India is now the most populous country on Earth, having passed China earlier this year. Its population is approaching four times that of the United States, its aviation sector is booming and it struggles, often violently, to come to terms with archaic beliefs, modern science and rampant corruption. And yet, extraordinary as it may seem, it is the worlds largest democracy. It is a country of extraordinary contrast, that somehow manages to hold itself together as a vast federation.
During the terrible floods in Texas that caused so much loss to property, killed tens of people and left a nation and its friends, frankly shocked, Mumbai, India’s second city, was experiencing massive flooding as well, following torrential monsoon rains, yet it went little reported, despite the death of several children. The same was happening in Bangladesh – half the country was under water. Half a world away from The West, few know much or understand it especially well.
Air India is no different, it mirrors the country. State owned, for the first time, it’s about to be permitted to go private, overseas investors are to be allowed, a massive change in a highly politicised airline and industry, desperate for investment, India itself cannot solely provide. For India this is truly a small revolution.
In an age where the 747 is now passing from history in its more traditional format, the 744, air India operates just four, though one of them is currently stored.
In the past it operated 14 -200’s, 3 -300’s and 10 additional -400’s. They formed the backbone of its growth through the 1980’s, 90’s and early 2000’s. I even flew on one to New York when I stupidly let someone else book the flights. They used to stop in London to refuel. I still have the printed menu.
One was blown up by terrorists in June 1985 over the Atlantic, flying from Montreal to London killing 329, one -200 crashed after take off from instrument failure, and two more -400’s were written off when engines caught fire and burnt the wing off on the ground. It’s not always been a happy relationship. Lessons from the 1985 disaster were not properly learned – luggage without a passenger held the bomb, much the same as occurred in 1988 with the Lockerbie disaster, the loss of which was a nail in the coffin for PanAm and changed security at airports for ever more.
My point is, it had to happen to a western airline before it was taken seriously. And that sums up a western viewpoint of India. It’s so little understood, so poorly reported, despite its vast impact in the world, western countries, especially the United States, seem largely oblivious to its existence. Many forget its vast army, huge navy and air force, and its arsenal of nuclear weapons.
Yet despite its chequered history, Air India has moved on and those days appear to be behind it. However frequent controversy is never far away. Brand new 777’s with no engines because they’d been cannibalized for spares was just one in the last couple of years.
So if the above doesn’t quite explain why I wanted this model nothing but this will; VT-EVA was the aircraft we flew on in 1999.
Fitted with 12 First Class, 26 business and 385 economy, powered by 4 PW4056’s, the aircraft is named Agra, the city that holds one of the great wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal.
This is air India’s own description of its brand livery:
“The logo of the new airline (referring to the merger with Indian Airlines) is a red coloured flying swan with the ‘Konark Chakra’ in orange, placed inside it. The flying swan has been morphed from Air India’s characteristic logo, ‘The Centaur’, whereas the ‘Konark Chakra’ is reminiscent of India’s (national) logo (the spoked spinning wheel)”.
The new logo features prominently on the tail of the aircraft. While the aircraft is light ivory in colour, the base retains the red streak of Air India. Running parallel to each other are the orange and red speed lines from front door to the rear door, subtly signifying the individual identities merged into one. The brand name ‘Air India’ runs across the tail of the aircraft.
The falling UK pound against the Euro has narrowed savings on European purchases to around £8.00 now, but at the time of ordering I saved £11.34. The dollar on the other hand is staying at about $1.30 to the £ so even allowing for tax the US price is still £10.40 lower than the UK. The UK dealer list price is in excess of £61 = $79!! Which for something like this is crazy. It’s frankly unjustifiable, which is why it’s being discounted so much. When you think JCW charge just £32 for an A350-1000, its clear Gemini are taking collectors for a ride.
Gemini and JCW rarely ever screw up a 744 mould, it has to be their crown jewel. Not only is it excellent, it’s also one of the few they ever manage to put together without a problem. It’s so good usually that in 2015 it won 1400Reviews Model of The Year for the Etihad new livery 744F.
From a build perspective there is, again, no real issue.
Two aerials on the roof, though again, none underneath despite five being visible on the photographs I’ve examined, are well installed. I test them every time because, recently, after a few weeks I’ve found that some come loose – the Martinair MD-11F for example.
There is also a small dome above door 4 which is reasonably well fitted and painted white. Don’t look at it up close.
