KLM Fokker F70 ‘Farewell’ PH-KZU Gemini Jets 1:400 GJKLM1670 Nov 2017

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KLM Cityhopper has been part of the airlines strategy for many years, operating regional flights across Europe to places unviable for the larger 737 fleet. KLM is the only European legacy airline to have no Airbus A320 series. Instead, it employs a mix of 737-700 and -800’s with E-190’s and F-70’s.

Until now that is. Finally with enough Embraer’s in the fleet, the time has come to dispose of the last Fokker 70, an even more poignant moment as it was also the last aircraft type built in the Netherlands.

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KLM was always enthusiastic about the Fokker 70, (and before that the turboprop F50), this one served for 22.4 years, having been delivered to Air Littoral as PH-RRU in June 1995. Re-registered in France as F-GLIU to the same airline in August 1996, then swapped to Air France Régional in May 2004 under the same registration. Following the Air France takeover of KLM the aircraft was transferred to KLM Cityhopper in April 2009. This was to enable the two fleets to rationalise their aircraft types.

Over the years they’ve operated no less than 48 of the Fokker 100 and 70 variants, 22 of the former and 26 of the later. The F100’s were mostly withdrawn from 2008-9, many of them being in strong demand found new homes in remote corners of the world.

PH-KZU was the last one delivered to KLM in 2009. She held fleet number ZU-024, and was MSN11543, but was far from the last one built. Fitted with 80 economy seats, the wonderful Rolls Royce Tay 620-15’s, with the T-tail stabilizers enabled it to use short runways, and it was certainly capable of rapid take off. The term “pocket rocket” is often used to describe its acceleration, and rightly so.

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Pick the right seat three rows back from the over-wing door, and you could look into the engine as it took off, with a sound not dissimilar to a science fiction reactor hum when it settled, but like a bag of seriously disgruntled wasps at full take off speed. I loved them.

They used to fly over me into BHX, but like so many different aircraft, no more. In the last couple of years we’ve lost Avro’s from Swiss and Brussels, F70’s from KLM and more besides, including Lufthansa Cityline CRJ’s. However we’ve gained The CSeries and the SSJ100. The only Fokker’s – and I’ll be on one next year, is a Helvetic F-100, but even they aren’t long for this world. I’m not sure but I think they’ll be the only airline in Europe left with them as Austrian has just 2 left, and they should be gone this year.

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Despite the intent to dispose of the aircraft, most were repainted into the new livery over the last three years. PH-KZU was given the Anthony Fokker special livery in June 2017, as a fond farewell to the manufacturers founder, and the aircraft that bore his name. She was withdrawn from use on 28th October 2017 and is currently stored at Norwich International in the UK, where KLM Engineering UK have a base (how that came about is another history lesson by itself).

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Gemini have had a far from stellar year and this model was delayed by a month. What is really annoying is that the last time Gemini did a KLM F70 it was, you’ve guessed it, PH-KZU. That was released in January 2016 under code GJKLM1525 (reviewed here: PH-KZU 2016) and sported the new livery. However it didn’t have aerials and the new one does. It also has something else so let’s get to it…

1.Fuselage

Firstly, and for reasons I can’t imagine when so little use has been made of it, the mould seems to have been refurbished.

Not only has it got aerials, 2 of 3 up top and 1 of 2 below, it’s also acquired a small under-body dome that’s barely visible on the real thing.

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The aerials, are easily twice as big as they should be. One of those ‘improvements’ that isn’t always as successful as is intended.

In so many ways this model tells you so much about Gemini’s lack of consistency. It can barely be two years since they last signed off this very same aircraft for release in January 2016. What it tells me is last time they did this model they were far less bothered about the detail and quality.

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Here are the differences:

  1. The roof dome markings are smaller and whiter on the new model – CORRECT
  2. The silver markings on the rear of the engines and the white bar at the exhaust are present on the new model – CORRECT
  3. The KLM logos on the engines have moved up some 2mm or more on the new model and the black line mark on the nacelles is now present – CORRECT
  4. The silver APU exhaust paint (only the right hand side) is a different colour (too light) on the new model – WRONG
  5. The wings – are a completely different colour on the new model, like a very pale grey. They were incorrectly mid-grey on the older model, but they’re supposed to be white. – WRONG

The only other primary fuselage differences are the positioning of the KLM Cityhopper logos to make way for the “Fokker Thank you” tiles.

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Other than that, the fuselage technical detail is excellent. As so often Gemini’s suppliers (JC Wings mostly) seem more capable of working detail onto a small model, often poor at a lager one. It’s such a hit and miss approach.

2. Wings and landing gear

As I’ve mentioned in the detail above, the colour of the wing paint is pale whitish-grey, almost but not quite correct. The cradle mould is a tight but imperfect fit, and totally distorts the real look of the underneath of the aircraft. I doubt there’s going to be a rush of new Fokker 70 models any time soon so don’t expect it to ever change.

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Other than that the wings themselves are excellently detailed.

The landing gear this time is excellent, rolling wheels and all the tyres seem to have stayed put. Very small of course at this scale, but neat, tidy and they work!

3.Engines

The engines are far better on this model, the markings have been improved and the exhaust detail is far superior. It’s got better paint all round, and a general overall improvement in quality. Much better.

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4.Nose detail

The fonts are a little bit harder to read – the AF-KLM logo and Skyteam logos are especially pale. The nose door paint is much better and the fleet number is visible.

Technical markings, along with the nose strap paint are all excellent.

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5.Tail detail

The tiny detail around the tail has simply vanished. The Fokker 70 logo seems to have just been missed off on the starboard side and is almost non-existent on the port side.

However the Anthony Fokker image on the vertical stabilizer is excellent on both sides.

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6. Colours

Other than the wings, excellent.

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7.Score and conclusion

  • -5 for small detail (tail, nose, APU) that seems to have either reduced in visibility/quality or vanished or the colour just not quite there.
  • -10 for the wing colour, both for lack of consistency with the previous model of the exact same aircraft and for the oddness of the actual colour, neither are right and its painfully obvious.
  • -2 for the oversized aerials, they’re just too big.
  • 82% is an above minimum score – in fact it could well be Gemini’s best this year!

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It’s a very odd thing to have spent so much on this model – why put aerials in now? They look mildly silly they’re so large.

The thing is I could easily have used both of these – even though they’re the same registration, because the livery is different, but the wings? So far off in colour from each other!

My recommendation: taken as a whole, and singular item, it’s a decent model and most of the un-picky will be very happy, Gemini have made much worse. It’s the lack of consistent quality from model to model and month to month that grates.  I would still buy it, as much from a historical and personal perspective as anything else. It was also a lot cheaper than advertised! 

 

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