Viasa 747s in 1:400 - Part 1, PH-BUG
Updated: Nov 12, 2022
Recently, Phoenix Models announced the release of KLM's PH-BUG in its split livery with Viasa from the early seventies. This brings the total number of Viasa 747s in 1:400 scale to four, though there are only two registrations represented by these models: PH-BUG and N749WA. Aeroclassics released one of each, while Magic released N749WA, and Phoenix PH-BUG.
Phoenix's release of PH-BUG was interesting as Viasa, and especially their split-livery aircraft, generally is Aeroclassics material. Although, it would not be the first time Phoenix impresses us, by showing some love to the fairly overlooked South American nation, as they are responsible for a beautiful Aeropostal 727-200 released in 2004. Additionally, with so many 747 classics that are long sold out, I find it an odd surprise that PH-BUG in KLM/Viasa colors was chosen by Phoenix.
With the new PH-BUG recently unboxed, I thought it would be a good opportunity to go back and review Viasa 747s in 1:400 scale.
Delivered on December 15, 1971, PH-BUG was the last of the initial batch of seven 747-206Bs that KLM received. These aircraft all were christened with names of rivers, and KLM fittingly gave -BUG the name of Orinoco after Venezuela's largest river.
From the very beginning, Viasa requested help and guidance from KLM to become the flag carrier of Venezuela and position itself as a prominent airline in the region. KLM happily took the airline of the promising South American oil superpower under its wings, first developing the DC-8 program, and then putting Viasa at the forefront of the industry with an ambitious 747 program. The jumbo, however, quickly proved to be too big for Viasa, and the DC-10 was finally chosen as the airline's wide-body transoceanic flagship.
However, two KLM 747s, PH-BUD " The Nile," and PH-BUG "Orinoco," did operate for Viasa between 1972 and 1974 before the arrival of the DC-10s. -BUD was seen wearing Viasa stickers, while -BUG received full Viasa colors on the starboard half of the fuselage. This made Viasa the first airline in South America to put its livery in a 747 (at least one half of it) and to offer jumbo service.
Below is a picture of PH-BUD in Madrid wearing Viasa stickers (posted on Facebook by multiple users, copyright unknown), and a Viasa ad from the seventies showcasing service on PH-BUG.
While PH-BUG might have just been one of many 747s in KLM's fleet, when looked at from the Viasa side of the field, it is an icon that holds a paramount place in Venezuela's aviation history.
Aeroclassics released its version in November 2007, while Phoenix released theirs in January 2022. The Aeroclassics version has consistently ranked among the rarest 1:400 models, like most of their 747-100/200s. It is too early to tell if the Phoenix version will become as rare. It is the same unique aircraft, but the stigma that surrounds the Phoenix mould might put off a lot of collectors.
After looking at these models for a while I am not sure if one is definitely better than the other, to me they look more like two different representations of the same aircraft. The Aeroclassics 747 mould does have finer lines and a better shape, especially around the hump and nose section, and that alone goes a long way. Their model also has a nicer overall finish but is not perfect. Likewise, the Phoenix version has some nice attributes worth mentioning.
The nose section of the Phoenix example is probably the worst part of this model, especially on the Viasa side. Overall I don't think the Phoenix 747-200 mould is as ugly as the general consensus says it is, I think it is just different. However, the top of the cockpit (the forehead of the model if you will) is so poorly shaped that it does make the model look odd.
Additionally, the titles are notoriously compressed, and thus the font angle is too pronounced. The Aeroclassics font is also not perfect but initially looks better than the Phoenix version. Phoenix's orange might also be on the light side,