I need to leave something out here until the appropriate section as I don’t want to duplicate the point, but it has to be said that the technical detail looks excellent. It’s scaled correctly, its high-definition and it’s superbly applied, all the way to those arched red window frames.
With English one of the principle languages – a relic of British rule, Air India is in latin script on the starboard side and in Sanskrit on the port, reversed on the tail.
2.Wings and landing gear
The landing gear first. The central set has long been sprung, and one side, the left, still is. There is no spring on the right side and as a result they don’t touch the ground. Not one of the wheels rotates. tyres are also coming off most of the wheels and some of the wheels look out of shape on their axles.
The outer set attached to the inner wing root should rotate, but they don’t either, being stuck rigidly in place.
The nose gear however rotates perfectly almost to the point of being slack.
The wings are cradle system of course, but as usual on the 744, it’s a pretty tight mould but this time it’s not as well fitted at the rear because it seems a bit too big. I checked against the Etihad and it’s not as good a fit on the Air India version.
The wings themselves and the paint, are excellent, a good colour and a matt-silk type finish that’s very realistic. Mould detail is excellent too, a really good set of wings, above and below.
The all-red winglets are though, a fail. They are in reality orange (like on the tail and engines) on the front half of both surfaces and darker red on the rear half. Lack of research again.
The four engines are generally very good. No.1 and No.2 are excellent, 3 & 4 however have a small head-on rim paint issue; it’s not quite as good as it should be. All of them though have excellent nacelles, but, again No.3 & 4 have an odd mould marking on the upper right exhaust casing that really stands out. I couldn’t at first see such a vent on the real thing. Then after some magnification I found this image:
It is on the others, but as it’s on the upper right, it appears hidden under the left wing. It’s has in effect 4 No.4 engines.
The fan colour is the same as the rims but it’s not too bad.
Superb detail, excellent cockpit, awesome StarAlliance and Indian national flag logos. Really first-rate, all the way down to the fine dome details and sensors.
In general this is excellent, superbly done, superbly fitted, just one thing has gone wrong. There is an unsightly grey-black print roller line that runs from the base of the vertical stabilizer, through the rear aerial and almost to the middle of the “V” in the upper red livery detail on the roof.
Well, whoever is in charge in this department needs firing. What a cock-up. The main IVORY-white colour, is in fact a deep pinkish magnolia lurching towards milky latte colour on this model, so many shades too dark and too wrong it’s hard to describe. It looks like the colour of a cardigan your spinster great-aunt would wear in their final days at an old people’s home. This IS NOT Air India’s colour.
They’ve taken a shot from a photo, possibly taken at sunset or sunrise, then made it pinker. In fact it’s almost hilariously bad. Some screwed up joke, where the owners of Gemini sit there laughing all the way to the bank as us poor collectors accept yet another of their half-witted attempts at reality.
Did they employ the bloke from Phoenix who used to get their colours so horribly wrong? Did every one of their monitors develop a strange pinkish glow? Whatever the excuse, this utter crap and supposed ‘professionals’ charging the sort of money Gemini are charging for these models need to do way, way, better.
The rest is fine.
7.Score and conclusion
- -20 for the main fuselage signature brand colour fail
- -5 for the grey-black line down the rear centre line
- -6 for all of the landing main gear issues
- -2 for the winglet colour detail fail
- -4 for having the same mould on all four engines
- 62% is a terrible score for something this highly priced, Gemini should be ashamed of such an unprofessional, poorly researched model. To ruin it with such a massively inaccurate colour choice is almost unbelievable, never mind the iffy gear and black roller line.
What a massive disappointment. What has happened to Gemini? They were manufacturer and model of the year title holders in 2015 and they seem to have fallen, not into third, but fourth place, behind the others. The person responsible for these colour errors, and they’ve been rife over the last 12 months, needs kicking out. Who quality checked this? I know that Gemini don’t go to the factory, they told me so a couple of years back. They get a sample and approve based on that. So who checks the samples for accuracy? Because you’re just as much to blame.
I hate bad models. More than that I hate that they expect people to pay through the nose for them. When they’re basically good to a point, but so fundamentally wrong in such a key way, it’s because they evidently don’t care a jot.
My recommendation: Don’t pay for this junk, send it back if you already have it. If you think this is a good model, you need glasses.