Malaysia Airlines A350-900 9M-MAB Phoenix 1:400 11408 Nov 2017

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Malaysia Airlines has gone through some rough times. The Shooting down of one 777 and the vanishing of another not a year later effectively crippled the company and sent it into a nosedive. Aircraft seats were vacant and despite outlandishly low prices, hard to fill.

Political interference has seen the departure of two follow on CEO’s, even though they both deny it, nobody is really pretending otherwise.  A strategy has been developed that will see the airline shed its 6 A380’s into a specialist charter company. They’re not yet 6 years old, but their passenger numbers since the twin disasters just don’t make sense, and the incoming A350’s will bring the economics back in line with a practical business model.

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During the first few months of 2018 we will see the transition away from A380’s to A359’s on the only route they currently fly – Kuala Lumpur to Heathrow.  It will take at least four A359’s to maintain that route twice a day and the other two may be used on busy medium-long regional routes like Hong Kong and Tokyo. There’s even talk of Sydney.

Phoenix does like to jump the gun with these models. It’s only just had its first flight on 9th November so they take a risk that it is what they think it will be, and not come out as something else.

I’m taking a risk buying it, even more of one in that I also ordered 9M-MAC with the flag livery due in December.37552243026_b3d4465cee_b.jpg

I’m happy with having the two. It’s not unheard of for two to be sat about at Heathrow, though they usually just miss each other as one arrives in the morning and leaves mid to late afternoon just as the other lands. I won’t be losing the A380 though, it’s one of my favorites.

The problem with Phoenix jumping the gun is potential accuracy problems, but this time I doubt there will be any. It’s not the most sophisticated livery is it?

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Note that the wing root side of the blue up fward flash isn’t kinked

Fitted with the compulsory Rolls Royce Trent XWB-84 and fitted out with a four-class 297 seat layout (including an extra leg room economy seat packaged as premium economy), they’ll be appearing at Heathrow from 15th January 2018, as A380 services will reduce to once daily, with the MH4/5 daily flight replaced by the new A359. All scheduled A380 services will end on 4th March 2018, with the MH1/2 service also replaced by the A359.

Problems with the 1:400 model

Phoenix have had problems with the 1:400 model from the start. The original version of pre-production airline models were too long and they had to shorten them. The model was ready before the final design was settled by Airbus and the last thing Airbus did was change the nose and cockpit window angle, after feedback from simulator flights told them the view was compromised by the windows sloping too much. This is also why the Gemini/JCW version is so wrong and looks more like a 787 front end.

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The bottom of the barrel was the appallingly bad Phoenix A359 in TAP livery, nothing was attached to the fuselage!

So despite the built-in nose issue, which isn’t as bad as the JCW/Gemini, the 1.4mm shortened fuselage, it also came with visibly over-sized wheels and tyres. These were dropped in late 2016 because the landing gear doors were so awfully bad, with rotten discolored metal, they had to replace them. The resulting gear at the correct size left engines dragging on the floor, made worse by poor installation, the terrible quality control issues around Chinese New Year surfaced as staff left and new people arrived. The result was the wingless wonder of the fake-believe TAP Portugal version.

To get round the engines off the floor, Phoenix went back to putting the bigger wheels and tyres back on in mid 2017, the door and lumpy tyre issue being resolved (so far). These two incoming A359’s should theoretically be OK. The China Airlines one was a couple of months ago so fingers crossed!

The annoying thing is that despite everything, the Phoenix is marginally superior to the JCW/Gemini version but only just.

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About the best place to look at it from

1.Fuselage

The fuselage is the usual reasonably good mould, the nose as I’ve said time after time is wrong, but better than the JCW/Gemini which is so wrong as to be a joke.

There are three upper aerials above door 2, 3 & 4 and they are well painted and fixed. The rear dome is well painted, well fitted but still shows a small piece of metal where it’s been removed from the mould spigot. Very minor but it’s there if you look for it.

There are two aerials underneath, one in the middle of the blue and one more or less under the dome.

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Even up here you can see the scuffed wing leading edge paint

There are lots of very neat high-def markings on the roof, and underneath, all of the technical detail, windows, doors and so on, is exceptionally fine and well done.

