Virgin Atlantic A350-1000 G-VPOP AV400 WB4009 Dec 2019

Welcome to a somewhat delayed review, not only because the model was ordered back in August 2019, but because it arrived right after Christmas at the retailer and was posted, only to vanish off the face of the Earth. Airspotters.com were good enough to obtain another and it’s literally just arrived as I type.

It’s also the first AV400 I’ve managed to get hold off. I have ordered them from ARD and others and they never materialised, and there still are two more – the BA A350-1000 and the old livery Lufthansa A359 pending. Who knows if they’ll ever arrive…

AV400 have a reputation for quality, innovation and limited production runs. The brand goes back years but I doubt its owned by the same people, and I don’t really care, because all I have ever wanted is quality, accuracy and value. Which is why you’ll not see much in the way of Phoenix or Gemini or Aeroclassics reviewed here anymore. I just will not waste my time on second rate mass produced drivel that costs too much money, made by people who don’t care.

G-VPOP ‘Mama Mia” was meant to be the second of twelve delivered to Virgin Atlantic, but ended up being the first as G-VLUX was delayed at the factory.

Arriving on August 28th the aircraft came from the factory without the famous nose character. Virgin Atlantic added it themselves post-delivery.

The A350-1000’s are new departure for the airline in a number of ways, new seats (it has to be said smaller than those on Dreamliners) in Upper and Premium), new interior concepts – dropping the famous bar for example, in favour of an on board lounge area for Upper Class customers. On top of that Virgin Atlantic has made a real effort to ditch the rather sexist Varga Girl image at the nose for something different. Each aircraft will have a unique character – and a diverse one at that. African, asian, gay, sports, arts, and other characters will all be used. It’s a more inclusive approach by an airline that’s always appreciated its diverse employees and customers.

Fitted with 44 Upper Class, 56 Premium and 235 economy (of which 36 are extra legroom Economy Delight). What’s interesting is despite the loss of the old bar area and conversion to a lounge, the number of Upper Class seats has remained low – in fact 4 less than on the 744’s that used to operate out of Heathrow, but the number of premium seats has gone up from 32. This is very much in keeping with the airline’s model of maximising revenues from premium offerings, especially when you add the 36 higher ticket price economy seats.


So from a 1:400 scale model perspective what’s to be expected? First it’s almost exactly the same size as the A340-600 and interestingly, Airbus have adopted the stretched spacing between doors 1 & 2 that the A346 had.

You know – I’m sure you do by now, how hard getting the paint right on these Virgin Atlantic models is, we’ve been through it often enough in the past five years. So judging this model will very much depend on its colour, its paint effectiveness and its overall quality, because if you screw the paint up on this airline, well it’s just a waste of metal.

1:Fuselage

Now this is what you call an A350 mould, no sign of the stupid nose shapes that manufacturers stubbornly stuck with (Phoenix/JCW/Gemini) for years, even when they knew it was wrong, and some of you said you thought was ‘better’. Well people do like to justify dodgy purchases to themselves even when they know the truth of it.

This splendid mould detail goes backward to the wing roots, where we can see a superb root mould – especially at the rear where it has that aerodynamic tweak, underneath we have two V shaped air intakes for the ventilation system.

The mould continues it refinement all the way to the tail, where shape and clarity provide yet more evidence we are looking at something above average.

Now the details on the fuselage, but where to begin? From the nose let’s revel in the finesse of the print, the spectacular definition, the tiniest detail. It’s the difference between HD and 4K. In detail the Gemini version, which was spoilt by component rubbish like fans, landing gear, wasn’t bad overall. It certainly was equal to HD.

This though, is something else, a whole jump past HD. This is 4KHDR. It’s best described as saying that while the Gemini had detail, this has detail in the detail, and that takes it to a whole new level. The door detail, nose detail, windows, all outstanding.

Anything less than this is going to be very hard to live with – and that’s why I refuse to any more. Only the best will do.

Thin paint on the inside of the nacelles is clearly visible

It’s hard to restrain the superlatives when we’re not finished extravagantly embracing the other exquisite details. Because of course as you will all of heard by now, AV400 use tiny plastic crystal lights – red on the roof and in the centre of the belly, and a white/clear one on the mid-roof. These are really quite something because installing them neatly and without compromising quality when they’re so small is no mean feat. If Gemini did it they’d be all over the place.

Of course the other advantage of modern 1:400 is aerials, and this has three up and two under – the Gemini didn’t bother with the lower ones at all. And just remember this – that cost 10% more at retail prices.

