It’s been a very long time since anyone made a Virgin Atlantic A330-300 – a poorly coloured G-VSXY from both Phoenix and JC Wings – one of which didn’t have the famous ‘flying lady’ on the nose. I’m sure that was the Phoenix one, because annoyingly it was better coloured than the one that didn’t have it, not that it was special in any way.
The ten A333’s Virgin Atlantic ordered have in many ways come to haunt Boeing, because it was a reaction to the huge delays getting the 787 into service. By 2009 the global depression had smacked airlines hard, Virgin Atlantic’s poorly thought out policy of going for “four for the long haul” – all four engined aircraft just as the world was going twin engined at break neck pace, was proving to be deeply uneconomical and seriously complicated the airlines turn around plans. Indeed the airline was hanging by a thread for a while, but did pull through.
Having ordered ten A333’s to fill the gap during the long delays for the 787-9 – which was 5 years late, the airline quickly found they were highly suited to its operations, and popular with customers. They were all leased, and G-VLUV was the last to enter service with Virgin Atlantic because she wasn’t delivered directly to them.
The recession by 2011-12 in aviation was biting hard, and it was decided to put the aircraft out to sub-lease, with her being delivered to China Airlines in their livery and interior fit, re-registered as B18391 in March 2011. They kept her until November 2012 when she was returned to Virgin Atlantic, as business was picking up again, fully refitted and repainted, she joined the airline in February 2013.
Fitted with 33 Upper Class, 48 Premium and 185 economy (28 of which are extra legroom “Economy Delight”), the aircraft are all powered by Rolls Royce Trent 772B-60’s.
So the cost to Boeing? When it came to replacing the A333’s which are due to start leaving service from 2011 at the end of their leases, having also suffered the Dreamliner engine issues, (which surprisingly Boeing gets much of the blame for, pressing so hard to get under-developed engines into service), Virgin Atlantic, who have always been very pro-Airbus, went straight for the A330neo. Not more 787-9’s (and they had options).
When the time comes to replace the 787-9’s – and the first one is already approaching 5 years of a ten year lease, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they went for more A339’s or the A359.
The photos in the slideshow here are of identical sister aircraft G-VRAY taken by me as I boarded her recently – it gives you some real close-ups of what this paint scheme looks like up-close. You can see the pearlescent paint and the dark aubergine lettering shows up with its purple tint in a couple of the photos.
The Phoenix A330 mould has always been a pretty good one, so in basic terms, I have no issues at all. What shines with the Phoenix is that they have made every effort to include the aerials – unlike tight fisted Gemini.
This has no less than three on the roof, and four underneath, including the offset rearmost mid-fuselage pair, one of which is the waste water heater/de-icer.
The small forward dome is also included in the mould.
Detail is excellent, paint quality high and the overall impression is excellent.
Phoenix still use high-gloss paint which lacks realism, but what there is, is exceptionally neat and well defined. Detail is high and legible, the fit of the wings to the fuselage is excellent – better than the Gemini A330neo in Delta livery which is basically an all new wing mould!
There is nothing wrong with the basic mould, tyres and wheels, they all roll, lump free and look neat. What still doesn’t work so well is the excessively toy-like bright silver. What will it actually take to get Phoenix to stop doing this?
The nose gear is neat, but again excessively bright silver. The doors are also too large, it has them deployed at the lift and drop position where the rear part of the door – the longest, opens to let the wheels drop and retract, then closes to just have the hydraulics vertical position doors stay open. They seem to have used too big a front section door, when its actually quite small.
The mould is fine but they’re not as well fitted as one might hope, they look a little oddly angled, but its not severe and you probably won’t notice…after all I have to be picky!
What isn’t good is the rough engine rim and the silver paint again, it looks like it was cut with a hack saw, its just clumsy and far from ideal. The Candy Apple Red paint is fine on the nacelles, but oddly most of the printed-on detail is barely visible except under the camera flash.
Being fan exhaust engines, that is present and correct, but again too silver. On top of that the inside wall of the exhaust is just plain white plastic. Then there’s the main fans – well no amount of persuasion or haranguing seems to drive the Phoenix robots to change that silver. The “this is how it’s done and how it will always be done, because Chairman Mao said we must obey” mentality, that denies any change or innovation, and seems to be deeply ingrained.
Overall it’s neat and detailed, all of the technical requirements are there. The aircraft name is Lady Love, and while the wording is legible the famous flying lady motif is a little too feint. Just about passable but not perfect.
Neat and effective, good colours, good print, well assembled.
The 1966 Candy Apple Red (it’s official title), is as good as if slightly different to Gemini’s. It has to be really bright flash to show any worthwhile difference, so I’m OK with it.
The two solutions to the main pearlescent paint are different, one has a more realistic effect – and that’s the Phoenix, but the Gemini looks better in what we would call a showroom environment. So neither is better, just different.
Now in all honesty I preferred the Phoenix originally – but over time, I’ve come round to preferring the Gemini. Its a preference though, not a criticism or endorsement of either.
8.Score and conclusions
- -2 for the oversized nose gear doors
- -3 for the excessively silver paint on the landing gear generally
- -2 for the fan paint colour
- -4 Rim paint and finish
- -2 overly feint flying lady print
- -2 overly feint engine nacelle print
OVER ALL SCORE: 85%
It’s about average for a Phoenix, certainly a pass but no Model Of The Year contender!
For most people this will fill a very neat hole in their Virgin Atlantic collection. It’s the first time anyone seems to have made one of these ten A330’s and come close to getting them right in years.
Bearing in mind its price point, it’s OK, and I’m happy to have it fill that space in the Virgin Atlantic fleet.
However….Phoenix really need to address these silver paint issues. Why can’t it be changed? What’s the issue? I just don’t get why they are so intransigently opposed to making simple changes? Silo thinking, compartmentalised and uncommunicative? Where do they work? The Boeing 737MAX design team cupboards?
You know China you can steal all the tech you like but if you can’t paint a plastic fan the right shade of silver, what else is all show and no go?