Qatar Airways A380 A7-APC Phoenix 11374 1:400 July 2017

Qatar-Airways.jpgThis model seems to have been delayed a month – I get worried when Phoenix do that, it’s often an indication of a poor quality issue, in the past it’s often meant these things have never been released. Normally I’d have not been overly bothered, but I sold the less than good Gemini version of A7-APA that came out in late 2014. Its nose shape and overall fuselage mould (the same as the JCW version) is unnatural! Add to that it refused to sit on the ground properly – a lot of Gemini’s around the period sit on their main gear, but the A380 nose was about the equivalent of 3ft above the ground. The BA A380 G-XLEA does the same; and they didn’t have aerials then either.

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Qatar have taken delivery of eight of their ten A380 aircraft order so far, the first in September 2014 and the newest only in May 2017. Under current circumstances, with a raging and seemingly unrelenting dispute with its neighbours over who said what about what, that has painted all parties into a corner from which there seems to be no return right now, Qatar Airways is something of a victim.

With flights diverted over it’s only two local friends  – the very two its neighbours don’t like – Turkey, and Iran especially, flights are being re-routed, and some like Doha-Buenos Aries have to stop in Athens for fuel because the diversion is so great. Meanwhile its short-haul operations have been devastated, so much so they’ve been lending BA 5 A320’s to break their cabin crew strikes.

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A7-APC at Melbourne Tullamarine 21 July 2017

A7-APC was delivered on December 1st 2014 and is named  الخرارة (Al-Kharrara), which is a small village in central southern Qatar in the Al Wakrah Municipality.

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Qatar’s A380’s have a Premium Lounge on the upper deck.

Fitted with 8 first class in the upper front deck, then 48 business class with a Premium Lounge just behind Door 2 (upper deck), there’s then 60 economy behind that, in 2-4-2. The economy seat are 18.5″ wide but have a 32″ seat pitch which is quite generous and makes them far more acceptable on long flights.

The lower deck is entirely economy seating with 401 economy seats in a typical 3-4-3 layout. Total seating is 517.  Because Qatar doesn’t like men and women to use the same lavatories there are no less than 34 on board!

Qatar chose the Engine Alliance GP7200 engine, which has high thrust capabilities in the super-hot air temperatures and humidity that Qatar’s Hamad International Airport is renowned for.

1.Fuselage

The first thing you notice about any Phoenix A380 is that they seem to weigh as much as an A320! Rather than the 360 grams of the JCW/Gemini mould and the 385 grams of the old Witty, this is made of aluminium and weighs just 223 grams, 52% lighter!

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It’s almost impossible to describe how vastly more accurate this entire mould is compared to the Gemini/JCW. In this article I explored the differences, which are really very obvious when you have them in front of you: Who makes the best 1:400 A380? which is nearly three years old is still entirely relevant.

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The model has three upper aerials and one underneath. They were painted white and while they’ve been put in their holes and glued in, unlike on some recent models there’s been no attempt to paint them after insertion, and back-fill the somewhat large holes they sit in. The one under main deck door 2 is particularly large.

The paint finish mid-light grey over white has been done brilliantly. A really first class dividing line between the two without a single leak or blemish in either direction.

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The logos and writing are first class, the technical detail, outstanding from windows to doors, and the scale of the multitude of red tech markings all over the aircraft, as well as sensors and roof markings is excellent.

The small forward white dome is part of the mould and neatly painted white, in a sea of grey any mistake would have been a disaster, and it’s worked superbly.

2.Wings and landing gear

Nothing says ‘massively over-engineered’ like an A380’s wings. Designed for the Freighter version and the longer stretch, neither of which materialised thanks to the recession (FedEx did order 10 freighters, but cancelled them), the wings are extraordinary pieces of engineering. They look every bit as they should on the model.

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Despite Phoenix’s insistence on using over-glossy paint, there’s not so much of it that it’s obscured the detail up top. The “DON’T WALK” lines are clear, the wording legible perfectly finished. Underneath is pale grey and some detail is visible.

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This photo shows the silver on Engine No.4 (on the leftmost in the image) and the oversized hole for the aerial between the external air intakes.

The wing root has a tiny flaw for the slot-in to work 100%. The left wing doesn’t quite go in as far at the rearmost point, not quite sitting flush with the sides of the fuselage. Interestingly the Gemini/JCW mould has exactly the same issue, and I’ve got 16 different A380’s to check them against!

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This shows the left wing (right side in this photo), doesn’t quite meet the fuselage at the rear, it’s perfectly OK on the other side.

The weakest point of the entire model is the landing gear – but when I say weak, it’s only in comparison with the fact that the rest is basically so good. The gear is very loose, on a stand they flop about all over the place, and don’t like to stay where you put them. The paint on the hydraulics is also a bit rough, but on close up only, and at least it’s metal and not painted lurid silver.  The tyres are also really improved with no hideous lumps.

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3.Engines

The nacelles are excellent, each with the oryx logo on the sides. Exhausts are excellent and correctly painted, the fans too are an excellent titanium-black in appearance. The rims look good from the sides, but again, the type of silver paint they insist on using just doesn’t work as well as it should. It’s almost as though the particles were to big for the rim edge, and look particularly rough around engine No.4.

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In many ways this is all about perception, you really won’t notice it unless someone points it out, and when something is generally excellent, even the tiniest thing looks markedly out-of-place.  It’s the irony of improving quality standards, that the more you improve, the more any failing becomes apparent.

4.Nose detail

All the small detail is there, and exquisitely so! Windows appear to be about right for size on the cockpit, Pitot tubes and sensors all appear with clarity and are superbly scaled.

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The radome is also neatly, subtly, visible as it is on the real thing.  Add to that the paint is neat and in the right place around the nose.

5.Tail detail

The massive tail section (the horizontal stabilizers are as long as an A320 wing and nearly three times the area), is marvellously neat and superbly fitted, the giant oryx head on the vertical looks superb. All the way to the silver and black-exhaust APU, the tail section is excellent, painted brilliantly, and assembled brilliantly.

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6.Colour

Now and again, Phoenix really cock-up colours, almost as badly as Aeroclassics do from time to time. Their Lufthansa A346 last year was horribly wrong when it came to the grey, a grey not dissimilar to that used by Qatar,

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However, Phoenix have done a superb job here, not only with the grey, but getting the famous Qatar burgundy red spot-on. Outstanding across the board, Phoenix should be delighted with the result, just as I am.

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7.Score and conclusions

  • -1 for the wing fit not being quite there
  • -1 for the No.4 engine rim paint
  • -2 for the over-large aerial holes
  • 96% is another staggeringly good result from Phoenix. Who minds if they only produce 7 models in a month when they’re this level of quality?

No doubt about it Phoenix have another winner on their hands with this one, it’s really superb; Phoenix have made big quality strides. A few small things let it down a little, but they’re quite minor. An excellent model overall.

Most importantly, Phoenix still have the best A380 by a wide margin, the JCW/Gemini version just doesn’t cut it against this model in any way.

My recommendation: A definite buy, a really excellent model from Phoenix that no collection should be without,

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