We all know this is a fantasy model, and the airline won’t be taking delivery of its first aircraft until 2019, which will be MSN274.
Virgin Atlantic have ordered 12 of the A35K, 8 of which are expected to be purchased and will be Heathrow based, with a three-class 360 seat layout. Four of the aircraft will be leased from ALC from 2020 and they will replace the oldest 744’s at Gatwick, but using a three- class 410 seat arrangement with fewer Upper Class, more Premium and Economy seating. A completely new Upper Class suite is expected for the A350’s which will be the flagship aircraft type for the airline. All of the remaining 7 A346’s are expected to be retired from Heathrow pretty much on a one for one basis.
There’s a lot of rumour over the Upper Class ‘herringbone’ seating layout. Virgin have been trialling several versions. I’m not surprised they’d want to do something different. The Upper Class on the 789 is comfortable, but it’s very isolating. Couples can’t travel together as every seat is individual, the ergonomics aren’t brilliant when it comes to buttons operating screens and pop-out devices, as I’ve found from experience. There is also a lot of wear and tear in places you don’t expect. They also have this bizarre thing where your back is to the window – in effect, you can’t even see out of it.
While the service and food is amazing, there’s just something lacking for the often hefty prices they charge. I suspect they’ve already made up their minds, seats are a very long lead item, and have proved a constant headache for suppliers to maintain delivery schedules. In any even it is the most anticipated new aircraft type expected in the UK any time soon.
I don’t but fantasy models often. This one was hyped by retailers in the UK trying to panic everyone into pre-ordering, and a lot were sold. You can still find one if you really want it. I won’t be getting the BA A35K either, as its looking more likely with every passing day that BA is going to use the A350 as the launch for a new livery.
From a first impression you could happily give this good marks. There is nothing apparently, immediately wrong with it, and awful lot that appears good.
For one, this is a revised mould – long overdue – and let’s hope applied with equal speed to the more common A359 version. The difference is startling and obvious even from a distance. JC Wings new mould used by Gemini is finally, the A350 we should have had from the start, and not some half-baked derivative we’ve had to put up with for far too long. It’s so good, it transcends even the Phoenix version – which itself was never right, but far superior to the almost Dreamliner nosed old JCW/Gemini offering.
The paint on this particular fuselage is outstanding, and for once, somebody has actually applied the correct aubergine colour to the lettering in the main Virgin Atlantic logos, of which there are, after all, three; both sides and below.
There are three aerials up top but not one underneath – there are three under the Phoenix A35K by way of comparison.
The satcomms dome is fairly good, reasonably well seated, but with a slight mould flaw, and not as precisely fitted as perhaps would be appropriate for the price point – the best part of £50/$76.
The technical detail is intelligently and thoughtfully accurate, and yet relatively straightforward. Really there’s nothing print and paint wise to complain about.
Obviously the flaps up version as this is merely a Gemini branded product. The white paint is sharp and clean, without excessive thickness so the detail is clear.
The leading edges are a subtle, neat and accurate aluminium finish. The wings fit seamlessly into the fuselage.
It’s hard to decide if they have extended the length of the sharklets. Compared to the Lufthansa A359 D-AIXA, they have, compared to the recent A359 Finnair Marimmeko Kevi version MSN134, they haven’t.
The first delivery aircraft with the 35% larger sharklets is MSN219 just delivered to Iberia, so it appears it’s all a bit finger in the air as to when, where, or why, the new wings were applied on the models. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt on this one.
3. Landing gear
The nose gear is not good, and this seems to be an all-brands issue, it’s weak and refuses to stand vertically for long, with a tendency to rest on one tyre. The starboard side main gear is also less than brilliant, tilting noticeably to the right when it’s flat on the ground.
Excellent pylons and an excellent finish on the nacelles. Engine exhausts are very neat and good colours. The rims on A350’s are much thinner than on the Dreamliners, but some of the paint while good, is a tiny bit thin in places.
What doesn’t work for me is the fans. The outer rim of the fan mould isn’t brilliant and the fan colour is well away from realistic.
Another thing probably missing? The RR logo on the engines. The 787-9 has them there’s no reason to suspect it would be different here, but after the Trent-1000 issues who knows!
Largely alluded to above, it has to be said that we finally have a resounding winner! JC Wings have modified the mould significantly – improving it to as good as it’s ever going to be, and for that we should all be pleased.
Even so I have to ask why was it so wrong, and why did they let it go on for so long? This puts the Phoenix A350-1000 in the shade now, and makes it the deficient model. Rather oddly it also stands out so much when you see older JCW/Gemini A359’s they look positively embarrassing.
Its also one in the eye for the less than bright individuals who have told me repeatedly it was never wrong in the first place. I’m going to say it despite my better self saying not to: “I told you so!” Did that make me feel better? Yeah, actually it did!
Other than that, the rest of the nose detail deserves some commendation. Not least the cockpit windows, which are sublime, absolutely superb in every way. Sensor and Picot tube detail is excellent, along with the nose dome, and the assumed Virgin Flying Lady – though it has to said of late you can’t guarantee the airline won’t have individualised that for the first of a new type.
While the paint colour is excellent and the logo befits it, matching seamlessly to the vertical over the curve of the fuselage, there’s a bit too much glue on the horizontals to red tail fixing in places, giving the red an apparent wobbly finish. It is minor I know, but again the price point – £50 demands high quality. Another minor but still imperfect observation – is the thickness of the white lettering on the tail – it’s just a bit thin and a tiny bit too transparent.
Absolutely faultless. The paint on the fuselage is outstanding, The “1966 Candy Apple Red” spot on, and the aubergine lettering as it should be. A triumph.
8.Score and conclusions
No I’m not scoring it down because it doesn’t really exist! based on what we know of Virgin Atlantic’s livery and the fact it’s unlikely to change because they can’t afford a fleet-wide repaint…
- -2 for lack of aerials underneath
48/50 for accuracy
- -3 for weak, leaning nose gear
- -2 for leaning main gear
- -2 for engine fan moulds – that ‘detail’ should be out of sight
- -2 for thin engine rim paint
- -2 for wrong fan colour
- -2 for over-glued horizontal stabilizers
- -1 for slightly too thin (as in paint thickness) white tail lettering
36/50 for quality
Overall score 84%
Now that is a very good score for a Gemini branded anything these days, well above any send-it-back margin. it’s not going to win it Model of The Year, but it should make for an excellent template to produce the real thing when the first one arrives at Heathrow in 2019.
While it is Gemini branded, we all know this is a big improvement from JC Wings. I’m told that the A359 has already been modified but no model using it has yet been released.
And Phoenix you have had so many problems with your A359 it’s now time to take stock, modify the mould and get back in the game. For the A350-1000 crown now sits with JCW – have no doubt about that, and Gemini will profit from that handsomely.
With a modified A350-900 – they are in effect, putting the Phoenix versions out to pasture, unless they in turn, make a real effort to bring it up to scratch.