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Versus Series Vol. 10: Swissair MD-11 Phoenix Models vs. JC Wings

When I got back into collecting 1:400 die-cast airplanes around 2019, one of the first models I got was Swissair MD-11 HB-IWI by JC Wings, which had been recently released. Fast forward a few years to late 2023 and Phoenix Models releases two more MD-11s in the same classic Swissair chocolate bar livery. Being pretty happy with my JC Wings model I initially passed on the Phoenix's reiterations. But eventually, I gave in and got a copy of HB-IWA, Swissair's first MD-11.


Besides having a different registration from the model I already had, the Phoenix MD-11 also has some slight livery variations. It has vertical MD-11 logos on the inboard side of the winglets and, most notably, a sticker aft of the fuselage titles commemorating the 700th anniversary of the Swiss Confederation. Additionally, it correctly omits the satcom antenna that the JC, also correctly, has on top of the fuselage. Those elements place the aircraft in 1991. The JC Wings example wears a pretty generic version of the chocolate bar livery, with seemingly rare unmarked upper winglets.


Contestant Number 1

Airline: Swissair

Type: McDonnell Douglas MD-11

Reg: HB-IWA

Brand: Phoenix Models

Scale: 1/400

Release date: Late 2023

Contestant Number 2

Airline: Swissair

Type: McDonnell Douglas MD-11

Reg: HB-IWI

Brand: JC Wings

Scale: 1/400

Release date: 2019


1:400 scale airplane models of Swissair MD-11 aircraft
1:400 scale Swissair MD-11 airplane models. Left: Phoenix Models HB-IWA. Right: JC Wings HB-IWI


Before we compare the models let's get a feel of how a real Swissair MD-11 in the chocolate bar livery should look like.


Real Swissair MD-11



And now the models.


Models


A scale airplane model of a Swissair McDonnell Douglas MD-11 registered HB-IWA made by Phoenix Models in 1:400 scale
Swissair McDonnell Douglas MD-11 HB-IWA Phoenix Models 1:400

A scale airplane model of a Swissair McDonell Douglas MD-11 with registration HB-IWI made by JC Wings in 1:400 scale
Swissair McDonell Douglas MD-11 HB-IWI JC Wings 1:400

A scale airplane model of a Swissair McDonnell Douglas MD-11 registered HB-IWA made by Phoenix Models in 1:400 scale
Swissair McDonnell Douglas MD-11 HB-IWA Phoenix Models 1:400

A scale airplane model of a Swissair McDonell Douglas MD-11 with registration HB-IWI made by JC Wings in 1:400 scale
Swissair McDonell Douglas MD-11 HB-IWI JC Wings 1:400

A scale airplane model of a Swissair McDonnell Douglas MD-11 registered HB-IWA made by Phoenix Models in 1:400 scale
Swissair McDonnell Douglas MD-11 HB-IWA Phoenix Models 1:400

A scale airplane model of a Swissair McDonell Douglas MD-11 with registration HB-IWI made by JC Wings in 1:400 scale
Swissair McDonell Douglas MD-11 HB-IWI JC Wings 1:400

A scale airplane model of a Swissair McDonnell Douglas MD-11 registered HB-IWA made by Phoenix Models in 1:400 scale
Swissair McDonnell Douglas MD-11 HB-IWA Phoenix Models 1:400

A scale airplane model of a Swissair McDonell Douglas MD-11 with registration HB-IWI made by JC Wings in 1:400 scale
Swissair McDonell Douglas MD-11 HB-IWI JC Wings 1:400

A scale airplane model of a Swissair McDonnell Douglas MD-11 registered HB-IWA made by Phoenix Models in 1:400 scale
Swissair McDonnell Douglas MD-11 HB-IWA Phoenix Models 1:400

A scale airplane model of a Swissair McDonell Douglas MD-11 with registration HB-IWI made by JC Wings in 1:400 scale
Swissair McDonell Douglas MD-11 HB-IWI JC Wings 1:400

A scale airplane model of a Swissair McDonnell Douglas MD-11 registered HB-IWA made by Phoenix Models in 1:400 scale
Swissair McDonnell Douglas MD-11 HB-IWA Phoenix Models 1:400

A scale airplane model of a Swissair McDonell Douglas MD-11 with registration HB-IWI made by JC Wings in 1:400 scale
Swissair McDonell Douglas MD-11 HB-IWI JC Wings 1:400

Thoughts


I love how the bright red pops on the elegant fuselage titles and the tail. The two-tone brown cheatline and silver belly make for a striking classic livery of the eighties and early nineties.


One thing that is mentioned a lot on the die-cast airplane model social media groups about the Phoenix MD-11 is that its nose gear is too long. And it is certainly longer than JC's. But, by the same token, the JC one seems to have a bit of a nose-down attitude. So, pick your poison. I wouldn't call it a deal breaker for either.


