China Southern was only founded in 1995. It’s now China’s largest airline and one of the worlds biggest with 616 aircraft at the time of writing and 28 more due this year.
The airline took delivery of MSN318 A350-900 B-308T on 27 June 2019. Now I don’t often buy Chinese airlines as they’re of little relevance to my collection, bu this livery is one of my favourites. It has a sort of 1950’s ocean liner or express train look about it that simply works. A simple, classy livery.
The new aircraft isn’t quite what you’d expect inside. It is, to be fair, something of an off-the-shelf basic interior.
Business Class (28 seats) are in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone layout, using the Recaro CL6710 seat chosen by ElAl for their 787-9’s and TAP Portugal’s A339’s. Blue leather and something they think looks like wood, has eerie similarities to 1970’s formica. Add that to beige plastics and you have a very retro feel that seems more accidental than designed.
Premium economy doesn’t look very premium, with Recaro’s PL3530 seat and a 38″ pitch with foot rest. These are fitted 2-4-2.
Behind that are the 3-3-3 layout 261 seats in economy – the same Recaro CL3710’s fitted in Delta’s A359’s, which are the basic industry standard 17.4″ wide at the hip seats. But they are OK as economy go (leg room apart) – as my colleagues found last year while I sat in business class…
So much for the real thing inside. It’s not quite as inspiring as I might have hoped and not a patch on the China Airlines A350’s. China Southern’s start flying international later this year.
This article was delayed by information from Apple that after 5 years they’ll no longer support Aperture and it won’t even work when the new MacOS Catalina arrives in a few weeks time. I’ve been expecting it, but it means I’ve had to learn a much more complex photo editor in a day, so apologies! I still intend to do nothing to the aircraft model itself – never have, never will.
The standard Phoenix A359 fuselage. When you think of the history of this mould it’s not been a great success and later this year I’m planning on an updated all-brands comparison as we now have so many versions.
In the beginning the mould was too long and had to be shortened by 1.4mm. The nose was also modified to try and more closely match the final A350 design (better but still, even now, wrong) – something JCW/Gemini never did until 2018, producing dozens of ridiculously inaccurate models.
Phoenix also modified the wing root but its not accurate even now.
There was then a history of too-short landing gear, zinc-rotted door moulds, over sized wheels, badly fitting engines that rested on the ground, culminating in the model of the never-happened TAP Portugal version, that had every part of it fall off, and a wing fitted backwards.
So you’ll forgive me if this isn’t my favourite mould.
Nose shape apart, now the worst of them all, but not as bad as the atrociously bad original JCW/Gemini, the details are actually pretty good. Three aerials on the roof, two underneath, both the wi-fi and navigation domes on the roof, are all good details.
The main rear wi-fi dome is especially improved – these have been frankly disgracefully bad moulds on more occasions that its worth recounting. This time it sits neatly, has no gaps, or blobby bits of metal missing.
The quite complex livery – a set of varying density flat colour and metallic coach lines that widen at the nose, have been executed with considerable aplomb. They are straight, neat, precise and there are no blurs or cracks.
Issues so prevalent earlier this decade like misaligned windows and technical detail, all seem to be a thing of the distant past.
The wings as a mould and in terms of paint and detail are excellent. I really have no complaints about them. Even the wing tip China Southern logo is well done on both faces.
The problems arise with the starboards side wing – something has happened to the root insert and the whole thing looks like its failed to fit properly if you look at it from eye level.
These problems normally arise when the insert bracket has flashing on the edge that meets the wing bracket from the other side in the fuselage, stopping it from fitting flush with the fuselage. It’s often a sign of ageing moulds.
It’s had consequences as we’ll see below.
All the usual over-silvered paint, but this time the wing issue above has caused the gear to be slightly kicked up on the same wing, so it doesn’t sit flat.
Many of the tyres are not well fitted, and there are lumps. The nose gear was not inserted properly – an age old issue with Phoenix – and it was pointing forwards, when as we all know, on the A350 it stands ram-rod straight in the vertical.
My main gripe with these engines is the rims aren’t big enough for the nacelle mould. They look like they don’t fit. Talking of the fit, the engine fit to the pylons isn’t the neatest.
Paint is good, colour is OK, the see through Rolls Royce units look great from a distance, but too close and the failings become apparent. It passes the naked eye at 2ft away test, but that’s a close call.
While the shape may be wrong, the overall paint and technical detail are excellent, no paint issues, no mis-matched lines, lots of technical detail, including the sensors. Interestingly the sensors show up much more in photos than they do to the naked eye.
While it’s all there, the bottom of the vertical stabiliser is gluey on the port side, too much to ignore. The way the mould works, with the curved-in insert isn’t the best way of doing things, making it all look a bit gappy. There’s also visible glue in the horizontal stabiliser gaps.
No issue with the bright white paint, or any of the corporate colours. Excellent.
8.Score and concluions
- -3 overly silver landing gear looks toy-like
- -2 Nose mould, it needs correcting, it’s gone on too long being wrong
- -2 engine rims just aren’t the right size
- -3 root wing mould issues
- -4 landing gear – poorly fitted nose gear, tyres, lumps, one side doesn’t touch the ground properly
- -3 excessive visible glue
Overall score 83%
This is only just a pass really. It has all the potential to be good but it isn’t made well enough to get past the usual Phoenix weakness – lack of attention to the ancillary equipment; gear, engine rim moulds.
The problem as I stated at the top of this review, is that the Phoenix A350 was a flop, it only managed to stay the course because the JCW/Gemini mould was worse. Now thats been re-made and massively improved. The AV400’s that are due in the coming weeks are said to be outstanding. If they are equal to or better than the JCW version, then Phoenix has to accept it has the worst A350 mould – and it really needs to go back and start over.
While you’re at it Phoenix, fix this problem with the gear – the silver is tediously toy-like and unrealistic, the tyres and wheels poor and the nose gear weak. But why change? You’ve always done it this way, and one thing we know about Chinese manufacturing, if you’re not told to change it, it’s not going to happen.