British Caledonian was based at Gatwick and in effect was set up through government positive action to counter the state owned BOAC/BEA and eventually British Airways. It was though, a private company.
Despite its very South of England base it retained a perpetually Scottish flair, with crew in tartan uniforms throughout its life, and naming its aircraft after Scottish personalities.
I am proud to say I actually did fly on BCal – a BAC-111-500 in June 1986 to Manchester from Gatwick. The return trip was the only time so far, that I’ve ever lost luggage – it went to Oporto without me, but in those days the airlines actually delivered it back to your home address and it turned up three days later.
Many people saw the end of BCal in 1987 as a bad thing, and it plagued British Airways for years, as their staff had better pay and conditions than the tight fisted Lord King, CEO of BA, would pay their own staff. It took well near two decades to iron out those discrepancies from British Airways.
In the mid-1970’s British Caledonian searched for a wide-body capable of replacing the Boeing 707. They considered both the Boeing 747–100/200, the McDonnell Douglas DC-10–10/DC-10-30 and the Lockheed L-1011–250/L-1011–500 TriStar.
In 1976, British Caledonian chose the DC-10 above the others, placing a order for 10 DC-10 Series 30 aircraft , with General Electric CF6–50C engines and intercontinental range capability of 10,000 km. They also ordered three DC-10 Series 10’s with lower thrust General Electric CF6–6 engines, which were allocated for European flights.
Deliveries started in 1977, with the introduction to revenue service occurring on 20th March of the same year. They operated not only inside BCal’s network, but also operated charter services from Europe to the Caribbean.
This aircraft, G-BHDI was built on 7 May 1980 and delivered new to British Caledonian Airways on 21st July 1980. It was taken over after BCal was bought out by British Airways in April 1988.
Originally named Robert the Bruce – The Scottish Warrior, she was renamed Forest of Ae by BA.
BA operated the aircraft until 1999 when it was stored at Manchester, UK. Ferried to Venice Marco Polo, Italy in July 1999 and re-registered N47831, she was converted to cargo in November 1999.
Leased to Luxembourg based Cargo Lion in February 2000 as LX-TLD through to March 2001 when they ceased trading, she was again stored, in Luxembourg, until August when she was leased to Ugandan airline DAS Air Cargo, initially as N402JR and re-registered 5X-JCR in February 2004. It was returned to the lessor in February 2006 and leased to Arrow Air in September of the same year as N450ML. She remained in service with Arrow Air until they collapsed in the 2010 cargo airline massacre following the post 2008-9 financial collapse. After 30 years in service she was initially parked at Miami, then transferred to Opa-Locka in Florida in August 2010. She was broken up there on site, in January 2013.
This model, which has been in someones collection for 17 years, is pristine. In fact its been a really pleasing find. Coming from Gemini’s early days, (they made just 2,500) the quality is exceptionally high.
The fuselage paint is just perfect, not a mark anywhere, not a bleed line or blur to be found. My only argument with it is that the underbody paint is silver and not bare metal.
When you see some of the cock-ups that happen on modern models – especially those on older moulds – you have to wonder where the technology has changed for the better? Frankly this is as good, if not better than even the best of the most recent models produced with modern methods.
This livery always was very smart and it doesn’t disappoint in model form. It’s rare I get excited these days about new models as so many are tediously average. I suppose this has a nostalgia to it as well. As many of you will find, like it or not, as you get older you’ll look back and wonder where the hell all that time went and what you did with it!
In any event, it doesn’t alter the quality of the model, it’s wonderful.
Look at these wings and remember that computational fluid dynamics was something of a pipe dream, and these were engineered from drawings and done the analogue way. The cradle is extremely tight and well fitted, you’d almost not know it was there.
Paint is high quality and consistent with a good silk-matt finish, everything is such high quality, and no quirky little mould issues or fails. It just looks pristine.
3. Landing gear
The low point of this model is the old and detail free gear, this was quite normal then, so it’s one of those things you have to live with. However it has to be said, the gear is neat, free of flashing, the tyres on axels approach is, for its type, well executed. It seems like so many things, cost cutting down the years resulted in poorer solutions.
Three General Electric CF6–50C’s powered this aircraft. The centre mounted is, as always with these fan free. The wing engines are all silver, quite nice details and have very neat moulds. Decals and nacelles all seem to be appropriate to the photos. Silver fans though.
Just gorgeous. The paint almost seems like an enamel, its such high quality and so well done. Detail is fulsome and accurate, with superb cockpit windows, all bright chrome as they originally were delivered.
Its even more impressive because of the way the livery dips under the nose. these days you’d be lucky if they could even join both sides up, so this is just another testimonial to the quality of the past.
6. Tail detail
Superb moulds, excellent paint and logos, tight fit, excellent finish. Totally commensurate with the rest of this splendid model. These early models had a separate tail section underneath to hold the horizontal on, but it barely notices except in photos!
7. Paint and colours
Exemplary. Faultless. Stunning quality for a Gemini.
8.Score and conclusion
It’s not entirely fair to judge such an old model by modern standards, yet I will, not in harsh judgement but as a simple comparison, so please think of it slightly differently.
- -3 There are no aerials, should have one up, two down.
- -4 underbody paint colour – it was originally bare metal but this has been painted on the model a silver grey
The quality is simply outstanding, everything about it speaks volumes about how models were made then, and that it was quality, not quantity that mattered.
That’s an amazing achievement for a model fast approaching 18 years of age. It’s also quite depressing that it simply demonstrates how Gemini went from being a brand that really cared about what it produced, to one that only seems to care about the profits it can leverage from its decrepit old moulds, and charge 40% more for the ones JCW let it use.
When a model that dates back to 2002 – 5 years before the first iPhone – looks better than something produced all these years later with all the apparent technology and experience to do better, you have to wonder quite what progress has delivered in this field.
What it has produced is viable, exciting new manufacturers – NG is the leader now from that perspective, with Panda/HYJL brands not far behind. JC Wings has improved, but still doesn’t deliver on schedule or in good time. Phoenix has remained stagnant and is slowly slipping. Gemini is like Wiley Coyote, legs spinning mid air before crashing down. There’s only so long a brand can last based on marketing hype and crappy moulds.
I see Gemini now as the place people just starting out go for models, then they learn and become more discerning, moving on. Gemini can carry on only because of some peculiar aversion Phoenix and JCW have to produce brands like American, Delta and United. It’s always seemed so very strange that they all stick to regional specialities, never fully encroaching on the others ‘patch’. Very strange indeed, almost as if…
Well would you look at that I’ve run out of space.