I spent a lot of time working on the F1 Grand Prix circuit from 1996-2004, and then as an interest until the end of 2015, at which time the whole thing just reached a new low point for me and I finally gave it up. It was the entry of countries like Russia and now Azerbaijan that annoyed me. The later was the last straw, a more criminally inept mafia run country would be hard to find. To them it’s not about sport, it’s about prestige, and not much else. The sports habit of finding autocratic governments, and adding lustre to their prestige is one I find inherently distasteful.
That aside, I have often dithered about getting one of these versions of Etihad’s A346. The aircraft was delivered in December 2008 to the airline and immediately painted into the livery for the 2009 Etihad sponsored Gran Prix. All they seem to do each year is change the date!
Originally part of nine aircraft order, one was destroyed by accident prior to delivery, on November 15th 2007, having been midway through a full, customer observed, static engine test on the ground, the chocks gave way and it catapulted straight into a neighbouring concrete blast wall, the fore section broke off and was hanging over the wall. I actually saw the result a day later flying into Toulouse, a stranger thing it’s hard to imagine! It had been made worse by the fact that two of the engines couldn’t be shut down, and one of them ran at full power for 9 hours until it ran out of fuel.
A6-EHJ was originally fitted with 12 first class, 32 business and 248 economy, but in 2014 was first class was reduced to 8, business stayed the same at 32 but economy went up to 276.
The aircraft follows a pattern of use as most aircraft schedules do, visiting Cairo, Munich, Paris, Seoul, London and Mumbai across a month of rotations, but Munich is most visited.
The Etihad A346 fleet is already in decline, 2 have been withdrawn, and more are scheduled for departure, replaced by newer more economic aircraft.
The airline itself has also been going through regionally induced difficult times, competing against Etihad, Qatar, a refreshed Kuwaiti fleet, Oman Air on the rise, and even Saudia offering better service and competition than of old, never mind the behemoth that is Emirates, literally just down the road. Its involvement with Alitalia has been a disaster, the same can be said for Air Berlin, and it recently ditched its Swiss regional carrier, Darwin. Management changes have reversed many policies, and to the horror of some business travellers, the airline dumped its chauffeur service as being far too expensive. It’s tough at the top.
The mould has always been a good one, but this model is all about the paint job.
The aerials are all there, three up, one under. The white wi-fi and comms dome is well made and superbly fitted. This was essential as it’s white and sits in a sea of high gloss deep maroon red so dark its almost black (officially it is actually specified as as a red-black).
The model starts white at the front, and red is introduced, a gradual increase in density from almost a light dusting of pink, through a spectrum of red all the way to it being nearly, but not quite black at the rear, it’s more of a very deep maroon-burgundy colour. “Darker than a Quinta Do Noval 1927 Port, but lighter than a Faustino VII Rioja”, said a friend with too much knowledge of alcohol.
The rear is finished in a lighter band of red, before becoming the wrap-around chequered flag tail and vertical stabilizer.
The huge F1 sits ate the rear end, and it has to be said the entire thing is a superb representation of the official logo.
2.Wings and landing gear
The mould’s great but the heavy glossy paint has obscured almost everything beneath it, you can barely make it out. Underneath is almost devoid of detail. There’s nothing faulty with the application, there’s just too much of it, Phoenix need to lighten the load on so much paint.
Three sets of silvered hydraulic landing gear are good, and the tyres are lump free. Nose gear too, is very good.
The Rolls Royce Trent 556-61’s look great from the sides. The nacelles are the very darkest shade verging on black, with a lighter rim behind the silver rim. This is what causes the problems. The silver rims have been painted over the top of the lighter red underneath. Of course it was still wet, and the clumsy silver paint has been applied over the top, causing the red to seep into the silver, which looks a bit rough as a consequence.
Other than that, the exhausts are excellent and full marks to Phoenix for the proper dark titanium fan colour!
Nose detail is relatively simple as it’s mostly white, grading to misty pinky-red going backwards from Door 1. All appropriate detail is visible and the Etihad logos, Grand Prix text and date all seem perfect.
The huge vertical stabilizer and rear section are a complete wrap-around chequered flag pattern, with the Abu Dhabi state coat of arms in black and white at the top. The horizontal stabilizers are plain grey.
Absolutely amazing. They’ve had years to perfect this and it shows. It’s stunningly good, every last variation and density is spot on, its possibly the best paint job I’ve ever seen on any Phoenix. It’s a complicated one as well, and despite that, they’ve done a truly amazing job with it.
7.Score and conclusions
- -4 The only faults are the engine rims, so 1 point down for each
- 96% is a superb score and could have been 100% so easily.
This is an impressive model. I know not everyone loves the A340-600 as much as I do – indeed I’m looking forward to flying on another in September, but this is an amazing livery, as it always has been, but remarkably well reproduced by Phoenix. Really excellent and well worth the money.
My recommendation: I’d definitely buy one of these, just to have one in the collection. It’s an especially fine model and well worth it.