This is one fascinating aircraft with an interesting history. She started life back in 1995 delivered to Singapore Airlines. They traded her into Boeing for 777’s in 2002 and they eventually leased her to Khalifa Airways as 7T-VKL, they in turn, sub-leased her to Air Algérie until January 2004. In March 2004 Boeing leased her to Etihad as A6-EYC, and sold her to Novus Aviation Capital while with Etihad. Etihad withdrew her from use in 2009.
From this point on she belonged to Novus, but was leased by HiFly in late 2009 as CS-TQM. They in turn have sub-leased her to Principal Airlines, Gabon Airlines, Air Algérie again, as well as using the aircraft for Hi Fly’s own business. She was transferred to Hi Fly Malta as 9H-TQM in September 2015.
Hi Fly leased her to Swiss Space Systems (S3) operating the aircraft on their behalf. S3’s business was zero gravity flights, where an aircraft is taken to a height then operates a controlled up-down course to create simulated zero-g, either for fun or for astronaut training. It was planning on launching space planes from high altitude aircraft. This explains the slightly space-sci-fi box with a space shuttle flying over the moon. S3 ceased operations in December 2016.
Despite the disappearance of the main operator, the aircraft continues to fly with S3’s logo the tail, even as late as November 2017.
The other tiles on the aircraft are from the Mirpuri Foundation. According to their website: “Mirpuri Foundation has been incorporated by the Mirpuri Family as a non-profit organization, set up by Paulo Mirpuri with the aim of contributing for a better world.
Based on its commitment to make the world a better place for future generations, Mirpuri Foundation allocates its resources and intelligence where they’re most needed, and fosters the spirit of collaboration between global authorities, companies, communities and individuals, aiming to make a positive difference regarding the most pressing issues threatening our planet”.
Without being overly cynical, it’s a really rich blokes charity project (tax benefits possibly?) And guess what? He owns a big chunk of Hi Fly (and it appears may have been an investor in S3), amongst pretty much every other blue chip company on the planet. I’m sure he’s a very nice chap. All charities need a photo of their founder in his corporate sailing gear piloting his racing yacht, declaring environmental sensibilities while they invest in Exxon Mobile one of the worlds biggest polluters – and yes it actually tells you that on the website.
There was no way I wasn’t having this amazing looking livery model when Phoenix announced it. It’s the sort of thing that if I was writing one of my novels I’d give the billionaire villain as his runaround. It’s truly stunning to look at, different, unique, I love it. For extra amusement Hi Fly Malta’s call sign is taken from the James Bond book and film: Moonraker.
Hi Fly of course, are a business designed to replace other airlines aircraft at short notice, or on longer term wet lease. Several are in use with Air New Zealand during the crisis over the Rolls Royce 787-9 engines. For the first time, last year Hi Fly actually ordered new aircraft, a pair of A332’s from Airbus, through a leasing company, owned by guess who? Mr Mirpuri.
9H-TQM is currently fitted with 10 First class, 30 business and 225 economy seats. Oddly enough, she appears to have been painted into this livery only about three months or so prior to S3’s dissolution.
Underneath, in the middle between the wings, there’s a large “SPACE FOR ALL” graphic, along with no less than four aerials, including the second from rear that is actually slightly off-centre to the right, just as it is on the real thing.
It also has four aerials on the roof, two forward and two rearwards. EIGHT aerials, on one model and all perfectly installed and painted.
Add to that, one moulded in dome also painted the correct colours with its pair of pain-on associates amidships.
The level of high quality HD detail on this is stunning, the windows and frames are superbly done, along with the doors, graphics and all of the technical detail, such as sensors and cargo doors.
The quality of the gloss black paint is exemplary. It’s clean, contaminant free and looks awesome. Visually it’s a treat to behold.
I’ve gone over this with a fine degree of scrutiny and there’s nothing missing, it’s an outstanding degree of accuracy.
The wings are superbly fitted, a little glossy but we are talking Phoenix here. They’re not as bad as we’ve seen on some though, and the flaps details are visible. Phoenix have even noted that the leading edges on the aircraft are painted light grey – not bare metal.
One of the highlights that really compliments the livery is the red Swiss flag on the wingtips. Superbly executed and it looks stunning on the model. A superb set of wings above and below.
An excellent set, silver as the hydraulics on the aircraft are, neatly installed with grey doors as they are on the real thing. All of the wheels rotate easily, with excellent nose gear to match.
I’m seriously impressed with these. The fans are the right colour, the rims are perfect, the exhausts exemplary, the nacelles almost unbelievably detailed, with super-fine markings. Just stunning. A first-rate set of engines. However I suspect they’re only that way because they were painted black by default, but let’s “not look a gift horse in the mouth”, as my granny would have said.
Look closely into the mirror like black finish, and it’s all there, the Hi Fly logo, the picot tubes in super-fine light silver-grey. Wonderful.
6. Tail detail
Perfect,especially as the logo on the vertical has not been tainted by the black underneath. That’s actually one of the triumphs of this model. The gloss black can so easily dominate anything placed on it, but it doesn’t.
Absolutely first class, an exemplary choice of gloss black, superbly painted, the whites and grey’s too, it just works.
8.Score and conclusions
- Zero faults, nothing missing, an outstanding level of accuracy and a superb achievement, the aerials especially are a highlight of accuracy.
- 50/50 for accuracy
- Exemplary, simply outstanding, an absolute highlight.
- 50/50 for quality
Overall score 100%
A stunningly good model, one of the best Phoenix have made in a very long time. The extraordinary detail and attention to accuracy is exactly what we pay for, the quality of assembly and production is beyond expectations. Not that this is, as all the best Phoenix models usually are, in it 04*** series of models.
A truly superb model, and frankly a total surprise that it was this good. When they arrive I just make sure they’ve not fallen apart in transit and leave them alone until its time to review them, which can often be weeks or months (especially for used models). They have a special unlit sealed shelf where they go so I don’t spend time looking until the review comes up.
This one arrived just before Christmas but too late for the 2017 MOTY, which is normal, all the late December models get into the following year and always have.
I’m delighted with this, not just its novelty value and uniqueness; it’s simply beautiful detail, accurate, and so well put together.
Phoenix, still doing what they always do, producing dross one minute and a picture of perfection the next – sometimes even in the same month.
My recommendation: if you didn’t buy this you should have. Start kicking yourself for not having bothered right now. If you did, sit, Gollum-like, stroking it in a corner, for it truly is precious.