windows. These persistent failings on JCW/Gemini’s new moulds are pretty lame.
However if the Gemini wings were in the right position, we’d have the models worst feature, its engines, holding it’s wheels off the ground!
The landing gear on the Gemini may be the right height, but mould issues with flashing filling many of the central hydraulics persist. Wheels do not rotate properly and the nose gear is slightly off centre.
Overall the wings are better than those on the AC version, possibly the mould isn’t so worn so produces a better finish. Other than that they’re identical, all the way to a fault that occurs in the way it fits the mould underneath.
Landing gear is vastly superior to that on the on the AC version. At least it’s the right height and not quite so cheaply made in overall appearance.
The AC engine mould is excellent, it’s the correct size, the correct colours on the nacelles, and exhaust, as well as the rims. The fans however are too bright, though not as bad as they have been in the past. Rim paint finish is a bit iffy and it looks dubious face on.
First off, the engines 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.
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.
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 attention to fine detail, superb intake rim paint, simply amazing fan detail and colour, accurate technical detail on the nacelles, Immaculately detailed, and painted exhausts, all fitted to superbly detailed pylons. A masterpiece. If they can do this at this scale, with such accuracy, what else might they achieve in the future?
Panda puts AC and especially Gemini, to shame.
AC haven’t bothered with any of the radome detail. Windows are good, as is the cockpit. There is less door detail however, something the Gemini and the Panda excel at.
Overall it is the weakest in terms of detail, and the quality of that detail.
Other than still being the wrong shape, all of the requisite detail is neatly printed, with an excellent cockpit, Star Alliance logo and technical detail. It’s almost a match for the Panda, but the grey-white around the nose is too rough to make that possible, though it’s not visible unless you look for it.
Superb, lots of small technical detail has been incorporated, remarkable for this size of model. Cockpit windows are a believable and lifelike colour, even the tiny Star Alliance logo is exquisite. Lots of super HD detail, it really is a quality model.
All three of them are so nearly identical it’s actually impressive. Even AC have the blue right at last. The Gemini tail though, isn’t quite in as far as it should be at the rear, but its minor enough not to be a big deal.
For all three there is a remarkably similarity in the colours. very rarely do AC ever get colours right, but for once you can sit these three together and, in natural light, they all look the same. It’s one of the few areas where they actually do.
Overall, if you can accept the lack of rear quarter graphics – and let’s face it they won’t be on the aircraft for more than a couple of years, there is no doubt that the best of these is the Panda. Overall, it’s technically spot on in almost every detail.
Of the other two? The Gemini is bizarre. Whoever specified the mould screwed up big time. It’s just wrong, the engines are wrong, the nose shape isn’t quite right, the wings are over-elevated, the sharklets are too big. It’s just horrible really, how did they get away with this? Most buyers don’t care that’s why, and as long as it vaguely looks alright, for most that’s OK.
The AC, as proven by Panda, has every opportunity to shine. That it doesn’t is down to a failure to accept quality matters, and it’s basically a second tier model to the Panda.
In the end there are two takeaways from this comparison: 1) The Panda is a super model, one of the best A320’s ever made, and 2) the Gemini is a bloater, a badly designed and thought out model that should never have seen the light of day, never mind become THE new A320 on which all will be based.
Aeroclassics remain mediocre, middle of the road, Gemini blind to their own profit-first failings, and Panda, oblivious to how good they are.
What will be fun is when Leonard Nimoy International opens and these can all be lined up at their stands. It’s then that their deficiencies don’t seem to matter quite so much.
So Tryptych of tragedy or triumph? A Tryptych is a three part art work, but here there are three artists, all trying to tell the same story on the same canvass. Except one turned up with a bigger one than the others, and the other two weren’t quite getting the story right. Not a tragedy, but not a triumph either.
My recommendation: in the unlikely event you’ll be able to find a Panda version, just buy it at almost any price. If not, you’re stuck with either the overweight Gemini or the not quite good enough Aeroclassics. The Neo tiles are mostly irrelevant long term in my view. Phoenix meanwhile, have still made no effort to enter the Neo fray; you have to wonder what they might have up their sleeve?
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