With a raft of orders due in to review, I was looking around for something in the collection that hadn’t been done, for one reason or another and yet might still be topical. So here it is, a Singapore Airlines A380. I promise this is the last ‘old’ model review for the next few weeks!
Only two airlines are permitted the space of having two A380’s in the collection, BA because I have a fondness for the first aircraft, G-XLEA (having been at its delivery and subsequent testing at Manston), and G-XLEL the last one. Singapore is the other, because this standard aircraft is an amazing model, and the giant flag livery used on the 50th anniversary of Singaporean independence on 9V-SKI, is simply the boldest livery ever used on a A380. On top of that the Phoenix A380 is the best mould in existence now, by a considerable margin.
After Emirates, Singapore Airlines is the largest (and was also launch customer, after Virgin Atlantic wrangled its way out of that honour) operator of A380’s with a fleet of 19, only this week taking delivery of the first of five new aircraft in a new interior configuration. These will replace the first aircraft the airline leased an astonishing ten years ago. Their retirement to the storage base at Lourdes in France is a new issue in itself as owner, German Dr Peters Leasing, tries to find a new airline to fly them – or face the possibility – not entirely unwelcome in the industry that has no quality used spares sources, break them up for parts.
As it happens 9V-SKM, first delivered in September 2011, has already been refurbished into the newer configuration in January 2017. Retaining 12 first class, and 86 business class seats, the economy cabin was reduced from 311 to 245 and 36 premium economy seats installed.
The thing with Witty was as much experiential, they arrived in a huge heavy gloss card box, inside a white outer sleeve, more like a top line 1/200 than 1/400. Inside they were encased in moulded foam. A bit like opening an iPhone, the box, the wrapping, everything was designed to make you feel you were getting a premium product. It had that special feeling manufacturers of lesser marques could well do with emulating for the prices they charge. You knew you were getting something high-end, and the best bit? It didn’t disappoint!
The Witty mould, in comparison to the Gemini/JCW (which is basically the same), and Phoenix versions, sits between the two in terms of detail. Only the Phoenix is closest to full accuracy. You can see here the A380 comparison: Who makes the best 1/400 A380?
While this is indeed pre-aerials, it doesn’t matter much. It weighs in at almost 400g – nearly twice that of the aluminium Phoenix models.
Witty had the best nose but there’s no doubt the fuselage was too tall, by quite a margin. In fact when you look at the Witty amongst the others you can perceive without much difficulty, that they do look slightly larger though you’d be hard pressed to see how.
As with all things Witty its superbly detailed, outstanding quality and high-definition everywhere, it just sings quality.
2.Wings and landing gear
The wings on an A380 are simply vast, if you’ve never seen one in the metal, it’s a huge piece of engineering. Over engineered for the version we see, they were aimed at lifting both a freighter version, and a stretched -900 version that is now never going to happen.
The shape is extraordinary, with a deep sculpted angle into the fuselage that is best seen from the rear. The slot-in wings are outstandingly fitted, seamless even. The mould itself is outstanding, the paint not too heavy and superbly applied.
Like the fusleage, there is a quality to the primary finish that is typical of a high class production process. Flawless, no contaminants, just superb.
The landing gear, all 18 main gear are silver and tyres on wheels, all of which move and rotate.
These Rolls Royce Trent-900’s are both enormous and superb. the mould is amazing, with full see-through fans and spot-on colours. This is one of the most excellent engines types mounted on any 1/400 scale model until probably this year.
Even the pylons are so neat, so refined and well painted. They don’t look like the afterthought that so many models are condemned with even now.
There isn’t a vast amount of detail on the real thing, and Witty have duplicated what there is with high-definition accuracy. All the way to the cockpit windows and StarAlliance logo.
The multi-storey tail section is a superb demonstration of the flawless paint and printing processes Witty were so good at. A joy to behold.
Of special note is the gold, both on the tail and the fuselage, just so well done, so perfectly applied. It can get surprisingly complicated as the gold line that runs under the lower deck windows is very fine and runs through the black centre line, with a thicker gold band under that. Some people tell me they think SIA’s livery is painfully dated. I think it’s timeless and that’s what makes it so enduring and so recognisable. I dread the day they think to change it.
The blue-blacks and light greys are equally as special, a triumph of paint, print and technical model making.
You’ll never convince me this isn’t diecast 1/400 heaven. This is what we want, what we should get and demand for our money on every single model. That’s not unrealistic you know. Manufacturers choose to provide “commercially acceptable” low effort models because they know they can get away with it all the time you keep buying them.
To recap, what “commercially acceptable” means is simple. It’s the point at which they can reduce their quality, and raise their prices, where you will still buy and they can make most profit, even though they know, and are very aware the product isn’t that good. They accept x percentage is faulty, they expect x percentage to be the subject of complaints and they build it into their costs. Manufacturers have worked out that enthusiasts tolerance for low standards exceeds almost any other business type going. So the price pushes up to meet that tolerance level.
Witty went the extra mile. Their models were expensive. In 2013 one of these was £40 – now a nondescript sub-average Gemini 773ER is £55 list price. And because it has a recognisable brand name on it that once represented the peak of quality but clearly no longer does, people pay it. Well this Witty A380 is quality, what you’re paying for now doesn’t even come close.
A wonderful, satisfying, never to be sold model that I adore, along with the other Witty and Apollo models we should probably all cherish. Highly collectable and a must have if you can ever find one. Some retailers do have some in the depths of their lists, but they are very few and far between now.
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