The red blue flare hasn’t been done properly, Phoenix have screwed it up around the wing root. There’s a red line that comes at the back of the blue underneath and the blue swoops up onto the fuselage. Phoenix have kinked it so that there is a point facing backwards, then it goes back to the correct seamless pattern. They managed this both sides. As the images with engineless aircraft clearly show, they don’t look like that on the real thing. Disappointing because this isn’t exactly a complex livery is it?

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The crap gear door and the failed blue livery both easiliy visible

The other notable is the mis-position of the starboard side flag near door 1. The graphic is simply too small by about 30%, yes I did measure it and the other thing you can tell by is the number of window frames it occupies on the fuselage. Nerdy I know, but what else do you expect from me?

2.Wings and landing gear

Phoenix’s wing mould has been the best from day one, and it still remains that way. The fabulously formed fins fascinate me with the way their sculptured optics can look flat as pancake from some angles, and yet elegantly twisted from another. Phoenix alway have got that right.

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The amount of paint is more than adequate without obscuring detail, leading edges are OK one the port side, but white paint has scuffed the starboard side – not good. Other detail is fine, including the red ends on the hydraulic actuator casings. The wings are seamlessly fitted as well, not a hint of movement!

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The landing gear doors, while not crinkled bits of metal, are only one step back from that. The paint is thin, verging on transparent, and simply missing in places. There is what appears, in all honesty, to be moldy rot on the port side gear door. Close up its gross and disgusting. Phoenix need to get a grip, it is absolutely unacceptable that this sort of dross is being shipped out and the problem, now over a year old simply isn’t being dealt with.  Phoenix what is wrong with you? This is just incompetence and atrocious quality control, mismanaged bungling and pathetic.

The tyres may not be lumpy and are back to being the correct size, but the wheels are rigid, again on the same side as the rot infested door, while the nose gear, is also pretty good.

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3.Engines

The engines are excellent, the marvellous see-through types. The fans a reasonable if still too-bright silver, paint finish is excellent, and the exhaust perfect. The minimal technical markings are all hi-def and present. The pylon issue and engine fixing problem seems to have been resolved.

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The only problem is the sloppy nacelle part of the engine rims – not good enough, too 2012 and not even slightly 2017.

4.Nose detail

Spot on, every last sensor and picot tube seems to be visible, the radome is neatly done, cockpit windows excellent.

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The flag is too small on this side
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Note how the flag is as wide as it should be, and as tall as the font unlike the other side.

5.Tail detail

Generally OK but there is something wrong with the upper surface paint on the port side horizontal stabilizer. It seems to have something under the paint that’s discoloured it, like a stain. It’s actually like the hozontal touched the vertical logo when the paint was wet, and dried underneath the overpainted grey. I thought it was a reflection but it isn’t. Under bright light you can see it.

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6.Colours

No issues, not that there is much to get wrong.

7.Score and conclusion

  • -8 for the paint kink on both sides. This is a simple enough ivery, to fail to get it right is a bit pathetic.
  • -2 for the white scuffed paint on the port wing leading edge
  • -4 for the engine rim paint
  • -5 for the absolutely rubbish port side gear door
  • -3 for the not well painted starboard side gear door
  • -3 for the horizontal stabilizer paint issue
  • 75% is a fail. The A359 should be the flagship of Phoenix model making and it’s far from it. This should be perfect, scoring 100% every time, especially on such a simplistic livery.

Phoenix seem incompetent. How can you mismanage these landing gear doors and the component manufacturer for over a year and still screw it up? I know they know about it. I know two parties they pay attention to who tell them repeatedly and yet they still do nothing.

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This model is a return. I’m not putting up with it, plain and simple. I don’t have the space to waste on duds.

My recommendation: Forget it, spend your money on next months 9M-MAC and hope its better. Either way, check it out for faults, if you’re not happy about it, send it back, anywhere in the EU or US is pretty much obliged to take it back, no matter what they say, and you can insist on a refund, not just a store credit. With the December flag version coming, it’s not like you don’t have a better alternative.

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