Apollo, a sub-brand of Witty, made relatively few of the models it did produce. Numbers as low as 200 were not unusual, and this is once such model.
I have been looking for a replacement 747-400 in Lufthansa livery for a very long time. It had to be standard livery, none of this Fanhansa or Siegerflieger nonsense because they’re too temporary. It also couldn’t be Phoenix, because as we all know, that mould, I mean, you know, that mould…it’s just too horrible.
The last one had been an elderly Herpa 1:400 from the year 2000, (D-ABVA with self-turning nose gear, but metal wings, yet plastic engines and tail you could see through with light behind it; it just wasn’t what I really wanted to be the face of Lufthansa). I do have a piece of her sister, D-ABVC, which like all Lufthansa aircraft are broken up. Lufthansa’s World Shop agency had large pieces of the fuselage chopped up for luggage tags – maximum 20,000 and you can barely get one for love nor money now. I saw it in their Munich airport shop and had to have one!
Apollo/Witty 1:400 scale models were always expensive too, and they’ve remained that way if its something like this. They’re good quality, and genuinely rare (don’t you hate it when idiots put on eBay *RARE* in big bold letters, at an over inflated price, and there are at least three others on the site for less that 50% of what they’re asking for?).
Anyway £50 later and having looked at it for weeks I decided to just get on and buy it. It was the only one that met anything like the requirement and standards I look for.
D-ABVU is line number 1191 and was delivered on 21st December 1998. She’s roughly comparable in age to most of the late BA G-CIV* series. Fitted with 67 Business class, 32 premium economy and 272 economy seats now (there were more economy in 2013 before the introduction of a proper PE offering in the last two years).
Fitted with four GE CF6-80C2B1F’s she’s named after my favourite German state, “Bayern“.
Other than BA, I believe Lufthansa had the second largest passenger 747-400 fleet at 31 units, prior to that they’d operated 26 -200’s and 4 -100’s. 18 have now been retired and 13 are left, all of which were delivered between May 1996 and March 2002.
The idea is to run most of them until they are 23-25 years old and then retire them as newer aircraft, the 777-9 and A350-1000 come on stream. The odd thing is that unless Lufthansa changes its mind (not something it’s well-known for), all of the 748i fleet will reach around 10 years old during the 2022-2025 period as well, and the airline has said it won’t keep them in service past then. The original order had been 25 aircraft, but fuel burn and other issues changed the airlines mind about the final 6.
Like BA, Lufthansa sees the 744’s as an expensive capital outlay long ago written out of its accounting, so they are in financial terms a “free” asset. They own all of them, so only running costs and maintenance affect their profitability. If that gets too out of hand, or fuel spikes dramatically, their end will come sooner.
It has to be said they aren’t used on flagship routes much, most of them fly to second tier destinations now. D-ABVU has recently been rotating Frankfurt, Osaka, Seoul and Seattle, but was also used during the fall of AirBerlin, between Frankfurt and Berlin Tegel on domestic flights. Indeed only yesterday Lufthansa released a supplementary route plan to increase the use of 744’s on busy domestic routes and looks to be converting two aircraft to a basic domestic and small number of “European” business seats.
It’s actually the first time I’ve completely “Lufthansaized” the new diorama, not quite realising how many I had! Only one short of filling every gate!
The Witty/Apollo mould is a relatively old one but it must have been refurbished because despite its cradle system wings, it’s the tightest most well put together model of the type I’ve seen. I did have a Virgin Atlantic version of G-VWOW and that was the same.
They don’t have aerials, Witty/Apollo vanished before they were introduced. It does though have the silver-aluminium look wi-fi satellite dome on the roof and like most things with this brand, it’s done superbly.
The paint finish is simply awesome. The quality of the white is amazing, dust and blemish free, like it was produced in a clean room environment rather that out the back in someones yard (a vague stab at the crappy Virgin Australia 773ER from Gemini last month, forgive my subtlety).
The window, door and technical detail is the finest, highest quality that has few equals. JC Wings new mould 787 and Phoenix 787’s, are the only ones comparable. The logo quality and finish is outstanding, such precision.
You only have to look at it and you know there is something special about it. It makes me very sad to think that Witty were lost to us, for this is the sort of quality we all crave even now, and yet so rarely see despite the mammoth prices charged by one brand especially: Gemini.
The under-body grey however isn’t light enough by some margin, there’s no denying that. It’s not Phoenix bad, but it’s not right, even though it’s applied with extraordinary finesse.
2.Wings and landing gear
The wings as I said, are cradle fit but about as seamless as that methodology allows. No skewed mould, no rubbish fit here, a positively tight and unified look rarely seen.
The downside is that Witty/Apollo were a little bit keen on the brighter silvers, so the leading edges while superbly painted, are far too bright, it’s one of those things you can live with as it rarely notices that much. At least its superbly done. Witty liked to add the pale grey to the under-wing edge too, so an extra bit of realism.
The landing gear always was the weak spot, not because it didn’t work or was badly made, quite the reverse in that respect is true. They chose to use the older tyre-on-a- spigot approach rather than decent wheels, so it looks a little old fashioned, despite being the best quality.
As moulds I have no argument, the pylons too are excellent. The paint is a quality finish, the silver rims are excellent. It’s the lurid silver fans. It was always Witty/Apollo’s one failing on the older engine types. They couldn’t help themselves and applied eye-wateringly bright silver. At least it was done with finesse and style though! Just don’t look at them in bright light, or every time you close your eyes you’ll have four silver dots looking back at you.
Just superb, wonderful cockpit windows, superb silver frames, excellent small Picot tube detail and StarAlliance logos. All in keeping with a well painted and printed model.
Superbly manufactured and assembled, the Lufthansa logo is notable because many manufacturers make it well enough that from a distance it’s fine, but close up it’s yellow is verging on transparent, with the blue visible through it. This is a solid, beautiful disc without a flaw. One of the best I’ve seen, and I’ve got a lot of Lufthansa here now.
As I said the grey isn’t right. It’s not tragically bad either. Over-expose it and soon looks lighter. Everything else is spot on.
If it was just down to manufacturing and quality, this is faultless. In terms of detail/accuracy the silver is too much, the grey too dark, the landing gear wheels old fashioned. None of that however stops me loving it!
It is, as so many thing of quality are, more than the sum of its parts. It’s got presence, it looks immediately, tangibly better than almost all of its peer group, and most of what we see today would struggle to match it.
I’m delighted with it overall, and pleased that something of this quality has filled a long-established hole in the Lufthansa collection.
My recommendation:Not everything Apollo/Witty Wings is superb, but most of it is and they’re now rare and very collectible. I’m delighted with this one, it has its flaws, but the quality will always tip the balance and you’ll rarely if ever be disappointed.