China Cargo Airlines B-2077 777F “Cherries” Phoenix 1:400 11400 Nov 2017

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China Cargo Airlines was established in 1998 and based in Hongqiao International outside of Shanghai. It’s the cargo arm of China Eastern and was China’s first all-cargo airline.

China Ocean Shipping bought into the airline with China Eastern, owning 70% and 30% respectively but  in later years China Eastern diluted its holding to 51% and Ocean Cargo to 17% so that EVA Air and Singapore Airlines could buy 16% each.

This resulted in 2011 in a merger with Shanghai Airlines Cargo and Great Wall Airlines all being merged into the one company.

CCA currently operates 9 aircraft, 3 744F (one ex Singapore/Great Wall) and 6 777F all delivered over 2010-11. This model is the second of those, delivered in March 2010 and is leased from GECAS.

This version was given the “Northwest Cherries” livery in June 2017 to celebrate China’s cherry harvest and the air freight required to ship them to markets – cherries are highly perishable and have to be at their market destination in less than 72 hours.

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Fortunately China Eastern hasn’t gone down the route of blanding the cargo arm to the same degree it has its passeneger airline livery, which is probably the most boring in the world, chosen by it’s CEO’s own admission, to save money on paint.

The 777-F6N maintains the old very Chinese look of a cross between an ocean liner from the 1950’s and a high-speed steam train. I’ve always liked these liveries, they’re uniquely Chinese, China Southern’s is by far the best.

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This particular aircraft can be found all over the world, especially the Pacific rim countries, making frequent stops in Singapore, Bangkok, LAX, Seoul, Taipei, Shanghai, Santiago (Chile), but also as far afield as Copenhagen and Amsterdam (both big agricultural markets). Even as I write shes’ on FR24 having just landed in Shangai Pudong from LAX.

1.Fuselage

The Phoenix 772 mould is pretty much as good as they get. it certainly walks the floor with the decidedly antiquated Gemini cradle version.

Three aerials up top, two at the rear just behind the main cargo door, and one over the forward wing root. There is a red waste water heater aerial under the main cargo door. The small dome on the roof is moulded in.

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The main livery consists of three sets of coach lines, blue gold and red, all of which are remarkably neat and precise most of the time. the exception is the blue around the wing which gets a little distorted and a very small patch near the nose, but very hard to see. Contrast this with the screw up that was the ultra-simple Malaysian A359 from the same release, and it just emphasises what a disaster of quality control that A350 is.

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The detail on this is frankly exquisite, all the way to the mildly sexualized female lips holding the cherry strig. Misogynistic tendencies alive and well in Chinese marketing still I see. There are some subtle details and colour shading in the tile scripts and they’ve been reproduced really well. It should be pointed out that the tiles either side of the aircraft are not identical. There are all sorts of strange characters and Chinese writing and I have no idea what they mean, so if anyone can enlighten us I’d be glad to hear it.

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Technical detail is excellent and I have to say I’m impressed. This is the sort of quality I expect in late 2017.

2.Wings and landing gear

You know what I’m going to say! SO: “over glossed and detail obscuring”. You know the routine and it doesn’t really get any better. There’s just too much thick paint and it fills the detail lines so much only a close up really reveals them. And yes, underneath is worse as always.

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And yet it isn’t faulty, it’s just a production method Pheonix, being hide bound by the attitude prevalent in so much of Chinese manufacturing, that “its always been like that so that’s the way we do it until we die”, like to do things. It’s deeply frustrating that immagination and change are so difficult to implement once a production process is started. It can sustain high quality once it starts, but as the A350 prooves, it sustains low quality just as readily.

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The wings mould is excellent, as are the leading edges and the seamless nature of the fuslegage join.

Landing gear. Of late, there have been several incidents of tyres falling off wheels with Pheonix, but I’ve managed to find them and put them back. This time one was missing and I had to get one from my collection of scrap donor models. Quite why this is now a problem I don’t know. It’s not the first time and knowing Pheonix, once they esablish a trend, it keeps on going. Do better, please!

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The port side bogie is rigid, having almost no lateral movement, while the starboard side is languid, to the point of being sloppy. It’s never a coincidence that the side with the missing/fallen off tyre is the one that’s jammed the most. The nose gear is OK, but needs straightening.

3.Engines

In all honesty, a superb and fabulously produced set with suerb nacelle paint, all the detail, excellent rims and fantastic titanium fan colour. The exhaust is excellent and the GE logos are clearly visible.  Just perfect all round.

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4.Nose details

Wonderful, great detail. The black nose cone is spot on, the livery lines finish neatly and accurately, the top of the red paint isn’t quite level but you have to loo at it head on to notice. Cockpit is excellent and the sub-cockpit black adds that Tupolev look from the 1950’s bombers. All round excellence. Small paint deviancy on the port side dowward flurry, but almost impossible to see with the naked eye.

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5.Tail detail

Everything looked fine. When I turned the model on its side to put the new tyre on, the horizontal stabilizer fell out on the port side. Easy enough fix I admit, but that’s not the point is it? Everything else is perfect with the exception of a very slightly skewed reg on the left side.

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6.Colours

Excellent.

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7.Score and conclusions

  • -6 for the horizontal stabilizer falling out
  • -2 for the tyre falling off, as much for the inconvenience of replacing it
  • -3 for the rock-hard landing gear on one side
  • -4 for very minor paint issues
  • 85% Once again “spoiling the ship for a halfpenny o’tar” as they used to say. Small, cheap components fail to live up to the rest of the model, and the stabilizer issue is just unacceptable.

There is often a do-it-yourself repair kit needed for Phoenix models. What bothers me is that I have six incoming for December and there is no way all of them are going to be intact or not suffering from some aberration.  The fact that I know that, you know that and I bet your bottom dollar Phoenix know that, doesn’t make it right.

I do though, generally like this model. it’s got a working look about it, basic, yet a little more than ordinary. It’s an ideal freight livery, and compared say to the awful Gemini valentines rose Emirates livery model of a 777F, it’s way ahead.

So while I’m dissapointed by its faults, it’s not so bad as to be a return and it scores well against its peers. Overall I like it and I’ll grow to enjoy it and forget it’s failings. It may not be long before they are made to change their livery to something more basic in line with the passenger arm, so take it while you can, and before mediocrity beckons.

My recommendation: a buy, just be sure you’re happy with it when it arrives!


2017 MODEL & MANUFACTURER OF THE YEAR AWARDS

29TH DECEMBER 12:00UTC


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