Another detail is domes – there is one large satcoms dome at the back, superbly moulded and fitted, along with the other very much smaller one which is fine-line printed. There’s also other minor printed detail on the roof Gemini didn’t even go near, OK they chose a fake-believe model, but there were enough A35K’s about to know they were standard details on the type.

2.Wings

The wing mould is excellent but it’s got one disappointment. The wing tip fins are the wrong size, they’re the older original type not the 35% larger versions installed on the actual aircraft. This suggests the wing mould hasn’t ever been updated, which is unfortunate. The Gemini/JCW version had this right.

The fit and finish of the wings into the fuselage is exemplary, barely a nanometer of a gap to be seen. Overall detail on the wing surfaces is entirely commensurate and the type of paint used fits well with the reality.

3.Landing Gear

A whole standard of quality above that used by lesser manufacturers is immediately evident. The Gemini for example, has the hydraulics and doors as one single unified mould. The hydraulics are actually part of the door. This is like cheap car manufacturers – what you can’t see they keep the same across multiple brands to maintain cheapness and homogenous parts supply.

Wrong cone colour paint, thin paint inner engine nacelles,

AV400 have adopted a quality first approach that has the doors appear as a separate mould – a detailed one at that, and then the hydraulics as another. They are close fitted but they’re not an obvious single unit even though they are, and the more you look the better it is for it.

The tyres are exceptional, lump free neat detailed moulds, and every single wheel rolls and works without any resistance. Not one of the Geminis ever worked. The bogies are also flexible and work well.

The nose gear is another highly detailed triumph, although one of the tyres was a little lumpy.

4.Engines

Now these are a next generation jump in quality as far as the mould goes! The fans for one are more refined, better painted and simply superior quality. The rims are good, but a little lumpy. The exhaust is a more muted silver, but the exhaust cone is a little lightly coloured, although it’s not a terrible fail. What does work wonderfully is the way the aluminium mounting plates have been shown in exemplary detail for the nacelles as they mate with the pylons.

Another issue is that the red paint is a little thin inside the rears of the nacelles, and the silver in the front of the fans is also a bit thin.

The refined but solid detail of the paint markings on the nacelles is excellent. Including the Rolls Royce badging, which Gemini left off. When I say they left it off, I know that seems like a ‘so what’? But it shouldn’t be, an expert (and Gemini say they are) would know Virgin Atlantic always show the RR logo on new aircraft, its only when the nacelles get swapped or repainted it tends to go. Attention to details is what we pay for.

5.Nose

The cockpit windows are outstanding, the nine sensors are circles with sensor detail and even colour visible with the naked eye. You can see the ultra fine nose cone lines, all of it’s there. The Virgin ‘character person’ seems a little bitty, great from a distance, less so close up.

The mould shape as I’ve already said, is superb.

6.Tail detail

Beautifully moulded and superbly detailed from under the tail to the positioning of the rearmost aerial. My main issue is colour related.

7.Colours

This is a complicated one. When isn’t it on Virgin Atlantic? The pearlescent fuselage paint is excellent in colour, but I think its particles are too big. The Gemini is better, they, to be frank, have this paint scheme spot-on on their A350 but the quality overall isn’t as good..

The red is better than that on the NG A330’s, but it’s not as good as the Gemini. There’s is more consistent, for example on the AV400 the red on the fuselage that comes down from the vertical stabiliser, is affected by the white-pearl paint its applied over. Consequently it looks far lighter than the vertical red paint, especially in daylight. Overall, I honestly think the red is a fraction too dark and it lacks that lacquered finish that makes it what it is on the real thing.

8.Conclusion

In Conclusion, this is a very good model, have no doubt about that. But where it shines it often also fails. The wing tips are just too small, they are the older A359 original size, not the current A359/A35K size. The 1966 Candy Apple Red (and just look at the name, its called candy apple red because they were bright, red Empire Apples on a stick, dipped in a clear sugar syrup that gave them a deep, glassy, look), is too flat. The pearlescent paint flakes are just too large for the scale of model.

There are other issues too. The paint inside the engines is a bit thin, the rims are very slightly lumpy in places and the engine exhaust cone is the wrong colour. One of the nose gear tyres had a big lump on it, the Virgin figure is, while neither good or bad, it’s certainly not outstanding.

I’m well aware that we are, because of the mythology that’s developed around AV400 models and the fact they put those neat crystal lights on, supposed to fawn all over it and declare it utterly brilliant.

It is very, very good. It has far fewer flaws and many more benefits that its opposition, but it still is far from perfect. When you take cost into consideration, then its a better deal than any Gemini.

