Virgin Atlantic 747-4Q8 G-VBIG Gemini Jets 1:400 GJVIR1799 2018/19

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You now how Gemini like to maximise easy selling options, and this is one of them. With 744’s vanishing fast from our skies and with the recent success of G-VXLG all they had to do was change wording and the registration to produce another version of  G-VBIG.

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While that sounds cynical, the one company that makes a good 744 is Gemini, and more to the point it’s one of the most difficult liveries to get right. Well a couple of years ago they finally managed it.

The reason I wanted this model in this livery was simple. I’d last flown on her to San Francisco in this livery on 27th June 2014 (flying back on G-VROC the only other of the ‘Heathrow Five’ 744’s in this livery). All were gone by the end of 2015. G-VBIG was stored for a while then returned to service at Gatwick and Manchester.

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G-VBIG on stand at T3 LHR just as we started boarding 27 June 2014

This is the third version of G-VBIG in 1:400 Gemini have released. GJVIR506 dates back to 2004 with the ‘love at first flight’ tiles and wore the “Silver Dream Machine” livery with the thick purple tail bar.

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Shot of the No. 3 & 4 engines from my seat in premium economy, bright daylight brings out the colour

GJVIR506A was released in 2005, same livery but with “back the bid 2012” tiles in support of the London Olympics (which of course won over Paris).

Named “Tinker Belle” and leased from AerCap since May 2014 (previously leased from ILFC 1996-2014), she went into service on 10 June 1996, and when she leaves will be scrapped. As one of the Heathrow Five, she was fitted with 48 Upper Class, 32 Premium and 306 economy. When transferred to the “holiday market” at Gatwick in May 2016 she was refitted to the same as the others operating from there, 14 Upper Class, 66 Premium and 375 Economy.

She’s powered by 4x GE CF6-80C2B1F’s.

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The livery she carried until 2010

One other interesting thing about this model, it was clearly intended for earlier release as the box has the giveaway 2018 date printed on it – yet it never made it here until April 2019.

1.Fuselage

Mould wise nobody but JCW/Gemini do the 744 better, although some finished models are better than others. The United ‘friendship” 744 final model was horrible for example.

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This one is basically a straight duplicate of 2016’s G-VXLG, with the benefit of the larger light grey wi-fi dome over the V/C in Virgin Atlantic.

If anything, the aubergine lettering in the wording is better than G-VXLG, it seems just a little lighter, but that could be quite unintentional as these things change with age and paint is never the same twice.

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Overall the paint and colours, overall finish etc, is excellent. A down mark however for the lack of a lower rear aerial.

2.Wings

Cradle fit, but it’s a good one, despite the fact it’s lacking the perfectly tight fit we’d all prefer, and the front edge ridge just doesn’t ever work. It’s as good as it’s going to get and that’s what we have.

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3.Landing gear

The usually excellent gear continues to impress, it’s all sprung as it should be on the rear main gear and all rotate, but two of the tyres have some seriously big mould lumps on them that stop them rolling naturally.

The nose gear is excellent.

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4. Engines

On G-VXLG the rim paint wasn’t brilliant, on G-VBIG it’s nearly perfect. On top of that the fan colour is a slightly darker silver which just looks far better.  The nacelle paint is however excellent, good colours and good detail.

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5.Nose

All neat, all accurate and excellent all round.

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6.Tail

Another excellent job, not suffering from G-VXLG’s mis-aligned fit, everything lines up where it should. Colours and paint quality outstanding.

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7.Colours

Back in 2016 I said “please remember next time, you got it right here, don’t reinvent it next time, just do the same again”. They have – with a few minor improvements. Now I know they never listen to me, but in the end this is what I would have wanted to see in terms of minor improvements, and it has to be said, you’re never going to get better than this with this livery. It’s perfect.

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8.Score and conclusions

Accuracy

  • -1 for lack of an aerial under the rear

Total 49%

Quality

  • -1 for lumpy tyres

Total 49%

Overall score: 98%

We all know the 744 is vanishing fast, Virgin Atlantic built its business on the back of the 742/744 and while some still fly in old liveries nothing looks smarter or more uniquely on-brand than the 744 in the so-called Billboard livery. If they ever think of replacing it, I’d dread to think how or what with. It’s a unique airline with a unique selling point, even if it is a bit less unique than it was.

This model is the apex of this livery in 1:400. Gemini are to be congratulated on having managed to get it so spot on. I may dislike them as a brand and their attitude is not conducive to fondness, but when they get it right, credit where credit is due. It’s a damned fine model.

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