Anything Qatar seems to fly off the shelves, and used A346’s are few and far between. Qatar hasn’t done a lot to its livery over the years, pretty much isolating it to varying the size of the oryx on the tail.
Being a 2006 version the Oryx is still the large version that came over the rear end of the fuselage, since dropped in favour of the much clearer vertical stabilizer graphic.
The fact remains that a lot of people don’t notice the difference, which is why this makes owning it less of an issue. It’s one of those vagaries you can live with when you can’t find a more modern version!
One of my favourite aircraft has always been the A346, it’s pencil-like look with those giant Rolls Royce Trent’s underneath make it strangely attractive. I like flying on them too, far quieter than a 744 and a lot more comfortable. We went out to SFO on one last month – possibly the last time I’ll ever get to fly in one, as we came back in Upper Class on a 789 (which happened to be G-VAHH and I’ve got the model so extra pleasing).
The A346’s slow, rambling take off that seems to take up the entire runway, is quite memorable. I noticed at Heathrow that the Virgin Atlantic A346 G-VYOU we had outbound, went to the furthest Eastern extremity of the runway and only got off the ground as it reached Terminal 5B! We were over the Irish Sea before it reached FL30. A 744 would have reached that height in a third of the time. It’s all part of that A346 magic!
Qatar has four A346’s and this was the first delivered on 8 September 2006. She’s MSN 740, but her sister A7-AGB is MSN 715 and was only delivered at the end of the same month. A7-AGC was delivered in November 2006, and A7-AGD at the end of March 2007.
Fitted with 24 business and 348 economy seats, they have one of the largest passenger numbers for the type at 372. The Virgin version for example is only 308.
She’s recently been routed to secondary destinations such as Barcelona, Doha-Hamad, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, rather than major hubs, although at one time she frequented Heathrow & Frankfurt regularly.
Qatar was expected to have disposed of them before now, but delays to the A350, followed by the blockade which shows no sign of abating, have given them more time.
This mould is one of Gemini’s older ones, dating back to 2001 when they produced a sample model in Virgin Silver Dream Machine livery, prior to the first aircraft being delivered to Virgin Atlantic (G-VSHY) in July 2002. The nose is not very accurate.
Whoever owned it before me kept it in the box, it doesn’t look a day past the date it was delivered in late 2006, and it’s the only one of this aircraft in 1:400. Hogan did a 1:200 and Schuco two versions, one in 2008 and one in 2012 in 1:600. Apparently on 1,500 of this 1:400 were made.
Obviously this is many years before domes and aerials but effort has been made with domes to paint them in a different colour.
The paint is very good, not as crisp as we expect today, including where it meets the white lower half. Technical print and finish is nearly as good as anything we see now.
Logos are big, bold and well-defined, none of Gemini’s later years of leaking, bleeding paint and poor standards. It’s actually a really excellent fuselage.
2.Wings and landing gear.
A cradle system mould of course, but really well fitted. It still suffers from very minor gaps, that’s the nature of the beast, but isn’t the awful mess Gemini produced in the 2010-15 period. The wings themselves are not over painted, with visible detail above and below. Overall the wings are excellent for their period.
The landing gear however is that ancient giant tyre-on-a-spigot thing that looks less premium and more cheap skate, though I do have to say, at least not full of unsightly lumps and bumps.
The rims are mildly rough, especially No.1, but the fan colours, amazingly are titanium. So if they were doing this in 2006,why did they stop? Cheapness, that’s why, eliminate a process and a colour, saves money.
The exhausts and nacelle details are excellent.
I believe this is slightly older than the current mould and the nose isn’t quite as good, but paint and detail are fine for age and period, with good technical detail, cockpit windows and the white-grey is accurate enough. So often the nose goes wrong. This was a heavily protected model, with a nose bag cover and full-sheet wing protection in the box. It looks pristine for its 11 years.
5. Tail detail
Perfect for the period. Superb paint, excellent graphic. Well put together.
Qatar’s logo and Ibex, is in fact “Qatar red”, a long story about dies and fading turning the colour to the maroon we see today on cloth flags. It’s actually Pantone 222C, HEX #691a40, or RGB R105 G26 B64.
As far as I can see it’s as close s it’s likely to ever get on this model.
The grey looks right up against the photos. I’ve got seven Qatar Airways aircraft by five manufacturers and all 7 are a slightly different grey colours!
7.Score and conclusion
- -4 for the engine rims, the only thing that really lets this down a bit.
Now it is a 2006 model, from what seems like a lifetime ago. And yet Gemini standards back then were higher than they are now. They were half the price and twice as good on a dollar for dollar basis.
The latest release from Gemini has caused me to think they’re either preparing for a massive pre-Christmas release (expect that festive quality plunge), or just losing the plot. For the first time I found no model to order for November. Not one. (I ordered the KLM Fokker but it’s delayed). I can usually just make an excuse for one, then spend ages finding any way not to pay full price for it, which isn’t that hard. I have managed to get for – and I jest not – a 47% discount, a Virgin Australia 773 from last month or so.
When I first started doing this collecting, Gemini was the dogs bollocks, the crown jewels of model makers. Everyone else was second-rate. Now Gemini are nothing like they were, and trade off a reputation they no longer deserve. Newbies start with them then slowly they see the light and move on. Tell me Gemini, what happened to the passion? Profit I suspect.