Qatar Cargo 748F A7-BGB Phoenix 1:400 04159 Dec 2017

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You might not be hearing much about it but the blockade of Qatar that started now some 7 months ago after a twitter spat based on fake news that turned out to be of Russian (well blow me down with a feather) origin.  Diplomatic arguments (that frankly were almost certainly not), between Qatar’s ruling Emir and the President of the United Arab Emirates, over accusations that Qatar financed terror, got out of control, although mostly by design. Supported by the American president’s less than careful pushing of the matter during his tour of the Middle East, things got all out of hand.

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This is a country barely the size of the State of Rhode Island

To be fair, they all support groups with dodgy backgrounds and none of them could be said to have clean hands if you delve deeply enough. Qatar is however supporting the ‘other’ side and it supports groups in Egypt that the current government there overthrew after elections brough them to power. There’s a lot of animosity. The two gentlemen mentioned above tried to resolve things again in late September 2017, but it ended up in insults over the phone.

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So Qatar is blockaded by land – nothing is getting in or out over the border with the Saudis or the UAE, or across from Bahrein. Business with Iran though, is booming, as it is with Turkey. The irony of those two is they are one of the reasons the blockade was instituted, Qatar was over familiar with two powers everyone else in the region hates. Turkey has a military base in Qatar, and Iran is now its biggest regional trading partner. It leaves the US in a pickle because its Central Command is based in Qatar, and it has a huge naval base in Bahrein next door.

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The whole thing has made Qatar rethink its survival strategy. Nobody can stop things coming in by sea, or by air without military action. The country has assets estimated at over $2 trillion and the worlds highest per capita income, exceeding a base line of US$110,000 a year per person. There is no income tax. The country is sitting on a vast field of what ends up as Liquified Petroleum Gas normally extracted into Propane or Butane, and it’s a world leader in the extraction, refinement and shipping of it. They have money to burn.

When you have that sort of resource, you can do things others cannot. Qatar Cargo is flat-out flying in everything it can, Turkish Cargo and airlines like Kalitta Air are also flat-out, supplying Qatar with imported goods, because pretty much everything is imported.

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It’s important you see the underside with this model

Qatar also went on a shopping spree to Boeing land…748F’s are pretty much built to order and there’s not much of an excess, but Boeing had an allegedly ‘suspended’ order from Silkway West that had the test registration of N1785B that first flew in January 2017.

Now that story is an odd one. Silkway needed the aircraft (it still has several on order) but got embroiled in a scandal about its aircraft using dodgy diplomatic papers to ship banned weapons (we’re not talking AK47’s here, more like White Phosphorous burner bombs, illegal dispersal munitions, anti-personnell land mines etc) to terrorists and countries they shouldn’t be shipping to, in the summer of 2017, uncovered by a Bulgarian anti-corruption/anti-crime website.

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The Azerbaijan government (imagine Game of Thrones meets the Sopranos, but way worse), and the airline allegedly arranged to let the order drop as embarrassing, (Boeing would have looked bad supplying another freighter to an airline just accused of such crimes and possibly paid for by illegal arms shipments), and out of nowhere Qatar swooped in and picked up the order, allegedly deferring any penalties. Convenient.

Qatar also ordered itself another 748F as soon as Boeing could build it, as well as buying the old Seattle Seahawks liveried 748F.

What do I always say? You cannot keep politics out of airlines.  So that’s the story of how this aircraft got to be this aircraft and why you’ve probably got a copy of it in your hand if you’re a big cargo fan!

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Finally delivered on 22 September 2017, powered by 4x GEnx-2B67’s, A7-BGB is operating mainly Doha-Hong Kong-Frankfurt and Luxemburg.

Note: Her sister, A7-BGA is the ex-Seattle Seahawks liveried example, ex Atlas Air N752GT, ex British Airways World Cargo G-GSSF, and was destined for UPS as N607UP, (and is almost 5 years old), but wasn’t delivered to Qatar until December 2017.

1.Fuselage

When they first came out aerials were notorious for falling out of the fuselage and it took a long time to stop that happening. Those days are happily behind us. My initial impression of this 748F is pretty high, and I’m feeling like we might have something special. I know there are plenty of people who argue over the JCW v Phoenix moulds, and each has its benefits, but neither is truly better than the other.

Three upper aerials, all white are superbly inserted into the fuselage with another just below the side cargo door.

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The correct shade of light grey meets the correct intensity of white right where it should. This divide lines can be poor at times, and this one’s not entirely perfect, with a slight ripple in the nose line on the right side, and again under the registration lettering at the rear on the right. These are very minor, and I do stress that, but I can see them, though they are mostly inconsequential to the majority of collectors.

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Detail is exceptionally high quality the entire length and breadth of the model, a superb job. Even the tiniest details have  been picked up and they add to the overall quality, accuracy and the experience of ownership, which is an important factor. I’m also thinking about the 748i that flies in the Qatar colours but is actually used only by the Royal Family – that wasn’t to this standard and was so poor I sold it.

