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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Beautifully moulded and superbly detailed from under the tail to the positioning of the rearmost aerial. My main issue is colour related.
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.
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:
- -10 for the overly flat red paint and wrong exhaust cone colour
- -6 for the wrong sized wing tips
- -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.