Having toted up the plus and minus points, it gets the following:

Accuracy:

  • -10 for the overly flat red paint and wrong exhaust cone colour
  • -6 for the wrong sized wing tips

Quality

  • -1 lumpy front tyre
  • -2 for thin paint in the engine rears
  • -2 for slightly rough engine rims

Overall score 79%

And finally….I have decided six years is enough

My life is changing, largely down to the sale of a triple screen play based on my first three books. I’ve also been contracted to write a sci-fi trilogy based on some short stories and expand them to full novels over the next two years. So much for taking early retirement at 52! This is a time consuming exercise along with homes in San Francisco, Maryland and the UK, reviews just don’t have a place in the time frame and I’m no longer here often enough to do them, and don’t have time when I am.

I did ask for volunteers to review but nobody was interested. This is quite normal, I long ago found that most people – 99.9% in fact, are happy to consume someone else’s work but would never do it themselves. They might moan about it, but doing something? Quite a different thing!

I did think long and hard about this, but the blog has served its purpose. All things come to an end.

The site will wind down starting on May 19th, with key features disabled on July 19th and it left as an archive. There are 661 reviews.

1400Reviews.com on Facebook will transition over to aviationnews.online – news is something I can write anywhere, anytime on the fly, so that’s fun and will continue indefinitely. That site is not affected in any way.

Thank you for reading.

8 thoughts on “Virgin Atlantic A350-1000 G-VPOP AV400 WB4009 Dec 2019

  1. A shame this blog is coming to an end. I’ve usually relied on this blog to see what new models I should buy, and which ones are garbage and I should avoid(Might seem lazy), as I do not at all have an eye for detail and accuracy.I am glad that due to this, I avoided overpriced crap. But as stated, all things come to an end.

    1. Thank you for all your hard work and effort these years. Reading through all these reviews has always been a lot of fun.

      I’m surprised there were no others willing to make reviews though. I for one would have loved to make reviews in a setting such as this… A real shame…

      Thanks for all of this!

  2. Are you sure about the size of the winglets? I thought that they were only available on the A350-900 at present? From the pictures they certainly look like the older style ones, and if that is true then this mould is accurate.

  3. The nose gear seems to be slightly too large and out of proportion but that may just be me. Pity about the colour difference at the rear!

  4. To Jon.

    First of all i just wanted to say i have enjoyed and appreciated the in-depth reviews you do! Afterall your the guy that introduced me to the knowledge of WittyWings and their standards!

    Well i stopped collecting in 2009 and did not get back into it to 2017! Thats along time and brands have come and gone in that time!

    By pure luck mucking around on the search engine i came across Jon website/reviews site and began looking back through the years at the reviews! What surprised me was this collector desire for perfection and value with indepth criticism with pictures of high quality to highlight the issues! Down to collectors like him ,i suppose Jon re-educated me on what to expect,what you should expect /want and brands to go for and not! I was lucky enough after all this time to manage to get hold of 2 WittyWings A380’s,ones that were manufactured at 600 units as almost were badged Apollo and at 200 units worldwide! After seeing what they were capable of at this scale i know what my standards should be! lucky for me in my absence of collecting i managed not to fool faul of all the bad models and early editions of A350’s and B787’s by Phoenix,JCWings,Dragon-Wings,Gemini Jets,Aeroclassics and the likes! To that i Thankyou.

    Now to the model in question! I think maybe after Airspotters managed to find you one replacement as they are sold out almost everywhere now,the only other UK big seller of AV400 is Flying-Tigers! AMS and AVMeagstore only stoock some of their range and only of recent and Scale-Model-Store is the other big stockist outside the UK! Its only of the last year it has been able to get these AV400 models other than HK sellers on ebay!

    This A350-1000 in this livery i knew you would like Jon but i am surprised how critical you have been with it? Maybe your one is the odd slightly “rut of the litter” as my one has not the issues you have complained about! The tyres are perfect and the engines exhaust cones are alot deeper blue’er than yours and i did get mine from Airspotters! I do now as they stock them since April 2019,before-hand i had to go to Holland’s Scale Model Store! I have decided to get the A350-900 in SAS livery and maybe the A350-1000 by Air Caraibes!

    Hopefully Thursday i now get my Etihad A350-1000 and still awaiting the BA one too! Yep,6months late and i hope we are not going down the JCWings Route ! What does make me wonder is the playing about on retail price? They have all varied alot and i suspect by more desirable liveries than cost to make? Other than that AV400 are now branching out with B787’s and B777-300ER,B747’s on pre-order! Their B777 300ER in China Airlines livery looks great!!Though NG have released pics on the DAC forum via Richard Stretton thread of their A350 mould but as i said there, its too late! Most collectors have got their A350’s at this scale from AV400 and Phoenix and most unlikely to double-up even so the NG could be better than AV400 version once launched!

