I know, it’s been a while.
This I expected frankly, weeks ago, but having to bounce back and forth from San Francisco to Washington DC and back to the UK having just bought a house near Annapolis, it’s all been a bit hectic.
That caused me to take my eye of the ‘where is it’ ball, and only when I spotted an email from a European dealer saying they had the model in stock did I ask questions of my supplier. It seems they’ve taken the decision to stop selling NG because of the difficulties in dealing with them, but couldn’t be bothered to tell me, or refund the pre-order. This led to a scramble to find one, which was, I’m delighted to say fruitful.
So, now there are still five others lurking out there – at least three of which I’m told will not see the light of day until-mid December and might not be here until January. Meanwhile I’ve seen a Phoenix BA A35K that looks like the windows were painted two feet higher than they actually are on the real thing. I’m seeing that as a lucky escape.
It’s Virgin Atlantic and I’m not making any excuses for the fact it’s my favourite airline and the only one that I’ll actually buy no matter what.
G-VGEM is one of the oldest of the A333’s at Virgin Atlantic. The airline ordered 10 to make up for the huge gap it would face with the 5 year late delivery of the 787-9. However at the time it started to receive them in 2011, Virgin Atlantic was having a very tough time, indeed arguably one of its worst years ever. The recession that started in 2008-9 reached its peak in aviation during 2011-12.
So when faced with delivery they chose not to take it on and sub-leased it straight from the factory to China Airlines, in their seating and livery on 11 April 2011.
Registered as B-18392, she was fitted with 48 business class and 265 economy.
By October 2012 things were picking back up at home and China Airlines handed her back at the end of the lease in October. Repainted into the Virgin Atlantic livery and fitted out with 33 Upper Class, 48 premium and 185 economy, named Diamond Girl, she entered service on the 30th October 2012.
In 2014 the aircraft performed the airlines inaugural London-Atlanta service.
The A333’s operate in a number of different ways for the airline, some in support of the holiday arm of the company, flying routes to St Lucia and Barbados for instance, from Gatwick and Manchester, and others to New York, Atlanta, and Washington IAD from Heathrow. It’s on trips to Washington that I’ve flown on her a couple of times.
Leased from AerCap for ten years with an extension option, the original idea was it would be a one off – but the airline has found them to be reliable and popular (although not so much with crews as they have no crew rest area and you find cabin staff turn up randomly in any empty seat they can get for a rest). After the Dreamliner saga with the Rolls Royce engines and the overall poor quality of some of the fixtures and fittings, the whole A333 fleet is to be replaced with A339neo’s.
NG have superb quality fresh moulds filled with high definition detail, so its no surprise that they’ve managed once again, to surpass all of the others in the quality and accuracy stakes when it comes to the mould.
Three upper aerials, and the small forward dome, but, an omission – the larger WiFi dome amidships is missing and that’s not good. The A333’s have had these for over two years now.
One of the two lower aerials is present. One is an actual aerial – the one they’ve added, the other the de-icing heater for the waste water is missing.
Over the years we’ve had two versions of sisters G-VSXY; one JCW and one Phoenix. The later was terrible, but the former had better colour and yet missed off the flying lady decal. Then years later we had A332 G-VMIK from Gemini which is quite good overall, and recently Phoenix produced G-VLUV in July 2019, which wasn’t bad, but the fuselage paint wasn’t quite where it needed to be. However Phoenix did provide every single aerial while also missing the WiFi dome. It’s a surprise that NG haven’t matched or exceeded that.
In terms of paint detail, windows, doors and so on the quality is exceptional, refined and as sophisticated as we’ve come to expect.
The wings are a truly superb fit, so well done the appear seamless with the fuselage, a detail that aways adds to the overall realism.
The paint is a silk finish so looks far less glaring than the ultra gloss Phoenix use, and is in fact a little better than the JCW/Gemini finish. The wing fit is superior to either in a big way.
Leading and trailing edge details are fully done and exceptionally neat, all of the mould lines in the wings are visible.
Extremely neat, effective and detailed, with the best quality finishes. It just looks spot on. The nose gear is equally as delicate and just as special. So much nicer than the toy-like silver of the Phoenix and the uncoloured, if detailed plastics of the JCW/Gemini.
The one thing that can make or break any model. These help make it. The rims are outstanding, the fan colour and detail excellent. The nacelles are a superb shape and even the interior rear exhaust fans look exceptional.
The fit of the nacelles to the pylons is also superb, and the pylon detail is first class.
It can only be described as exceptionally good. Neat, detailed, fine high definition detail that is totally proportionate to the model.
From a mould perspective, outstanding, from a fit and finish perspective equally as good. High detail quality.
And now for the essential ingredient in this complicated livery. As I have said often, and written about, the paint is a very complicated bespoke type used just for Virgin Atlantic. As with the recent 787-9, G-VZIG, the fuselage paint is undoubtedly the best overall compared to Gemini/JCW or Phoenix.
The pearl aubergine font lettering used for the lower case ‘virgin atlantic’ along the sides is brilliant.
Which brings us to the 1966 Candy Apple Red used on the tail and engines. It’s a superb colour, but again like the 787-9 optically dead. It completely lacks any lustre or vibrancy and once again, is extremely disappointing.
8.Score and conclusions
- -20 for primary livery colour fail. The red is flat, lifeless and optically dead, a deep disappointment.
- -3 the WiFi dome is missing
No issues, Score 50/50
Overall score 77%
Overall quality is outstanding, most of the paint is the best, but the key component is a matt fail. Why is the massive WiFi dome missing?
As on the 787-9 NG couldn’t be bothered to ask the question or listen to expert views, or accept the advice and evidence many of us offered them. Gemini don’t give a toss about what we all think, and we all know it, but NG has been driven by a fan base – often making unsellable models because of it. Hundreds of those obscure 757’s are lurking about in dealer stocks all over the place and partly contributed to one retailer not wanting to sell them any more, having to discount them to get rid of stock at less than they paid for them.
Yes I know many of you will say you don’t care, because they’re better than anything else, but they’re still not quite right and they don’t seem to want to hear what doesn’t suit them. Then again, it’s China, and the arrogance of the take it or leave it approach permeates industry nationwide.