Alaska Air Cargo 737-490F N709AS Gemini Jets 1:400 GJASA471 2006

A few weeks ago I offered readers of the 1400Reviews Facebook Page the chance to decide which aircraft they’d like reviewed most from the “older models to be reviewed stock pile” There was a list of 7 to choose from. The winner and runner up were not at all what I expected! This is the winner, so especially if you voted for it, I hope you enjoy reading about it!

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Some of you may be surprised to know Alaska even runs a cargo arm, even more so that it operates 5 734’s in that role. Cargo and Alaska Airlines aren’t really two things that come to mind for this type of business model, and they seem to keep it relatively low key.

I had a look at the last three months of flight log for this aircraft, and other than trips down to Seattle, the service it offers is almost entirely inside the State of Alaska, covering almost every airport that can handle a 734F.  For a state where road journeys’s for much of the year are near impossible, the value of air cargo cleary rises.

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This appears to be the only 1:400 version made so far – how long it keeps this livery I have no idea. Skymarks did a 1:130 in 2006, Tex Models a 1:500 in 2010,  and Riseoon/Skymarks a 1:100.  This Gemini version was produced in 2006.

I paid a very reasonable £23 for it, I’d been looking for one for ages.

Further investigation seems to point out that this is the only pure cargo version the airline uses. The other four 734’s slated for cargo are 3 737-4Q8C’s which have a 72 seat economy layout at the rear and cargo at the front, and one 737-490C with the same layout.  Why is it I want one of these now!

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One of Alaska’s three hybrid 737-4Q8C’s, passengers at rear, cargo forward

N709AS was first delivered back in March 1999, fitted with 12 “First” and 132 economy seat. Powered by two CFMI CFM56-3C1’s, she was converted to cargo in June 2006 at Dothan Regional Airport, Alabama. She remains in active service in this livery.

1.Fuselage

How new and little used this 737-400 mould must have been back in 2006. The age of the the 400/500 is now coming to an end in passneger service, BA, Lufthansa and many others have sold them off, most for scrap, but some of BA’s are being sold on for cargo conversions. One hopes to see one from Gemini at some stage, but I doubt it. I doubt I’ll ever get to fly in another, the last one was a dreadful LOT Polish 734 on the way to Warsaw in 2014.

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The shape is very good, not quite there on the nose but it’s pretty good. No aerials of course, far too long ago!

The technical detail is also very good, not that there is much of it to reproduce. The coach lines, one black, the other a sort of mid-green are superbly done and problem free, something Gemini had trouble with far more recently. On top of that the under-body grey is also neat and where it meets the upper white, its actually perfectly even all the way round, including at the nose, which has often been a problem in later years.

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One item is odd, there is one window just behind the first A in Alaska, which appears as a normal window, but is just a black mark that looks part of the lettering on the model.

It seems hard to think that things have often devolved from these standards just as the pricing has markedly increased.

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2.Wings and landing gear

The cradle fit wings are so near seamless as to be almost miraculous. They couldn’t manage that these days. The engine pylons are also right where they should be.

The detail on the wings and the quality of paint has stood the test of time, and everything looks as it should.

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What I’m not sure about is if the escape markings would have been retained when there was no door left to escape out of?

Landing gear is typical of the period, hard black tyres on spigots. There’s nothing complex about it.

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3.Engines

Even though these are small units at this scale, in those days they were still metal, not plastic cheap crap as they are now, with their rubbish and indifferent moulds and lurid silver fans.

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These are really smart too, with an excellent flat bottom shape and a mould that has kept its appearance, not the wobbly plastic of the latest versions. The rims are excellent, and – this is the corker – the fans back then were the correct dark titanium! So they did know that fans weren’t silver even then! The conclusion must be they’ve since cut corners and costs by eliminating another process and paint colour, then going over to cheap plastic. And yet the price goes up.

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Even the exhausts and cones are superior to anything produced now, perfectly done and completely accurate.

The lines around the nacelles are little wobbly, suggesting they were hand painted.

4.Nose detail

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It’s all there,  including markings that seem to have been removed in around 2013 above the cockpit, but I can’t really make out what they were. You can see them in a rare forward photo view I was able to locate.

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The detail on the model is really excellent, even more so when looking at this photo of the real thing (above).

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5.Tail detail

Superb, and beautifully made, of metal. No plastic horizontal stabilizers here.

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6.Colours

Mostly white and black, but the green is accurate as are the rims and fans.

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7.Score and conclusions

Remarkable as it may seem if I was scoring this right now as a brand new model, I’d give it 95%. Those black dot windows and the wobbly lines around the engines, are the only very minor things that lets it down, and Gemini would have to work wonders to produce anything to this quality, at that scale that wasn’t a 744 right now.

She’s a unique aircraft in Alaska’s fleet, serving a very difficult environment in one the most amazing states in the US from a geographical and climate point of view. It’s not an ideal fit with my cargo diorama, but I’m searching for small cargo aircraft all the more now, and it was just too much to ignore.

It’s a nice piece of small 1:400 scale modelling by Gemini when they actually seemed to care.

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