Etihad Cargo A330-243F A6-DCE JC Wings XX4103 1:400 Dec 2017

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Etihad took delivery of this A332F A6-DCE only in late February 2017. It’s the latest of five of the type the company operates. Two were delivered in 2010, one in 2013, and another in 2014.

The older aircraft are still in the Crystal Cargo livery, this is the first in the new livery.  The aircraft is also a direct purchase and operated by the airlines own crews rather an external operator.

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Fitted with two Rolls Royce Trent 772B-60’s the aircraft operates extensively on a scheduled route from Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam, Hanoi, Hong kong, Singapore, and Bengalaru with the occasional addition of Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City.

The addition of the A332F to JC Wings model listings is a very welcome one indeed, and I went into the technical specs of the aircraft when the first Hong Kong and MAS kargo ones came out. You can see their reviews here:

MAS Kargo A332F  Hong Kong Airlines Cargo

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Reading back those two reviews, which are only 4-6 months ago, it’s staggering to think that Air Freight is in the biggest short-term boom anyone can remember. Once on demand freight was the norm, now you’ll have to wait in most cases 5-7 days and often as many as ten for a freighter to take your shipment. There is an unprecedented explosion in air freight caused by two things – a mix of economic up turn and a massive expansion in e-commerce around the world, and the Qatar blockade which is absorbing most of their air freight capacity, most of Turkish Airlines and contracted in freighters from multiple sources.

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It isn’t going to last and cargo operators know it, but they are, as your granny might have said, “making hay while the sun shines”, and who can blame them? It’s been a rough decade.

JCW announced this model four months ago and it’s arrived relatively quickly for them. I bought it in Europe with a bunch of other models not listed by UK sellers, including the 787-10 house colours which arrived badly damaged because AviationMegastore had packed it so badly.

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1.Fuselage

As I’ve said before the fuselage itself is excellent. Three aerials and the larger dome are present at the top and one aerial underneath.

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The paint and printed detail on this model are outstanding in terms of definition. It’s a complicated livery, highly geometric with straight lines and multiple degrees of shading. I’m delighted to say it’s been done to an exceptional degree of technical non-colour accuracy. This is high-definition printing and painting at its best, which makes it a delight to behold.

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Cargo doors, and small detail look exceptionally refined, logos and graphics, simply outstanding. That goes all the way to the underneath too, with the big Etihad cargo logo stretched out under the aircraft and printed so well you’ cant even suggest a fault. And yet there’s something wrong.

2.Wings and Landing gear

The wing paint is low-level gloss, thick enough to be classy and look the part but not so much that the paint fills every groove and detail in the mould.Wing fit is excellent, almost seamless to the fuselage. The under-wing is painted a darker grey.

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There remains the same problem though – the over-elevated wings are simply too much – they’re the length of the sharklets too high, which is in-flight rather than ground based, and they simply look wrong on the ground. They’re not as over-elevated as the passenger version – don’t ask me why, I doubt even JCW know the answer. I don’t buy their passenger version A333’s anymore because of it. Phoenix and Aeroclassics both have it spot on.

There is also a minor kink in the port side sharklet.

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The landing gear is reasonably good. Not big lumps on the tyres, the bogies move in the horizontal plane, but the right more than the left. The nose gear is spot on and looks excellent.

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3.Engines

The Rolls Royce units on the Hong Kong Airlines cargo version weren’t brilliant. The pylons and engines on this are also plastic, but it has to be said the rim mould issues have reduced and the paint, and printed detail on the nacelles and even the silver rims, are all of good quality. Even the recessed fans, both front and rear seem to be darker and more life-like, with no messy paint or faults.

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Focus on the engines and they have excellent detailed print

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4.Nose detail

For the first time, it’s evident the A332F isn’t a separate mould. Previously paint was so thick that it was impossible to tell without ripping it to pieces, which obviously wasn’t going to happen. I’d always doubted that anyone would spend that much on a new mould. Now I’m sure they haven’t.

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Focus on the nose blister and the crack reveals it’s a moulded add-on clipped into the gear hole

The hydraulic self-levelling dome is a very cleverly done push-in. For the first time it’s actually got a slight fault and the forward right edge is clearly not quite painted over adequately, showing a miniscule gap. A single mould would never have that.

Everything else is however, superbly done and fault free.

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5.Tail detail

The tail section in general is superbly assembled, but most importantly it’s superbly painted. The graphics are a masterpiece of the model makers art, with a quality and definition that’s breathtaking. It’s wonderfully impressive and looks excellent. and yet its wrong.

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6.Colours

Yet again we face the simple facts that nobody looks at previous models with the same livery. They look at each model run in a silo. So this one is a different set of colours that look similar but aren’t by any means the same.  It bares no relationship at all to the Gemini/JCW made A380 A6-APA which was the first to carry the livery.

The brightest orange on the roof panel at the rear is even brighter and more orange than the one on the Phoenix 773ER A6-ETA. The Gemini/JCW produced models A380 and 787-9 A6-BLA are a pretty close match for the real thing, as are the colours on the former MOTY 2015 winner – N476MC, the wonderful Etihad Cargo 744 by Gemini/JCW.

This A332F has a colour scheme all of its own

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The MOTY 2015 award-winning Etihad Cargo 744F at the top has accurate colours, the A332F below just doesn’t.

The same can be said for the silver-grey, it’s much too light and too grey, indeed almost all of the colours are too intense, to deep or too bright, they’re over-exagerated. On its own it looks really good, put it with the others and it stands out as an aberration.

The biggest irony, not infrequent in model world, is that the box colours are accurate!

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The colour difference in the A332F in the foreground compared to the accurate Gemini A380 in the background is enormous

7.Score and conclusion

  • -10 for the over-intense colours that have no relationship to any other Etihad model so far made wearing the new livery, too bright, too loud, too much.
  • -8 for the wings being over-elevated, just wrong, plain and simple.
  • -1 for the kink in the sharklet
  • -1 for the blister crack, its not terrible but it is visible
  • 80% is a just pass mark. Disappointing.

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This is one of those models that left to stand alone in isolation from any other Etihad, is surprisingly good. Put it up against the others and the colours stand out like a sore thumb as being simply over the top in their intensity, and not just a little, really quite a lot.

However I do stress, as a stand alone it looks OK, but if accuracy is your thing, you won’t be happy.

My recommendation: It’s the only A332F in the world in this livery at the moment. Nobody else is going to make it. It’s also not very expensive compared to most, and in the end if these things intrigue you as freighters do me, it’s a welcome if inaccurate addition. You’ve got to buy it, and live with the errors. I have to say if it was Gemini level pricing, I’d not be bothered.

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