Nose comparison of 1:400 scale Swissair MD-11 aircraft
Nose comparison of 1:400 scale Swissair MD-11 airplane models

In the photo above you can also see that Phoenix completely painted the intake area of engines 1 & 3 in brown, including the lips, whereas JC painted the lips silver and placed the brown band aft of them. In the photo below you can see that Swissair did paint a thick brown band aft of the lip of the wing-mounted engines on their MD-11s, but there was a thin bare metal band forward of it. Most civilian jet engines have bare metal intake lips due to technical reasons. With that in mind, I tend to side with JC on this one. Oversized bare metal intake lips are better than complete omission. But I can also see how the Phoenix version might resemble the look of the real aircraft better, especially in 1:400 scale. Choose your poison again.



The tail is another area of contention, as you can see in the photo below. Phoenix went through the trouble of replicating the faint two tones of silver present on the intake of the number two engine but left the exhaust region quite crude, whereas JC did the opposite. However, I think JC's nailed the proportions of the number 2 engine intake lip despite it not being as detailed as Phoenix's. JC's Swiss Cross is also better than Phoenix's, but what puts the nail in the coffin on Phoenix's tail is the QC. If you scroll back up, or down, and find a photo of the starboard side of the model, you will notice a sizable paint ship on the intake lip (I was able to repair it) and visible red paint inside the intake duct itself. Also, the leading edge of the vertical stabilizer appears to have been applied using masking tape, not a bad job though, but it's not nearly as neat as JC's effort. We have a winner here, nice tail JC.


In the photo below I also noticed that JC's winglets are more refined.


Tail comparison of Swissair 1:400 scale airplane models.
Tail comparison of Swissair 1:400 scale airplane models.

On the underside, both models offer a similar amount of accurate detail, but there are some interesting differences.


Underside comparison of 1:400 scale Swissair MD-11 airplane models
Underside comparison of 1:400 scale Swissair MD-11 airplane models

Looking at the photo comparison above you can see that the JC Wings model has two static ports below the L2 passenger door (those tiny dark grey dots), but the Phoenix one only has the one that is positioned aft and lower. Turns out JC is correct in that there are two static ports on real MD-11s, but the one that Phoenix omitted was very faint on Swissair aircraft. Similar to the engine lip situation, Phoenix omitted a small detail to better recreate the look of the real aircraft. I prefer JC's approach.


There are some access panels between the cheatline and the nosewheel. Phoenix's representation stands out, while JC went with a very discreet approach (they are there).


Interestingly, Phoenix nicely molded in the NACA scoops and other intakes on the under-nose area, whereas JC only printed those details.


To finish off on the bottom side of these models, I will say that I prefer JC Wings' landing gear legs and tire hubs' flat grey color over Phoenix's silver. Again, hardly a deal breaker.


One last area that I want to talk about is the overwing markings. I normally would not have paid much attention to this area, but since they are so obviously different between the two models, I had to dig deeper.


Top-down view comparison of 1:400 Swissair MD-11 airplane models
Top-down view comparison of 1:400 Swissair MD-11 airplane models

I hope Mr. Duncan Stewart does not mind me borrowing his photo below (click on it to go to the source).



While JC didn't completely nail the overwing and horizontal stabilizer details, it came a whole lot closer than Phoenix. JC's engine pylons also offer more accurate detail.


By looking at the top of the models I also noticed that the ADF antennas are painted black on the JC Wings model, but not on the Phoenix one. It is worth noting that the Phoenix mold does have the ADF bumps molded in on top of the fuselage, they just didn't bother to paint them.


Wrapping Up


I discovered a lot of interesting details about the MD-11 and the Swissair chocolate bar livery while writing this post.


It was also a perfect opportunity to pull my "old" JC Wings Swissair MD-11 out of its shelf for some photos, which is something I've always wanted to do with this beautiful model.


I like both of my Swissair MD-11s and intend to display them together for many years to come. But the question always is: which one will I keep if I was forced to let one go? I think the answer is the JC Wings one in this case.


1:400 scale airplane models displayed on a glass shelf.

For someone looking to add a Swissair choco-MD-11 to their collection, I would say just get one of the recent Phoenix ones. Since both manufacturers made nice and similar models, I'd guess that once the Phoenix ones are gone from retailers, all of them, including the JC one, will likely go for about the same price in the second-hand market.


Speaking of which, West Coast Diecast still has both recent Phoenix Swissair MD-11s in stock. You can use code yv400 for a 5% discount while earning loyalty points if you have an account with them. Combine that with their free shipping on large orders in Canada and the U.S. Not a bad deal.




Jorge A. Zajia, author of Yankeevictor400.com

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