ANA A380 JA381A Phoenix 1:400 PH04199 July 2018

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If ever there was a story involving hubris on a monumental scale and one company leveraging the greed of another for its own benefit, the tale of the ANA A380 order is it. ANA had absolutely no intention of ordering A380’s – ever. Given the choice, it would probably rather not have them even now, but its greed and determination to eliminate its domestic rival Skymark, led it down a path it’s now stuck with.

Skymark was a make it or break it airline predicated on the fact JAL & ANA had no idea how to compete in a tightly regulated domestic market, they had in effect turned into an almost formalized duopoly. Along comes the owner of Skymark, an erratic Elon Musk type character, called Shinichi Nishikubo, with vast ambition and no small amount of success behind him, derived from online and internet services.

Through will power, and force of personality, he drove Skymark through the cozy duopoly of Japan’s airline giants and made it work. It was Japan’s first low-cost competition and broke the mould.

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The two mostly completed A380’s for Skymark. One was fitted out and I remember flying over it with its tail logo still visible at Toulouse. The pair ended up with Emirates. The third one was part assembled and also ended up with Emirates.

The other two were less than amused. At first they didn’t know what to do, and Japanese corporates take a long time to change direction, but as the significance of Skymark’s success grew – especially in 2008-9 when other airlines were struggling with the recession, they began to fight back, creating their own low-cost alternatives.

The writing was on the wall. Shinichi Nishikubo’s ambitions got the better of him in 2010 and he ordered 6 A380’s from Airbus for new international services – to LAX, SFO and Hawaii. Most observers were stunned, the airline had no experience and no idea how to operate such large aircraft (it was struggling with A330’s) on such routes, never mind how they’d fill the seats in the first place. The aircraft were to have just 388 seats – the lowest ever specified on an A380.

By 2014 Skymark was starting to feel the pressure of the competition it had created. ANA and JAL, never mind their low-cost airlines like Vanilla and Peach, were under cutting its business and it was in dire financial trouble. The A380’s were about to tip the airline over the edge.

Skymark sent delegates to the European Bank that was guaranteeing the finance for export, which instantly triggered alarm bells at Airbus. They sent negotiators to Japan, demanding that if the airline couldn’t meet income targets by the end of that quarter, Shinichi Nishikubo hand over his shares to buyer nominated by Airbus. Airbus were in effect keeping the airline from bankruptcy with the offer, but Nishikubo wouldn’t agree to it. Skymark missed its targets for July, Airbus cancelled the A380 order and demanded compensation. That in effect, made it Skymarks biggest creditor and decision maker, as it plunged into the equivalent of Japanese Chapter-11 bankruptcy protection.

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First roll out

Delta with its Japanese partner, and ANA, in effect became competitors in trying to control what was left. Airbus for most of the time sided with Delta who wanted to break into the Japanese market as a disruptor – until ANA played a master stroke, desperate for Skymark’s slots at Tokyo Haneda – and offered to buy 3 A380’s along with other Airbus aircraft. Airbus changed sides and these three were born…

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ANA’s plan is for a one destination operation; Honolulu. It’s a hotspot for Japanese tourists (1.5 million annual passengers) and Americans to Japan. It will operate mostly all-inclusive package holidays. Fitted with 8 First Class, 56 business class, 73 premium economy, along with 383 economy seats, (total 520). All three will fly from Tokyo, powered by Rolls Royce Trent 970’s.

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The livery was the result of an open public competition, which obtained over 2000 submissions from around the world.

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The runners up
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The Honu design – the giant sea turtle – is endangered and near extinction – ANA says it will support efforts to save this amazing sea creature.
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The three aircraft will each have their own colour and character

UPPER DECK

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The first class suite – ehmmmm….
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business class….
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Premium Economy

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Economy – these fold out to enable booking of family seats as couches

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The onboard lighting is designed to give you a Hawaiian tropical feel from the moment you get on board.

So, with ANA in effect the last entirely new customer for a new A380…there you have it. So what did our dear friends at Phoenix do with the model?

1.FUSELAGE

There is no escaping the fact that Phoenix produce by far the best A380 on the market. It’s the best shape, it’s the correct dimensions, and best of all being cast aluminium it weighs far less than the JCW/Gemini and old Witty moulds. they weight in at almost 400g – this is barely 240g.

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The detail and finish are exceptional. Three upper aerials and a superbly fitted dome up top, Another aerial forward underneath, The technical detail is outstanding, but the real triumph is the quality of the print and its faithful representation of what we’ve seen so far from ANA.

The vast graphic is beautifully done, in terms of shape, high-definition refinement and depth of colour contrast.  While it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea as airliner graphic or special livery, what’s been produced has been done to the highest possible standards. There’s no doubting that. Like it or not, it’s truly superbly reproduced. A triumph.

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2.WINGS

Awesome mould, outstanding fit to the fuselage. Excellent detail, not too much paint – but it only just qualifies there, it’s a hairs breadth away from being too much. In 1:400 model terms, they’re outstanding.

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3. LANDING GEAR

The rear main gear is six wheeled, and they’re individual, recessed, and move on the long axis – backwards and forwards inside the fuselage as well as the bogies rotating. Well one side does, the starboard side is rigid, a disappointing but not fatal flaw.

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The forward four-wheeled gear mounted to the wings are rigid but the bogies all move.

The nose gear is well made, well fitted and the wheels rotate as they do on all the others.

They’re all painted light grey which seems acceptable – better than lurid silver.

4.ENGINES

The huge Trent-970’s are perfectly assembled, see through, with excellent paint finish. The mould however, and the method of assembly is a little out. The rims are too small – they should be the full width of the nacelles, not mildly recessed into them, and the rim isn’t wide enough from the side. The exhaust cone is also far to light a colour. Pylons appear to be excellent.

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The one thing that strikes me as quite unnecessary, and I wonder how much was given up to make them viable, is that the fans rotate. Now on 1:200 I get this is a nice feature on very much more expensive models. I really don’t get why it’s required in 1:400 scale.

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Who is going to sit there and poke something in to make them go round just to prove they do? Well me it’s true, but I’m reviewing it; now you know would you? And once you have, why would you do it again?  Nice try Phoenix but it seems like a totally superfluous idea and too many compromises have been made to get it to work. Visual accuracy is better than pointless rotating fans, it’s not a toy!

5.NOSE DETAIL

I’ll keep this short – outstanding, simply wonderful and superbly done.

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6.TAIL DETAIL

Another wonderful, exceptional piece of model, paint and print quality.

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7.COLOURS

Faultless

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8.SCORE & CONCLUSIONS

Accuracy

  • -4 for the engines – they’re a good effort but unnecessarily compromised for a gimmick

46/50 for Accuracy

Quality

  • -1 for the landing gear rigidity on one side

49/50 for quality

Overall score: 95% 

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This is the highest score we’ve seen this year for anything. It’s much deserved. Wether or not you like the design of it, wether or not you even like the A380 – and it isn’t pretty, but it is an engineering marvel, this is one superb model.

In fact It’s as good if not better than the Witty versions, it leaves the Gemini/JCW mould with its so-wrong nose and to low roof line, deeply in the shade. As an overall package, it’s a model to be proud of. I’m delighted with it, even surprised by it. It’s one of those all to rare moments that I’m able to smile at it, see it, love it and be pleased I’ve got it, and happy that I paid good money for it.

My recommendation: Buy one.

 

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