JAPAN AIRLINES 777-346ER JA741J Phoenix 1:400 04184 April 2018

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Japan Airlines isn’t an especially large airline based on numbers of aircraft, at just 161. Compare that to ANA, its largest and most obvious competitor with 219 – and even that isn’t really big by the standards of many international airlines.

When it comes to the 777, JAL operates 23 772’s and 17 773’s of which 13 are ER’s delivered between 2004 and 2009.  This model, JA741J was third from last, delivered in September 2009.

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She’s been through one refit in July 2014, when the original configuration of F8, C77, W46, Y115 seats was changed to F8, C49, W40, Y147.

The aircraft is fitted with the GE90-115B engine and that forms an important part of this model review. It’s the first of the long-awaited Phoenix see-through 777 engines we’ve been expecting for over a year.

It replaces one of the better solid engines that usually came with a good fan colour. It needs to be just as good to make the grade.

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The aircraft is often used on the Heathrow route (along with Paris and New York) – indeed as I’m writing she’s just coming from Tokyo Haneda and is over the North Sea. My interest in it, is there’s a very high chance I shall be on her or one of her sisters later this year.

1.Fuselage

The only reason this livery is even vaguely worthy is because it’s based on Japan’s national flag. Just as Finnair get away with their rather bland offering, also a flag-based concept. It makes it excusable!

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The only other thing is that it has the bird logo in common with Lufthansa – they’re both supposed to be members of the Crane family.

White does have another advantage however, when it comes to assessing quality. If there’s a mistake you can bet your bottom dollar it’s going to show up.

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So the first thing is the paint. It is, frankly, flawless. It’s a superb, clean, dust free, lump free and bump free paint job, equal to the very latest levels of paint quality we’ve seen from Panda on the Etihad A330, JC Wings deeply flawed, but superbly painted A350-1000 Airbus prototype, and their outstanding 787 flaps-down ANA 787-9.

There is a full wi-fi dome inserted above the forward wing root. It’s mounted reasonably well but by no means excellent; it needs urgent improvement and a clean mould. Three upper aerials and a moulded-in dome compliment it further.

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Underneath at the rear third, is the red waste water aerial; always a welcome detail.

Technical print and detail is outstanding, with neat windows, super-fine detailing and ultra-legible lettering, even on the smallest wording around the UNICEF logo in front of door five.

Overall it’s a high precision paint and print job.

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2.Wings

Another tour de force of excellence – a beautiful set of wings, but I would still say too highly glossed, and yet, despite that, it doesn’t look too thick, but it still swamps a lot of the mould detail.

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Having said that, the quality and overall accuracy and finish is first-rate, from over-wing escape runs to wing markings, along with the silver leading edges. They are a bit too silver to be fair, they need to be a less reflective aluminium colour ideally, but that’s a bit nit-picking, they’re not as bright and garish as some.

Overall, the wings are seamlessly fitted and really look first-rate.

3.Landing gear

Phoenix have had now, close on to three years to fix the problems with the landing gear quality, mostly when it comes to the appalling doors, lack of paint and zinc rot we’ve seen, on what looks like hand-beaten lumps of scrap. It affected the 777 and the A350’s.

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While this isn’t as bad as we’ve seen in the past by a very long way, there is a ripple effect in the paint on the outer doors that suggest they’re just not quite right. The door shape is less than precise and there are dings and marks visible. However while I’m telling you this, it really isn’t critically bad, it’s just not really as good as it could be with a little more effort.

It seems inexplicable that with all the bad feed back they’ve had over this from retailers, and enthusiasts (aka The Customer), and their own enquiries, they can’t yet fix it 100% after nearly three years!

The Silver hydraulics are also a bit too bright and the bogies seriously loose. The inner centre tyre on the right side has a blob of black paint on the wheel.

Other than over-bright silver paint the nose gear is fine.

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4.Engines

This of course is the real focus of this model. I’d been told well back into 2017 that we’d get these see-through’s on the 777’s from Phoenix, but they never materialised on a model I bought in the last 12 months.

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Firstly the mould seems OK. The white nacelle is excellent, the silver rims outstanding, especially in paint quality.

The rims are one part inserted from the front inward, and part of the mould is the inner intake, so it’s all silver and that’s OK. The fans being on the same mould it seems cannot be painted a different colour though, and that’s frankly a huge drawback.

The problem at the rear is the exhaust mould is right, but poor paint has spoiled it. It should be in three parts, the outer bypass shield on the core, the inner dark exhaust and the cone exhaust smaller again. They are there, but the whole core has been sprayed silver – a silver that’s neither realistic nor appropriate.

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The main gear doors aren’t flat, are dented, not cut well. Engine mid-exhaust section not well moulded, poorly painted

By not applying the darker paint properly over the cone, only half of the middle section of the exhaust is done. Partly that’s caused by too much silver paint, and then painting over it becomes difficult, secondly by not having a quite sharp-enough mould.

So what do we end up with? A set of see-through engines, but with silver fans – a retrograde step if ever there was one, and a not particularly special exhaust.

Frankly I can live without see-through engines if the rims, exhaust and especially the fan colour are accurate. These massive engines are essential to get right, they’re huge and a major eye-attractant when you first see the model.  Frankly I’m not even convinced the fan appearance and rims are really that accurate.

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Rim paint may be neat, fan colour is ridiculously outdated

This is all a bit of a novelty value over accuracy and detail. I don’t want novelties, I want accuracy.

And that brings us to the paint on the nacelles – the white is fine, the red markings ideal, but as you can see from the top-most photo, there are thick black bars under each engine – these are an almost invisible silver mist on the model. It’s a relatively minor detail, but on an aircraft almost entirely devoid of colour, every last detail shows up and matters even more.

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5. Nose detail

Generally excellent, including a Oneworld logo on the loading side No.1 door. Good but not brilliant cockpit windows (the silver frames on the dark glass sections is a bit rough), lots of technical detail.

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6. Tail Detail

Well fitted, excellent logo on one side (the right), excellent details. However the left side logo is blurred underneath and rough.

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Note the blurred paint at the bottom of the crane logo
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The wi-fi dome looks especally poor at this angle

7.Colours

Faultless

8.Score and conclusion

Accuracy

  • -6 for the engines, novelty value over substance doesn’t cut it.
  • -2 for the landing gear paint colour
  • -2 for the missing black bars on the engines

40/50 accuracy

Quality

  • -4 landing gear door quality, loose gear, mis-coloured wheel
  • -2 for the blurred tail logo on the left side
  • -2 for the wi-fi dome – mould isn’t brilliant and it’s not well inserted

42/50 for quality

Overall score: 82% 

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Across the board this is a reasonably good model, 82% is an OK-ish score but not outstanding.

Those engines though, it really is a novelty value and it’s not worth the loss of previously excellent detail. There is no need for compromise at the factory. Phoenix can and should force the manufacturer of the engines to produce what they need to be accurate. Why go backwards for the sake of a see-through engine nobody is going to look at twice?

Engines like this were being made by Witty five years ago. These look identical. But is it so very hard to give us the accuracy we crave half a decade on?

 

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