However, there is not such good news. Phoenix have totally forgotten the massive under-belly QATAR logo. That’s a pretty big mistake to make and shows poor research.

2.Wings

Seamlessly inserted into the fuselage, a really nice set of wings, a little over glossed as ever, which detracts from the mould lines in the surface, but it’s still got to be said they look amazing from a quality perspective from above and the side.

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If you look head-on so that the right wing is on your left side, there is a paint fail on the leading edge silver just past engine No.4. There’s just no silver paint for about 1cm, but, because it’s on the underside of the surface it doesn’t notice from above. Oddly, on the same wing on the trailing edge towards the tip, there is a similar lack of paint for about 1cm.

The under-wings are heavily over-glossed as they always are on Phoenix models.

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3.Landing gear

The sixteen main gear tyres are lump free at last, all of the wheels on the main bogies rotate and the gear side doors are excellent. The silver hydraulics are neat but inaccurate, they’re pale grey in every photo I’ve seen, with some silver parts visible.

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The nose gear is solid, delicately detailed and the wheels and tyres move without impediment. Again most of the hydraulics should be pale grey but are silver.

4. Engines

Something of a highlight it has to be said. These are the new see-through moulds and they are a major upgrade to the 748 range from Phoenix, and the first I’ve had with them fitted (the UPS 748F reviewed next week has them too).

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It’s really nice to see that Phoenix haven’t sat still and have upgraded their line up with this addition. The huge high bypass fans on the A350’s and 787’s are much easier to do, although the Phoenix and Gemini 787’s still lack them.  The GEnex engines on the 748 are much smaller diameter. Only Witty had produced see through fans on A380’s and 788’s back in 2013/14. Phoenix put them on the A359 followed by JC Wings in 2015/16, who also added them on their new mould 787’s. I understand Phoenix will be using them on 777’s at some stage. i haven’t seen the new JCW 777 but that has them to I understand.

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Having said all that, the fan mould itself is a little primitive and needs a touch of refinement. Compare it to the super-fine blades of the JC Wings 789, or even their own A359, it looks a little well, how can I say it? A tiny bit odd.

The thing is they have a sort of realism about them from a distance that works, but they don’t quite have the refinement to fully carry it off. So some tweaks please Phoenix, but otherwise a brilliant advancement that’s great to see.

Other than that the engines are outstanding in their detail, paint and finish, with excellent rims and exhausts, logos and nacelle detail.

5.Nose detail

Generally good with an exception, the under-nose Qatar Cargo logo has someones head above it, and its all gone a bit blurry.  I think it has something to do with the new World Cup 2022 logo – when Qatar’s press office gets back to me I’ll update this section. In any event I haven’t found a single photo yet with the aircraft with it, so it’s pretty recent as of December 2017 when the model was made and shipped.

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The cockpit detail, nose cargo door and crew emergency and standard entry doors, are all outstanding. Every sensor and detail appears to present in full and scaled correctly.

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If you look closely at the grey/white you can see where the roller runs out of paint at the nose, put it needs significant magnification to see.

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6.Tail detail

Superbly painted, wonderfully detailed, with two shades of matt aluminium paint on the upper and lower surfaces of the horizontals. The vertical is exquisite from the logo to the leading edges. My one concern is the starboard side horizontal isn’t fitted as well, with a visible gap at the top edge where it joins the fuselage.

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7.Colour

The grey and burgundy are an exact match for that used on the recent A380 by Phoenix which was outstandingly accurate, (A380 A7-APC), so a brilliant match for the real thing and wonderful in its consistency. A first class result across the board.

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8.Score and conclusion

Accuracy

  • -4 for the engine fans, a really good effort but they’re not quite there yet
  • -5 for the landing gear silver that should really be pale grey
  • -6 for the lack of the huge QATAR underside logo
  • 35/50 accuracy score

Quality

  • -3 for the big gap above the starboard horizontal stabilizer
  • -2 for the very slight ripples in the grey/white paint transition
  • -2 for the paint missing on the leading & trailing edge of the right wing
  • -1 for the blurred print on the under nose head logo
  • 42/50 quality score

Overall score 76% which is not good and well below average for Phoenix.

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This model is the very finest example of why I changed the scoring to reflect accuracy seperately to quality; this is a reasonable quality model, but it’s not accurate. Most of us don’t spend time looking underneath, especially on dioramas.  The quality of this model is reasonable, but missing big logos that are standard practice with this airline, just sucks.

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My recommendation:  I’m really in two minds about this model, it’s spoilt by not having the underside logo and missing paint in places; but if you can live with that, the quality is just about OK as a stand alone item. If you can’t abide the lack of accuracy – don’t buy, if you don’t think you’ll ever see it, or care, do. Then there’s those fan blades. They look weird, and they don’t. There’s also a massive price difference – if Gemini make this at some stage, it’ll be 25% more expensive, and on their current form, probably the wrong colour. 

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