Malaysia Airlines A350-900 9M-MAC ‘Negeraku’ 1:400 Phoenix Dec 2017

This livery is highly representative of a global phenomena – nationalism, and any student of history will tell you that nationalism has rarely been a force for good, so these things, despite their individual beauty, are highly symbolic, even more so for a national flag carrier.

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Arriving at Kuala Lumpur 22nd Dec 2017 – Note the forward flag and the ‘1’ logo at the nose

There is no doubt that the livery is striking, and attractive; national flags on such a scale usually are. Remember the  Singapore Airlines 50 Years of Independence livery on 9V-SKI? Many in Malaysia call for this to become the national airlines standard livery – and I can see why.

Strangely enough many of the ruling party politicians think so too. And it could well happen. Malaysia Airlines is riddled with political interests, constantly hampered by government interference and competing decision makers. The departure of two European-sourced CEO’s both well before their contracts ran out, and both paid off to go away and say nothing, says a great deal about what goes on behind the scenes.

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The test flight on Nov 30th 2017 – no flag, no ‘1’ and no name

If you were in any doubt, the saga over the A380’s which has now come full circle with them going back on the London route in mid 2018, after months of arguing for their withdrawal, should convince you otherwise. I doubt even this decision will stick though.

Despite the rampant politics Malaysia Airlines is constantly subject to, it’s recovering reasonably well from the double tragedies of 2015.

The A359’s are part of a rebuilding programme and this is the second to go into service, due very soon to start making ist first appearance at London Heathrow.

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First operational flight to Penang

I was extremely disappointed with the model of the first A359, 9M-MAB. Phoenix failed big time on the quality front, as you can see in the review here: Malaysia Airlines A350-900 9M-MAB and I sent it back. It was  great pity as I really wanted both of them as a contrast for Leonard Nimoy International, 1400reviews.com base diorama.

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First impressions here suggest this is a much better model, so let’s take a look.

1.Fuselage

I’ve said it time and again, but the Phoenix fuselage is mildly better than that on the JCWings/Gemini version by virtue of having the nose more accurately shaped. It’s a key part of the aircraft’s design individuality.

Let’s start from the front and work backwards. The nose section in front of Door 1, we’ll leave to the appropriate section. Behind door one it doesn’t start well.

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First off the small flag in front of the Malaysia Airlines logo is an abomination. It’s been squeezed down to about 50% of its actual length, and placed in a square frame like a postage stamp. The model also has the name NEGARAKU under the flag, and nowhere have I seen that in a photo, so Phoenix must have been guessing. The flag was added after the 30th November (it’s not on the first test flight), but is in evidence by the time the aircraft is delivered 23 days later. It also has a large graphic ‘1’ in front of the door.

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Some of the problem here is Phoenix jumping the gun with being the first to market. This model actually arrived the same day the real thing did at Kuala Lumpur, quite bizarre timing.

The window line is fine but it shows up several errors.

Starboard (right) side: Firstly the forward most red wave goes to 50% of the way into the main cargo door. It’s about 3mm to short on the model. The uppermost red line is 2 frames too far forward.

The blue of the flag goes only 15 frames forward when it should be 16, and the crescent moon on the model is 1 frame too far back, as is the sun. The rear of the blue flag as it goes down the side on the starboard rear quarter is also less than even.

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Right side moon and sun in the wrong position

Port (left) side: There are no errors with the crescent moon and sun, they’re where they should be. Indeed on closer examination, all of the port side seems to be accurate, though the rear of the blue again, isn’t quite as it should be, the printing process is slightly flawed.

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Other than that, the dome is excellent, and fits exceptionally well, especially white on a blue base. The upper and lower aerials are also problem free. Generally the technical detail is excellent.

2.Wings

First off, I’m sure they’re the wrong colour. All the photos suggest they’re white above and below, but Phoenix have painted them very light grey and they’re way too glossy. However they are seated properly, with no visible gaps or problems.

