Of all the special liveries this is the one I really wanted most of all. It takes me back to a more elegant, more refined, calmer time, that even business and first class travel has trouble replicating these days. There are just too many people, too much ‘attitude’ and elegance is a thing of the past.
Having had the privilege of frequent private aircraft use over the years, I’ll admit to being one of those people who will pretty much do or pay anything to avoid other passengers at airports or on board. I don’t want to speak, hear or talk to anyone I don’t know and whatever it takes to isolate me from ‘them’ – I’ll do it. The perfect business seat is one with a door. The perfect aircraft is an empty one. However that rankles with my environmental concerns, so a door will do. I did fly on an empty American Airlines MD-11 in the late 1990’s, but that’s another story.
Having seen the Landor 744 at Heathrow recently, I’m not going to be getting it. I’m not fond of that livery anyway, but the BOAC, that’s something else. It makes me hanker for a different time. Most of you will never be able to appreciate why (age being a factor here) because it’s so hard to understand how much things have changed. It’s an experience you can’t have, and that makes me both very lucky and yet sad, that you too can’t have that moment in a now long-set sun.
Why am I blithering on about feelings and emotions and the peccadilloes of my air travel desires? Because that’s what this livery does to me, it emotes, it excites, it stimulates, it transforms and it permeates what was, with the now.
It’s a deeply emotive branding, it harkens back to an image of Great Britain that is long gone. In all honesty, you can keep it, because the 1960’s were a mess and the 1970’s were a rubbish decade. The sexism, racism, inequality and class ridden angst that went with it were appalling. But that’s not what we think about when we see it. It tends to be the rose in those specially tinted glasses that we view the past through. Who wants to remember the bad bits? Nobody. But we all should.
For those of you unaware, British Overseas Aircraft Corporation, BOAC, was the long haul operator, that joined with British European Airways (BEA), to form British Airways on 31st March 1974. That date was chosen so that the new financial year started on the 1st April, giving the new company a clean fiscal start, as a then state-owned entity.
BOAC ordered 11 747-100’s in 1969, with the first delivered in April 1970. They sat about for a full 12 months until April 1971 because BOAC and the pilot’s union, BALPA, couldn’t agree pay rates – a typical example of British industrial relations at the time. It’s this livery that the 744 is based on.
For me, in the end, it’s the greatest livery in aviation history, the first airline that operated commercial jet aircraft. So Gemini had better have done it proud.
This is of course the standard and once excellent Gemini 744 mould, with the addition of a WiFi satcomms dome amidships. There are two aerials on top, front and rear, but not one underneath and there should be up to four.
The days of polished metal are of course over, and the lower part is painted mid-grey, which looks perfectly fine.
The blue window line is, as far as it goes to the nose, excellent, but it looses the plot a little around the nose cone. From a distance you wouldn’t notice too much, but its still too clumsy at this price point to have anything wrong.
There’s a little bit of fail going on under the tail, and yes that’s a bit picky, but it’s off centre and that’s not really what I expect for this much money on a model that needs to be every bit as good, as say, the retro Lufthansa 748i from a couple of years back.
As far as logo and technical detail go, it’s as good as you’d hope. The ‘100’ logo is a weird thing anyway, and looks odd on the real aircraft. On the model it looks weak, but actually, it’s just so sketchy it’s about as good as it can be at this scale.
The mould – cradle that it is, was refurbished now some 4-5 years ago and its already worn out again. This is not a brilliant fit, The back end on both sides where it fails to fit the fuselage properly, leaves a quite visible – and see through – gap. You can actually see through the landing gear down and through to the other side if you hold it up to the light. That isn’t good enough.
The wings in terms of paint and so on are excellent, it’s the fit that sucks.
Yet more evidence that the 744 mould is in decline – it’s not the first time recently that this has happened. The rear set of main gear are spring loaded, but these seem able to go anywhere they like, in pretty much any direction. One model they’re so rigid its a joke, the next so loose they’re almost falling out. Now they’re not and they won’t, but they look it, and feel it.
Other than that the tyres are lump free, they all roll and the nose gear is excellent.
The paint job is excellent on the nacelles and rims, and the external exhausts are really nice. However, the exhaust interiors are unpainted which is just crass, and again, the fans are still silver. This failure to differentiate with the fan colour is simply ridiculous in this day and age. Gemini really need to do a lot better, but what’s new about that?
Generally, this is very neat, and very much to the sort of standard you’d expect, but right at the tip, that blue band just doesn’t quite join up properly. It’s not quite good enough, and it bothers me that as the 744 mould ages for a second time, it’s days are numbered, just like the aircraft it represents. It’s even clearer the roller missed its target because the forward central shading in the First Class windows has missed the frames.
As mentioned above, the blue centre line paint is off-centre at the tail tip. It looks silly, but it’s underneath and mostly out of sight. It’s still not good enough.
The vertical tail is a good colour, but the gold Speedbird logo doesn’t work well in indirect light, although it’s fine in bright daylight.
Other than the not quite there gold, colours and detail are excellent.
8.Score and conclusions
- -3 lack of underbody aerials
- -2 landing gear rears too loose
- -6 rear wing fit of the cradle
- -4 unpainted exhaust centres
- -4 silver fans
- -2 tail underbody paint off-centre
- -2 nose paint join off the mark
OVERALL SCORE: 77%
This is no model of Model Of The Year. Many of you will be fine with it, because its about what we’ve come to expect from Gemini, and many of you aren’t as nitpicking as I am, but that’s why I’m here doing these reviews. You can choose to what degree you’ll accept their mistakes. And of course, there’s always going to be one or two models that are actually OK. That happens, but by accident rather than design. And that should be what they put on Gemini’s tomb stone when it one day vanishes “Excellence happens, by accident”.
I won’t be buying another Gemini or JCW 744. This mould is dead.
I’m really not delighted with this model at all, and its going to be replaced, but my supplier said “I’ve had a good look and they all seem to be pretty much the same”. Meh!