S7 Airlines A320neo VQ-BCF Gemini Jets 1:400 GJSBI1699 March 2018

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Russian airlines don’t feature strongly at Leonard Nimoy International, the official airport of 1400review.com! Rossiya, then Aeroflot were recently cut. Cargo operations with its MD-11F and its A332 service were pulled. Only an A321 remains, on a once a week flight to Moscow. And yes, there is a fully operational timetable, helps rotate the models on the diorama!

S7 has been around for a while, with a 735 and the old livery A320 recently withdrawn from LNI. They’re being replaced by this A320neo and a soon to arrive 738 in Oneworld livery, and later an ERJ170.

Officially the airline is based in Ob, Novosibirsk, and is known as PАО Aviakompania Sibir. It traces its origins back to the 1957 in what was then the USSR, named the Tolmachevo Squadron of the Civil Aviation of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. Catchy.

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Following the collapse and disintegration of the Soviet Union, in which I’m always delighted to say, I played my part, it was run as state-owned Siberia Airlines, then in 1994 was privatized. In 2006 it rebranded as S7 Airlines.

S7 and its owners have been very careful to go with the flow of Russian politics, never crossing into criticism of Putin or arguing with his most favoured – especially Aeroflot. Transaero made the mistake of going down that path and S7 was blocked “by shareholders” from trying to buy it out. Aeroflot had already laid claim to the spoils of that war, and that was that.

S7 hasn’t had the best record, in October 2001 it lost an aircraft to a Ukrainian S200-V anti-aircraft missile when it flew into a military exercise zone on its way from Israel, a terrorist bomb blew up a 2004 flight near Rostov-on-Don, and an A310 crashed in July 2006 at Irkutsk killing 193 passengers and 10 crew. These events largely spurred its modernisation, it dumped its remaining Tupolev and Ilyushin fleet and replaced them with Western aircraft, and rebranded.

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While it flies mostly on domestic routes, it does use its 738’s on international charters, and a small but growing number of non-charter international routes seem to have been permitted, so long as it doesn’t step on Aeroflot’s toes.

At one time the airline even ordered 787’s but changed its mind. It operates 82 aircraft with 28 on order, some as replacements for existing, a few for new routes. It ordered 18 A320neo, fitted out with 8 business class and 156 economy, along with 3 A321neo’s which are expected to be used on the long St.Petersburg-Vladivostock route, which is 4,072 miles; the longest over-land continuous domestic route in the world.

VQ-BCF is Bermuda Registered and leased through the Bank of China.

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Another grey wet, cold day in Brexitania…

S7 joined the Oneworld alliance in 2010 but also codeshares with several non-members and their associated airlines, including Aeroflot, Air Italy, Air Moldova, Belavia, El Al, Emirates, Etihad, TAP and Singapore Airlines.

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Its that engine exhaust – totally spoils the side-on view

1.Fuselage

Everyone has an opinion about the colour scheme. Mine is simple, it stands out, you know who it belongs too, and it’s unique. Day-glo lemon-lime will get you noticed. In a world of bland aerowhite, it is at least not that. A splash of colour in an otherwise drab world. Russians, not unknown for their sardonic sense of humour, have long mused that the aircraft are painted this colour so they can be seen in the snow.

The mould on the Gemini/JCW A320neo is a sharp improvement over the old one as we saw last year when the first Lufthansa A320neo was released. That however had grossly oversized engines as well as a flabby and over-large fuselage.

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The mica finish on the paint is clearly visible here. A good effort, but the colours are very hard to replicate.

It’ll come as no surprise that they’ve done nothing about the too-fat fuselage mould. However the good points about it are the fact we get three roof aerials – but Gemini are too tight-fisted to give us even one underneath.

Technical detail, print and finish are excellent however, credit where it’s due, it really is so much better than the old type mould we put up with for years.

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Disappointing though, that standard fit domes are pritend on and not moulded-in.

My biggest issue with the model fuselage wise, is the darker of the two greens. It just isn’t bright enough, and neither of the two primary greens are flourescent enough. To make them work a very bright white undercoat is needed, and that hasn’t happened.

2.Wings

An excellent mould, detail is superb, paint and quality outstanding. On top of that they’re fitted seamlessly into the fuselage.

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On the sharklets The small S7 roundels on the inner surfaces are printed rather too thin.

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The engine pylon uppers are also inaccurate. There’s a marked dark grey metal panel on the wing and upper pylon join that’s been completely ignored (like that on the latest A350’s).

3.Landing gear

Once again the right hand side is full of mould flashing in the hydraulic struts. Shoddy, unacceptable and dismally poor at these prices.