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One thing that I do actively question is the insistence on silver leading edge paint. I’ve been back over my photos of A359’s all the way to Farnborough in July 2014 and the leading edges, well they’re just not plain aluminium anymore.

3.Landing gear

Continuous quality problems with the landing gear doors especially, seem to have been mostly ameliorated on this model. However small amounts of bare metal are visible on the outer doors. The wheels all function and rotate, there’s no blobby lumps on the tyres. The gear is OK painted silver, as for the most part it’s a fine paint and in keeping with the hydraulics visible on the real thing.

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Nose gear is a little too long, and the nose wheels look a little big, but as we know, Phoenix have a problem with this model dragging engines on the ground and the gear contributes to stop that happening.

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4. Engines

The Rolls Royce units are excellent and generally faultless. The rims are excellent, the see through aspect a highlight as ever. Markings and paint quality are excellent.

5. Nose detail

I’ve already mentioned the issues behind Door 1 and to be entirely fair, there’s nothing wrong with the nose end, print and paint is excellent, well-defined and as you would hope.

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The boxed flag and NEGARAKU are completely wrong – the later shouldn’t even be there

The only thing missing is that huge  ‘1’ in front of Door 1 – Phoenix were just too quick off the mark to have time to add it.

6. Tail detail

I’ve already mentioned the rear blue paint issues for the large flag. The tail horizontals are correct in having a silvered leading edge, but again, I question the surface colours – they appear white from every observation I’ve made, but on the model are pale grey.

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7.Colour

I’m impressed with the colour, The yellow crescent and sun colours especially as these are notoriously hard to print on a blue background. Overall, excellent.

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8.Score and conclusion

Accuracy

  • -6 for the wing colours
  • -4 for the stabilizers colours
  • -12 for all of the fuselage mistakes and errors
  • -1 for minor nose gear issue
  • 27/50 for accuracy

Quality

  • -1 for minor main gear door paint
  • -2 for the rear paint wobbles
  • -47/50 for quality

OVERALL Score: 74%

We have here a first – a massive accuracy fail that has effectively tainted the model, but it’s for once, generally extremely well made from a quality perspective.

You’re either going to have to accept that unless you have an expert who can see the failures, nobody but you is going to know much of what is wrong. For most of you that will be OK. Of course if you can’t abide the inaccuracies you’ll not be able to live with it.

To be honest for me the worst bit is those stupid postage stamp flags, the rest is more easily overlooked.

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None the less, Phoenix need to up their game. Being first to market has its downside for the buyer and this model demonstrates that very clearly. The question is, will Phoenix continue to put being first to market to mop up the profits, before accuracy and customer satisfaction? We all know the answer to that one don’t we?

Even so, things like over silvered leading edges when they’re not, indeed the entire decorative silver approach, needs to be carefully re-examined and outdated assumptions left behind.

The Gemini version

Now here’s something esle for you: I’ve had a close look at the Gemini 1:400 publicity photo (not available for copyright reasons) for the same model and, shock horror, they’ve got all of the same flag and fuslelage detail mistakes, suggesting they had exactly the same file source.

They seem to have gotten the colours wrong (especially the blue which is way too dark), but they do seem to have managed white wings – but that could be deceptive and flash related. On the plus side they used the correct leading edge colour on the wings. I also think they’ve printed the “malaysia airlines” a tiny bit too large  So if you just paid nearly £50 ($69US) for it (the Phoenix was 20% cheaper), you’re not going to be too happy. It’s better is some ways and worse in others, but that again, is the problem with being too quick to get to market. Neither model is actually accurate and like the delivered version of 9M-MAC. How sad is that?

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The Phoenix version under a very bright 1200 lumen full specturum daylight bulb

My recommendation: Strictly speaking this is a very well made dogs breakfast, and yet – I can live with most of it. It’s not tragic enough to send back. If it had been poor quality and full of errors, then it would have been on its way to the retailer for a refund, but, while the errors collectively are not good, you’d really have to know what you were looking at to be bothered enough not to buy it. It’s a very annoying model.

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