    Now going back to this model after the diversion ,i thought you marked it a little hard but i know you have strict standards! I thought you would have enjoyed it a bit more but i think NG is your model maker of the year and from me its a yes too with its Tristars! Though i do agree the NG white paint i still think is number one,the billboard lettering i thought was slightly ,only slightly a bit thick compared to the real lettering on the plane fuselage,but what a plane indeed!Gemini Bill Board lettering was more accurate by being a bit slimmer!

    Colors ,well the red i felt was very similar to Gemini Jets shade choice and i myself prefered the red of Phoenix even so now way accurate,even so the AV400 paint-job to the Gemini-Jets version,even so its a good model in its own right! So i decided to get out my Phoenix A340-600 Big Thankyou,B747-400 (my first model ever) Gemini Jets Metal Tin FAB livery from 2006,Gemini A350-1000,,Phoenix A330-300 and NG B787-9 Virgin Models and take pictures and view and compare them all on paint schemes!

    You know the A340-600 still looks great and i do have a soft-spot in my heart for that plane! Its my Queen of the sky still! Though the A350-1000 is good new holder of the crown since the B747 is now dying out! So after comparing lall the liveries,paint,details as all Virgin and by 4 brand names, i came to this conclusion!

    The NG has the best white paint.Phoenix has the red i like the most but Gemini most accurate,best model,this one the AV400 A350! I feel this is my best Virgin Model and i do like those plastic or crystal/glass warning lights! I even appreciate the crap stand you get,atleast the thoughts there as if it was decent it would affect the price for sure but its those little details! Only if they could do what NG do with foam cradles instead of the cheap packaging? Though thats nit-picking as i think the Etihad livery might blow this one into 2nd place! The BA well, it will be the best of all BA 350-1000’s at this scale out there,so i would myself rate it higher but thats each to their own!

    Lastly its a shame you have come to this decision ,but we all have busy lives! I was going to suggest if you are still going to collect models just do a one a year big review on your own favourite models collected or your review of the year thing you do on what you have bought or have seen!
    As i have only been back in collecting for the last 2 years and found this site by pure luck ,i suppose you have made me a more wiser collector,know what to want,expect,brand names some never hear of and most of all dedication to the genre.

    Maybe you will do a few more before you retire from this and may i say at your age with 3 houses doted all over the world,well you have done well for yourself! Just basically thanks for the effort and from reading all the way back in-time, i managed to get hold of some models either you had or did that were top-notch! One that i think we all can recall is the Phoenix all black A340-300 Hi-Fly Swiss!
    Etihad A340-600 F1 livery,Best A340-600 livery!

    I keep looking out to July and maybe your change your mind and do a yearly one but to just finally say thankyou,you have made me a more aware/educated collector.

    Best of luck for the future.
    Regards.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. My Hope always was to either get manufacturers to do better, or by education, get buyers to be more discerning and not waste their money. I retired early to enjoy doing what I wanted after years of being in corporate businesses where I learnt that the bottom line comes before everything- except in one or two very rare cases. I’ve always been a writer, a politician, someone who makes things happen. I have always hoped to inspire others to be their best. Even if only one person thinks they’re better off from reading my words, then that’s fine by me.

  5. Something i forgot to say!

    Obviously i have only been coming here for 2 years and i assume either on a forum like DAC is you are a member there you may have asked would people like to review models for your blog on your behalf and it seems there has been no takers?

    All i can say with no offense applied,i just do not feel anyone other than maybe Richard Stretton with his own blog site “yesterdays airliners” would be able to do such an indepth and scrutinized review to your standards! Also as you have said many times the cost!! I assume you have bought alot of models for reviewing then only to sell them on and only keep the ones that are to your liking and standards! For that reason only a few i feel would be able to do or cope with that and ofcourse writing on behalf of someone else and their site meet their writing skills required or to their standards or liking!That alone could cause friction maybe from criticism of the standard of the reviews!

    All i can say is if you are on DAC you can always give your views still there if indeed you still wish to continue collecting models!

    As said you may still do a review or two before your retire this site/blog but its been a pleasure to read and to comment too! You can clearly see the dedication and thought you put into the reviews and genre with the HD pics and comments and lengthy/detail too!

    I feel it will be a sadly missed and a loss for the genre but as said you have a life too ! So it seems life is good for you and congratulations and may it continue to bring you success where ever you are in the world!

    Goodbye and Goodluck for the future!

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