HiFly Malta – whose call sign is Moonraker – a James Bond book reference created by Ian Fleming and turned into a movie in 1979, is the other half of the Portuguese based airlines incarnation, but registered in Malta which has different tax and regulatory systems, encouraging airlines and leasing companies to domicile there.
It’s not without some irony that Moonraker is its call sign. It’s owner, Paulo Mirpuri has interests in a wide range of businesses and a substantial foundation devoted to environmental, scientific, art and cultural issues. He’s the very epitome of the influential, wealthy, apparently well-meaning philanthropist types Fleming and his successors turned into Bond Villains. I suspect he’s well aware of the comparison or he wouldn’t have been so overt about it, and for that he has my admiration, it’s both subtle and witty.
This is man who has a jet black A343 (1 of 6) and an A380 in his airline’s fleet. Possibly two of the least environmentally sound aircraft you’re going to find – yet has the sharp irony to use them to advertise the demise of the worlds environment, to which they are in many ways, some of the largest net contributors. The irony of it is almost painful.
Gala balls, and events for the rich and famous, it’s another world for most of you, but that’s how corporates and politicians work and so does this foundation. The appearance of well-intentioned wealth is brilliant marketing and PR; and a magnet for others who want to associate with it, while assuaging their consciences for the lack of real action on the climate.
The acquisition of an A380, MSN006, formerly of Singapore Airlines is quite a daring move. It’s been quite successful as well, gaining traction in the British Press and global aviation news when Norwegian for one, was forced to hire it in to cover the 787-9 Rolls Royce engine crisis.
The aircraft was one of the first built, and it suffered as a result of it. SIA had to send it back to Airbus for six months while the wing root was replaced and strengthened following fatigue issues. The first aircraft were also over weight and not as fuel-efficient as they were supposed to be. SIA only leased them and they were gone as fast as it was viable to make happen in 2017 when the lease was up.
Owners, Germany’s Dr Peters Leasing and Doric faced the likelihood the first aircraft would be broken up for spares – a welcome move in many ways as there is a strong market for used kit on A380’s that Airbus has a grip on with new parts only, but not what a leasing company wants for its hyper-costly asset.
HiFly selected what they considered the best aircraft and Doric took on the lease. Little was done. It apparently required basic servicing and SIA had left the interiors intact having no need for them. She went into service with HiFly on July 4th 2018, still with 16 First class, 60 business class and 399 economy.
The livery is light blue, almost turquoise on the port side and darker ocean blue on the starboard. The light blue has “Not too late for coral reefs” and the dark blue “Coral Reefs Gone By 2050”. Unfettered sea level and temperature rises are mostly responsible of course, in another irony, as it was the very thing that created the Great Barrier Reef in the first place 10-50,000 years ago, post Ice Age.
This is the excellent and still best A380 mould in 1:400 scale. It’s lightweight aluminium has enabled Phoenix to produce the most accurate of all of them by some margin.
The paint is generally excellent, although the centre line marking the border of the two blues could be a little crisper on the roof, it’s excellent underneath.
Three upper aerials, and one lower one are present, although again, the way Phoenix fill the holes with just the aerials and make no effort to fill the space around them, isn’t the best finish.
The graphics, small fish, coral, waves and the printed on windows and technical detail, are all outstanding.
While the mould is excellent, the fit is a tiny bit sloppy and not the seamless finish we’ve seen on some of these A380’s. The paint on the upper and lower surfaces is as always, overly glossy.
Terribly shoddy. First, the nose gear was bent to one side and too far forward. For these photos I’ve left it as delivered but with some care it’s now been corrected.
The main gear is painted light grey, I have no problem with that, but some of the tyres are rough and one has the biggest lump of excess flashing I’ve ever seen hanging from a tyre. Glad to see the quality control is there as always – or not.
While the new see-through fans are commendable on this scale in principle and on this size of aircraft, the fact that the rims are too small for the nacelles, renders this somewhat pointless. They look mildly silly and ill-thought out, seemingly each one doesn’t quite fit in a different part of the nacelle. You can say I’m being overly harsh, but these things are wider than an A320’s fuselage!
Of course Phoenix have probably decided they’ll do them and that’s that for the next zillion years, no matter how much you moan about them. They’re notoriously deaf to doing anything about anything once committed.
The fans are still far too bright, but like in the Alien movies, in the vacuum of Chinese business practice, nobody can hear you scream. It just goes on, beating yourself against the Great Wall hoping to someone will hear you. Because they can – look at the Air Belgium A343 which I know was specified by two European collectors. So why can’t they do this every time?
Other than that the engines are OK, though I think the print quality could have been better on the nacelles, it’s a tiny bit patchy in some lettering if you look.
Very basic in its white, it’s the nose gear cock-up that dominates it. Otherwise the technical detail is fine.
Both horizontals are a little over-glued, the vertical appears to be not quite as far in as I’d expect. Graphically they’re fine.
8.Score and conclusions
- -4 silver fans still too bright and lack realism
- -4 engine rims not quite big enough for nacelles
42/50 for accuracy
- -2 for the roof paint line where the colours meet, too rough
- -5 for extremely poorly fitted nose gear
- -4 for other lumps, excess rubber and so on, on main gear
- -2 for less than ideal wing fit
- -2 for over-glued horizontal stabilizers
35/50 for quality
Overall score: 77%
There’s an element of the haphazard and lack of quality control with this model. We’re fast approaching the end of the year and MOTY 2018 will be revealed on SATURDAY 29th DECEMBER. This isn’t it.
Phoenix clearly have the best 1:400 A380 mould at present, it stands head and shoulders above the rest, but this sort of quality isn’t good enough from Phoenix as it wouldn’t be good enough from anyone. This scored just 3% above the Gemini Qantas from a couple of months ago. It should be way higher than that. Phoenix need to get a grip – yet again, not for the first time, and think a bit harder about what quality means.