Well it’s a rare enough day we get new Virgin Atlantic models, never mind new types of aircraft.
This plethora of newbies has come about because of the painful Rolls-Royce B & C Package turbofan issues on the airlines 787-9’s. Virgin Atlantic along with other major airlines is looking at having several aircraft out of action at a time. In this case between 3 and 5. As the consequences began to make themselves apparent in late 2017, Virgin Atlantic was quick to pounce on the recently deceased Air Berlin’s A330’s. Leases were quickly signed and the two aircraft transferred to Virgin Atlantic officially on the 29th January 2018 (G-VMIK), and G-VMNK on 2nd February. Two more, G-VWND and G-VLNM joined on 23rd March and 11th May 2018.
The fact is they’re in operational use for probably a three-year stint. They aren’t new by any means, this one dates back to 2001 and was originally ordered by LTU, going to Air Berlin in April 2009. They aren’t ideal for Virgin Atlantic either, using P&W engines where the airlines A333’s use Rolls-Royce engines.
The plus point however is that A333 pilots are auto-qualified for the A332, which helps with crew rostering and cabin staff will be generally familiar.
On the other hand, the need for the aircraft outweighed Virgin Atlantic’s ability to bring the interiors up to standard. They’re still flying, at least until the start of 2019 summer season at the end of March, with the Air Berlin seating. This hasn’t been entirely good for public relations, especially for those who fly Virgin Atlantic (me being one), because they’re better than everyone else. Virgin Atlantic marketing came up with some positive spin in the seat class naming nomenclature.
There is no Premium Economy seat at all (although Virgin now only call it Premium), the business seats are The Love Seat, The Solo Freedom Suite, and the Solo Corner Suite. Just another name for Air Berlin’s old business class. Economy seats are just that, but there are eight extra leg-room. Compared to the airlines own Upper Class Dream Suites – it’s all a bit basic. Fares on these aircraft didn’t originally make up for it either.
However as I write, Virgin Atlantic have just emailed me their latest spin; a more open and honest approach has been taken with a new web page explaining the A332’s:
The basic mould of the fuselage is the ‘new’ JC Wings version. It’s perfectly OK, its other problems elsewhere that make it so awkward.
Gemini have done absolutely no research on this model. Zero, nothing. They have lazily assumed they knew best and so have produced in pretty much the biggest way imaginable, a wholly inaccurate model.
The paint is completely wrong. Gemini have given us the “full metal jacket version”, an idealised standard livery, with pearly metallic paint on the fuselage and bright candy apple red metallic paint on the engines and tail.
The A346, G-VNAP was purchased so the company gave it the full candy apple red paint, but not the pearl fuselage. Phoenix gave it the full pearl fuselage. So that was wrong.
These four are leased, with relatively short-term lives of around two to three years, maybe more if the airline needs the capacity. However there was no time, or money and the paint is so expensive – around $2m per aircraft – that they were just left with the white – even the tails and engines were painted flat red. So another massive accuracy fail from Gemini.
Do I mind? Well from an accuracy perspective yes I do. From an aesthetic and homogenous collection perspective? Not so much – but that doesn’t pass up Gemini’s failure to conduct even basic research.
There are three aerials up top, but the large and obvious dome has been ignored and just appears as a line, as does the forward dome. For such a new model type this is very poor and cheap skate.
There are none of the three aerials underneath. Again, cheap skate.
The Virgin Atlantic tiles are also, again too black, not aubergine as they actually are on the real thing.
The graphics though – especially the Varga Girl and the name “Honky Tonk Woman” which seems somewhat passé for this day and age, are all clearly legible.
Overall, quality is high, accuracy is low.
Being the new JC Wings version the paint application is excellent. It’s the hysterically awful joke of the over-elevated wings – even in flight they don’t go up this high. The fact that nobody gives a toss at either Gemini or JCW, and the later has done nothing to fix yet another blatant inaccuracy is beyond a joke. It just looks stupid, especially on a diorama.
Plain grey and unadorned, its neat and it’s passable, though the nose tyres are a bit lumpy.
The P&W’s are very different from the A333 RR units and at least they have that right. The rim paint isn’t especially even – especially on the No.2 engine. The fans are also far too bright, even though the inner rim is dark coloured paint. The exhausts are OK but the silver-grey is less than precise.
This is really very neat and highly detailed, as you’d expect from newer production methods. Nothing to fault.
It’s all there and beautifully done, no complaints…
They are correct as you’ll get for Virgin Atlantic colours, they’re just the completely wrong colours for this aircraft type. It’s inexcusably bad really, there is no professionalism at Gemini any more, no pride, and no concern. Just as long as the cash rolls in.
8.Score and conclusion
- -25 for wrong red, wrong fuselage paint, wrong logo lettering colours
- -4 lack of both domes
- -2 lack of aerials underneath
- -2 wrong colour fans
- -10 for those stupid over-elevated wings
7/50 for accuracy
- -2 for minor paint issues around the engines
- -1 for lumps on tyres
47/50 for quality
Overall score: 64%
I despair of Gemini I really do. I said it last time and I’ll say it now, this is the penultimate Gemini I’m looking at this year unless something so urgently essential to my collection comes along that I have to get it. I cannot think of one thing that might be right now.
This is a ridiculous model. To anyone else this is neat, well made model, quality levels are high. However the massive inaccuracies, for anyone who cares about these things, leave you wondering – are Gemini producing toys or adult collectible models, duplicates of the real thing? If these things bother you, you’ll run from this model as fast as you can.
Even more scathing is the fact they can’t be bothered with real domes and all the aerials. Even when they do they don’t do it properly, and for these prices they really should be doing it right. Shame on you Gemini.
And here’s a little thought for you: where’s the Gemini A346? How come Phoenix did it and not the A332? It’s not like either of them to fail to jump on the band wagon…