airBaltic was founded in 1995 in Riga, Latvia, by the Latvian Government who hold 99.8% of the stock. Living on the edge of the Russian Federation, it feels very much like it could be next on Putin’s shopping list of ex-Soviet republics. Latvia is a member of Nato and the EU, or it would almost certainly have been occupied by now.
Living there though, in a remote corner of Europe, small countries have each found that air travel connects them to the rest of Nato and the EU – they see not just opportunity to travel, but crucial communications and personal links to the rest of the continent. Getting Latvians out into Europe and Europeans into Latvia raises the country’s profile and importance, and it’s good business for the airlines. It doesn’t hurt that most of the Baltic states are also extremely attractive places to visit and relatively cheap.
One of the things that makes the airline so vibrant, is that it chose the path of being the most modern, the most attractive, not just in terms of price but in product offering and technology. The choice of the Bombardier CS300 – and for the airline to be its launch customer – speaks volumes about what they’re trying to achieve. They deliberately chose something that wasn’t a revamped 737 or A320 – everyone else was doing that – they chose the newest and most advanced aircraft in its segment, cutting-edge technology for tomorrow, not re-worked technology from the past.
It’s that attitude – tomorrow, not yesterday, that acts as the driver behind the airlines expansion and its aircraft. It aims to be the best and at the same time allows its investment in cutting edge technologies to enable it to compete.
To do this the company has set about replacing all of its 737 fleet – it still has 11 (6 733’s and 5 735’s) but at the time of writing has already taken delivery of 8 CS300’s. It also operates 12 Dash-8 Q400’s. Another 12 CS300’s are yet to be delivered and more may well follow. The airline has done nothing but express its delight with the aircraft and its economy, a fact constantly noted by the first CS100 operator, Swiss.
airBaltic has been repeatedly voted one of the Top Ten world airlines for innovation, has won achievement awards for reshaping its business and in 2014 and 2015 won the award for best on-time airline in the world. It won the European on-time award in 2017. This is an airline that means to succeed, for itself and for its country. You have to admire that.
Fitted with all-economy, the CS100 seats 120 in 32″ pitch seats – up to 135 in 28/29″ pitch seats. The CS300 fits a maximum of 160 and was designed for 140 in single class, but airBaltic chose a design that allowed an extra row, for 145 total in a decent 30″ pitch seat.
CS300 has a 500 statute mile range over the CS100, at 3,798 (6,112Km) but is said to operationally achieve up to 4,000 miles.
The first thing of course is how much bigger the CS300 is compared to the CS100. In effect, it’s the equal to the entire nose section – cockpit windows forward are extra length.
The mould is definitely a tiny bit different to the CS100 Herpa produced in 2016 and 2017. The nose seems more accurate – it’s the smallest change but it compares far better, looking a fraction steeper and longer, which was the main issue with the CS100, though you’d be hard pressed to see it unless you spent an age looking at it.
It has three aerials on the roof, all superbly done, as well as one underneath below the main cargo door.
In terms of detail print, lets start at the back-end and work forward. The technical details are all exceptionally good, especially when it comes to the density and thickness of the blacks at the base of doors and tops/bottoms of cargo hatches. Even the grey colour of the tops of the doors has been carefully reproduced. Passenger door detail is exemplary, as are roof markings and the logo. The bizarre thing with the extra-large windows is that the logo looks like someone shot bullet holes through it, but there we go.
Registration lettering and both the Latvian and EU flags are clearly detailed, and the correct colours.
The airBaltic underneath is largely obscured by Herpa’s annoying rectangular stand hole (oh yes it still comes with a stand with basic information printed on it), but better that than nothing.
Overall the fuselage is excellent.
The mould is outstanding. Inserted into the fuselage, it fits neatly, but with almost a 1mm gap at the rear edge where it meets. This often happens when smaller moulds are stretched – the Phoenix 787-10 suffers the same issue.
Oddly enough, the thing about the wing assembly is, it looks on the real thing more like a cradle, with a clearly visible wing root, that strangely doesn’t seem quite as obvious on the model. The wing assembly on the CS100 is better, tighter and more appropriate somehow.
Escape markings are clear and accurately placed, and DON’T WALK lines well done and clear.
The paint quality is excellent, white with lots of very visible detail, as it should be. What is wrong, is the silver leading edges – they aren’t silver on the real thing, more a composite grey. I find this sort of lack of accuracy annoying and model manufacturers should stop presuming and do some research – modern wings rarely use aluminium alloy mixes on leading edges, and these aren’t. So why are they silver?
I try not to laugh. Hideous translucent plastic gear doors and hydraulics. The nose gear is awful, it looks like they borrowed a set from a 1:500 A380. Truly hideous, over sized, nasty. If they could come out you would pull them off and just leave it on its stand in flight mode. However mine will live on a diorama quite frequently and I can’t do that.
Landing gear really is Herpa’s sad weakness and they should really be ashamed of it. They’re about as premium quality as a Saturn Aztek, and that isn’t saying much, if anything.
Good point: nacelles and shape are good, fan colour is spot on accurate, dark titanium and excellent; the nacelles are spot on for colour and logo.
Bad points; the exhaust mould and paint lacks detail; it should not be all silver. The fan rim paint is good from the sides but looks horrible and rough from the front. A constant problem with thin plastic engines and lumpy silver paint of the wrong particle size.
Pylon lower sections are also the wrong colour, should be a grey-silver colour, not white.
I still think the cockpit windows aren’t quite big enough, they need to be deeper, but not higher. It’s fractional, but I’m not 100% convinced by them, despite the fact they’re exceptionally well printed.
Overall the Picot tubes and detail are better than on the CS100 model.
The APU isn’t correctly painted. It’s painted fully silver one side and it’s not at all like that on the real thing, being white above and below. Really a detail issue. Other than that the tail is excellent, although it does have a square panel detail missing under the “Ba” in Baltic in the tail section on the starboard side of the fuselage.
8.Score and conclusions
- -10 for the landing gear – horrible, and wrong on a scale that’s a challenge to articulate without a plethora of detrimental adjectives and nouns.
- -2 for the engine pylon lower colour
- -4 for the leading edge wing colour
- -1 for missing a detail on the rear starboard quarter
- -2 for the engine exhaust colour fail
- -1 for the colour fail with APU
- -2 for the cockpit windows lack of depth
28/50 for accuracy
- -5 for the quality of the also inaccurate landing gear
- -4 for the silver rims – not tidy
- -2 for the not quite fully fitted wings in the too-big gap
39/50 for quality
Overall score: 67% which falls into the “below acceptable” category
Let’s be clear: it’s the landing gear that seriously undermines this model. It’s shambolic in its accuracy and appalling quality, reducing an otherwise really nice model to a level that makes it appear unacceptable. Add 15 points back in for nominally acceptable landing gear and its up in the 80’s.
And that’s how you have to see this model. As the only example of the type currently available – even JC Wings haven’t rolled out a CS300, and we haven’t seen their CS100 for over two years, I suspect because it was legally quashed, it’s either this or nothing. Frankly I’d rather have this.
The model itself, ex-gear, is really rather nice, overall quality is high, print good, mouldings a little iffy here and there, but other than nit-picking geeks like me, who would know?
It also isn’t grossly expensive. I’d rather pay a bit more and have better gear, but at £33 ($46US) it’s really not bad compared to say Aeroclassics, JC Wings and Phoenix, and certainly way better value for money than the over priced Gemini’s.
My recommendation: If you have any love for Civil Aviation models you’ll want one, it’s a simple but smart livery, and it’s still a great aircraft to have in the collection. I’d still buy it.