It’s not often I buy a model just for the purpose of collecting and keeping it, and at the prices Gemini charge I don’t bother, finding them rarely worth the cost these days. This one happened along just as I had a large store credit I wanted to use up, and so the real cost to me was minimal.
During our last trip to our San Francisco house, and then through Fleet Week in October 2017, we saw the aircraft often, so it seemed fitting to get the model. It’s not really for diorama use, that’s left to the older standard livery model of N128UA.
I know some of you work for United, I know American’s get very sentimental about the 747 – rather as most British (but not me, to be honest) do about Concorde.
Yet United didn’t exactly spend a fortune making the goodbye 744 look special – they slapped a rather obvious sticker over the existing logo and everyone got teary eyed. It actually looks a lot nicer on the model than it does on the real thing.
The aircraft itself isn’t actually very old, it was only delivered on 22nd April 1999.
She’s had three liveries – the old grey-blue Tulip livery that always looked smart when new but after a couple of years always struck me as looking badly worn and dirty – I used to see them at Heathrow and frankly the were some of the dirtiest looking aircraft at the airport.
In March 2009 she was repainted into the Star Alliance black and white livery which she kept until December 2014.
N121UA was fitted with 12 First Class, 52 business and 310 economy. Powered by 4 x PW4056’s she flew with fleet number 8421. After taking part in various farewell events including San Francisco Fleet Week in October 2017, she was flown to Tupelo Regional Airport in Mississippi on the 17th November 2017, where she’s sat in a breakers line, with about a week to go at time of writing.
The model is not offering up great first impressions. Indeed I find it more than a little disappointing. One thing stands out instantly and it really annoys, but more of that later.
This is the standard and long used Gemini mould for the 744 with a couple of positive additions.
Firstly the rear mounted dome, which is quite well moulded and inserted into the roof at the rear, but could be better. The upper deck aerial is something not on the 2013 version of N128UA, and only one of four possible aerials is underneath at the front under the main cargo door.
The gold coach line along the side is clearly a transfer and you can see the clear part of it either side, on both the white and the grey. In this respect both models are identical, as is the fuselage upper and lower colour schemes.
The “747 friend Ship United ****” sticker looks an awful lot better on the model than it did on the real thing, appearing to be quite authentic.
Technical detail is OK if you don’t look close up, overall the fuselage is fine, but the white reveals itself to be a different shade under a full spectrum daylight bulb.
This is where I get angry. The gerbil-brained colour “specialist”, chose another shade of grey that is as inaccurate and wrong, as so many shades of grey have been on Gemini wings for the last two years. This is a light grey, but very much towards the darker end of the spectrum.
It’s odd really because the grey on the N128UA model is pretty much bang-on. Why did this ocularly challenged nematode of a colourist decide on another set of dark grey wings? Why do none of the supposed experts and ‘enthusiasts’ at Gemini challenge this idiots assumptions? It can only be because they don’t care or even worse, they don’t know any better.
The entire model is around 3.5mm lower than the N128UA model. Why? Because the new landing gear is a cheaper, nastier, penny-pinching version of what they used to use.
The 2013 version (which was still in use at the end of 2015) has silver wheels, spring-loaded centre bogies, perfect tyres, and everything rolls with ease. Some of the best wheels going on any model to be fair. The nose gear is just as good.
The 2018 version is a nauseatingly bad third-rate set of garbage that demands nothing but contempt. The whole lot of the main gear is too short, the wheels almost touch the doors, there is no movement and the spring-loaded mechanism they used in the past has gone. It’s a rigid, unmoving, too short mess with glued wheels so covered in clear varnish they don’t move. The grey painted wheel centres on the outer bogies, and the outer set hydraulics are a different colour to the fuselage set because of the mistaken wing colour they’re attached to.
Blobby tyres on the nose gear are unsightly and unacceptable on a model of this price.
The fact is that despite the pylons being the wrong colour – they’re correct on the 2013 version and the top photo merely highlights how wrong the are on this model, the engine nacelles are spot-on. Indeed they’re identical to those fitted on the 2013 version – as they should be!
Excellent, one of the few areas where this model is better than a five-year old version – but only because it has the nose dome line.
The gold isn’t as bright and clear in my opinion but otherwise it has slightly finer detail than that on the older model. but not by much, it really is down to the thickness of lines.
Fuselage, tail, logo, appear OK. Wings, appallingly bad.
8.Score & Conclusion
- -20 for the wing colour fail, it’s so dominating it’s unforgivable
- -4 for the height – it’s too low because of the landing gear
- -4 for the silver fans – need I say no modern airliner has silver fans! Blah blah blah!
- -2 for the two missing aerials underneath
- -2 for the wrongly painted stabilizers
18/50 for accuracy
- -10 for the landing gear – it’s a physical quality fail as well as being inaccurate, a horrible double-whammy!
40/50 for quality
Overall score: 58% Puts it in the “extremely poor” category.
-The wing/landing gear failures are yet another example of Gemini’s failure in this area.
Compare this to the Award Winning Model of The Year 2015 – the now retired Etihad 744F by Gemini. That was exquisite. This is not that by a long, long, way and then some.
And the reason I’m angry about it? Forget United’s attitude to customers and staff for a second, and the fact that the only way you’d get me on one of their aircraft is by a “Reverse Dao” (i.e. kicking and screaming being dragged on, rather than off).
This was one time when I was present during an American Aviation event – the vanishing of the 744, and I’ve sat on my balcony watching more than a few come in to SFO over the last six years. I was there to see it go, saw it with my own eyes fly over San Francisco Bay, the same as I saw the last Philipines 744 into SFO, the final Cathay Pacific 744 into SFO, and the final ANZ 744 into SFO.
I expected that with this model Gemini would pull out all the stops to get it right. And yet no. It’s another sad indictment of Gemini’s decline in quality and their exploitation of the prices they charge. If this had been good enough I was going to buy another for a friend who took me out on his boat into the bay so we could watch the air display. I wouldn’t insult him or the memory of that moment by doing so.
In truth I feel tired and fed up doing this review. It’s depressing to see an American Aviation History moment ruined by an American company in model form with seemingly utter indifference to the quality. I get pissed off with people who say “you always give Gemini a hard time”. Not always. Look back to past reviews and you’ll find they’ve had more than enough praise when they get it right. The trouble is they rarely get it right anymore.
If I was being truly harsh and not forgiving this model with the eyeball test, close ups reveal its even worse than I’ve marked it.
I was going to keep it, but the more I look at it, the more I realise its got to go back. Its horrible, and its just not good enough.
My recommendation: Forget it, just yet more evidence of the decline of Gemini. United fanboys of course will just accept it no matter what and pretend its perfect even when it isn’t. Your chances of getting a good one? Less than United staff winning their no-bonus lottery.