This is a special model of a momentous aircraft. For China Airlines it’s the last of their A350 orders – making them the first airline to ever take delivery and complete its entire order, of this relatively new type of aircraft.
Fourteen of the type are in service with the Taipei based Taiwan ‘flag’ carrier, the first was delivered in September 2016 and this last one in October 2018. Two others, have special liveries, B-18901 with the Syrmaticus Mikado (Mikado Pheasant) and B-18908 with the Urocissa Caerulea (Taiwan Blue Magpie) liveries.
All of the aircraft are equipped with 32 business, 31 premium and 243 economy seats.
This aircraft follows on from the previous final 777-300ER, B-18007, which also had the Boeing livery mixed with the airlines own. Quite why they feel the need to do this – something you’d expect more on a first rather than last aircraft, and from a launch customer, remains a bit of a mystery, but there we go.
China Airlines last A350-900 arrived with EVA Air’s first 787-9 – an interesting contrast in models, and that will be the next review.
What else is special about this A359 from Phoenix? It’s the first one I’ve bought with the allegedly revised mould correcting the nose shape – this is its fourth iteration since launch. It started out too long and with a wing root issue, as well as the nose shape being wrong. They shortened the model and fixed the wing root in the second version and then modified some other very minor inaccuracies a couple of months later. They persisted with this wrong-nosed version (even though it was better than the now old JCW and Gemini version) until this year.
So many quality issues bedevilled the Phoenix A350 in 2016-17 and most of early 2018 that I simply couldn’t be bothered with it. It’s had everything from engines on the ground to oversized wheels and tyres, to the disastrous TAP Portugal fantasy model that every single piece fell out of, wings, tail the lot! How it was allowed to become such a cock-up is beyond me.
Phoenix tend to be reactive, they wait for someone else to do it better, then ramp up their game to surpass or just equal it by just enough to get by.
This time however, having a fondness for Taiwan I decided it was one worth investing in, and it’s quite a fascinating looking livery.
First off the nose mould shape. This is something that has eluded every manufacturer so far. It continues to do so. Even the much vaunted AV400 version, for all its clever extras, still hasn’t got the nose right, and if this Phoenix is any different to the previous ones it’s not by much.
The nose is fatter, it’s got a little bit more angle to it from the cockpit upward, but not to the point of being accurate.
Now I think these photos speak volumes – that Phoenix top photo clearly shows the mould is different, but not in the right way. The bottom photo shows how far away it is from the mostly accurate shape of the JCW A35K.
It astounds me that nobody has managed to get this 100% right after all this time.
Other than that, and in fairness to Phoenix, the fuselage has improved quality in several areas, The aerials for one are very neat, well seated and the holes they’re in aren’t obvious.
The big rear wi-fi dome is very well fitted and seated, with none of the far too frequent mould fails we’ve seen in the past.
Where this model really shines is the superb graphic quality. The carbon fibre weave effect in the rear is extremely well done, mixing the matt lilac colours with the shinier deep blues.
In terms of the standard ‘technical’ detail, everything appears to be where it should be and is good quality.
There are mistakes however: The registration should appear white on black at the rear and black on white behind door 1 on the both sides. There is a registration white over livery at the rear, but the forward reg is missing.
The usual high-gloss paint but with good markings and the colour is close enough to be passable, but I think it’s a little bit dark, yet not enough to throw my toys out of the pram over.
Wing installation is almost seamless and the chrome leading edge satisfactory, which means not overly bright. The wing tips are excellently finished, but they’re not the new extended versions as they should be. these have been fitted as standard to A350’s since the Iberia A359 months ago now.
Some of the tyre lumps are a joke but that’s par for the course with Phoenix. However the doors and gear hydraulics are all neat and the old problems of rot and poor moulds seem to have gone here, for now at least.
The problems of gear height and nose wheels angles seem to have been resolved too. Long over due.
Mother of mercy save me! One engine has the exhaust cone painted dark titanium, the other is light silver. Annoying because the rest of them are perfectly OK, with good fans, rims and they’re see through. Just that stupid cone issue. Quality control again, or should we say lack of.
5. Nose detail
Remarkably good all round, no complaints. A high point, other than the exhaust cones.
8.Score and conclusions
- -4 Incorrect or missing registration
- -2 for poor tyres
- -5 Exhaust cone colour fail – to obvious to be acceptable
Overall score 89%
Spoilt by silly mistakes and that ridiculous engine cone quality issue.
It’s the engine issue that really hurts, it’s just such a stupid mistake and it should have been spotted!
It’s better than many models but its not the best of models. It certainky isnt going to win a title any time soon.