The nose gear is wobbly, recessed too far, and frankly, seems a bit too big, never mind being too far back. Even the main gear isn’t in the right place.

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4.Engines

These of course, should be the star of this models show. The first one with see-through engines on an A320 sized aircraft.

The engine mould seems to have been completely revised.  It’s slimmer, more refined, all of the fat bits – the aerofoils on the nacelles, the rear exhaust lower and upper fins, are much slimmer.

However it hasn’t all worked out ideally. The old one had a really good exhaust, this one is too stubby and undersized, the cone is too round. It’s also not been fitted into the nacelle properly, and because these form part of the fan mould insert, the left, No.1 engine core is a totally off-centre and tilts down so much it looks like a drunken nipple.

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Not what you call level!

The right engine is better, but the exhaust mould is the same, however it is at least level.

The fans are a better colour, still too light but much darker and properly recessed.

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The rims are a separate piece it seems, so the mould is better and the fit excellent, but the paint is just nasty on No.1 – just rough on No.2.

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Overall, and bearing in mind how little Gemini ever do to improve anything (well how little JC Wings seems to let them use, probably because they won’t pay), a welcome development, but still needs plenty of work.

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5.Nose detail

Sharp, clean and excellently detailed. Really nothing to complain about, other than it’s too big and too fat like the rest of the fuselage.

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That nose isn’t ideal because the whole fuselage is too large. Engine rim looks crap.

6.Tail

Whereas the 737MAX has to have plastic parts to stop it falling backwards all the time, these are metal, the horizontals inserted into the fuselage nicely, and well fitted. The vertical is excellent, with first-rate detail and print.

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7.Colours

I appreciate that it is not easy to create a full flourescent paint colour and make it printable. Flourescent paints on metal or plastic are an art to handle – I used to use them for Star Wars spacecraft engines some years back in my nerdy youth – you needed a very bright matt white, sometimes two coats, that had properly dried as an under coat, then you’d need to apply the flourescent paint really carefully to get the ‘engines firing’ look.

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So while the colours aren’t bang-on-the-nose accurate, some leeway has to be given, because I doubt anyone else can do any better.

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The other aspect that I do appreciate is that if you look carefully at the photos, you’ll notice there is a mica finish on the darker green of the real thing, and I think they’ve done a good job of getting that right on the model.

8.Score and conclusion

Accuracy

  • -1 lack of underbody aerials
  • -1 print on domes rather than moulded in
  • -4 engine exhaust core shape – all wrong and too noticeable
  • -4 fuselage mould is too fat and round – it’s 1mm wider than the AC, Panda or Phoenix. Get that in scale – 400mm is nearly 16 inches – that’s nearly an entire extra seat width!
  • -2 missing engine pylon end panels
  • -2 nose gear in wrong place
  • -2 main gear not in right place

34/50 for accuracy

Quality

  • -2 for engine exhaust core off centre and tilting
  • -4 for bad rims on both engines
  • -2 nose gear issues; wobbling, pushed in too far
  • -4 – excessive mould flashing issues in main gear hydraulics – unacceptable at these prices
  • -1 print quality on sharklets

37/50 for quality

71% Overall score – and please note despite the colours they haven’t been marked down on this occasion.

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Yes this is a better model than the old A320 moulds. Yes it’s great they addressed the oversized engines and have corrected them. In the process though the exhaust mould has gone horribly wrong. It’s good that some effort’s been made and a see-through engine has been developed, but if it’s going to be badly painted and finished, poorly assembled, and the exhaust mould is going to look like a drunken nipple – well Gemini and JCW need to try harder! Add to that the misplaced gear and it’s all a bit sad.

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Double-use A380 gates at LNI offer more flexibility….

With list prices around £40/$60US, so much more effort is required, not just lip service or ignoring customer and retailer complaints.

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4 thoughts on “S7 Airlines A320neo VQ-BCF Gemini Jets 1:400 GJSBI1699 March 2018

  1. Thanks again for your good review, I have seriously contemplated this model until…

    As I’ve said before, you’re not shy in going close up and do the quality control checks thoroughly. I find that very helpful and as a serious collector, it is not my intention to display my models in my lounge room and admire them from my kitchen. That’s what this hobby is all about for me, to admire their details and it is pointless when the details are poorly finished.

    Keep it up. Kudos!

  2. Is it me or did they put the green primer color in the engine just before the fan? Thats a really nice way of doing it, and makes me much more confident of getting the Gemini Neo when the Air New Zealand ones finally roll out. Great review!

    1. They did indeed duplicate the green in the intake. That’s one of the things that’s so frustrating with this model, some stuff is excellent, yet there’s so much wrong with it at the same time!

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