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  • Up Close and Personal with NASA's Flying Science Laboratory: DC-8-72 N817NA

    NASA's SEAC4RS study, which stands for Studies of Emissions and Atmospheric Composition, Clouds and Climate Coupling by Regional Surveys, was conducted in Houston, Texas between August 1 and September 30, 2013. More info here. Several aircraft participated in the study collecting atmospheric samples. For aviation enthusiasts, it was quite the show. Even though Ellington Field in southeast Houston is home to several cool NASA aircraft, SEAC4RS brought some interesting visitors from the Dryden Flight Research Center in California. I was lucky to be working at Ellington Field at the time, but anyone in the Houston area could watch the aircraft flying some unique patterns. My favorite one was the Electra (N426NA) spiraling up from low altitude over the morning traffic near downtown. On August 22, 2013, NASA hosted a press conference, and I managed to get a pass as a photographer. A friend and I published a short article about the event on the now-defunct SVZM Spotters site. One of the most iconic aircraft that participated in the study was N817NA, a heavily modified Douglas DC-8-72, originally delivered as a -62 in May of 1969 to Alitalia. It also flew for Braniff as N801BN before joining NASA in 1986 as N717NA (it got re-registered later). N817NA landed at Palmdale, California three days ago (April 1, 2024) after finishing its last mission in Asia. As the aircraft readies for its retirement, I thought it would be appropriate to dust off some of the photos I took of it in 2013. Enjoy: All the subsequent photos show NASA DC-8-72 N817NA on August 22, 2013 at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas: If you would like to share photos from this article, please credit them to Jorge A. Zajia

  • Orange-tailed Tales: Viasa DC-10-30 YV-135C

    DC-10-30 YV-135C by LatinClassics in 1:400 scale. The real airplane was delivered to Viasa on July 26, 1978. Together with YV-136C and YV-137C, it became one of three DC-10s acquired in the aftermath of the oil boom brought up by the OPEC embargo of 1973. With these three airplanes, the DC-10 fleet grew to five, as two other original KLM airframes had been operating for Viasa since 1973/1974. This aircraft suffered an accident at Buenos Aires - Ezeiza on November 26, 1993 when it overran the runway after landing amid inclement weather. There were no fatalities, but the airplane never flew again. An ex-Iberia DC-10 with registration YV-139C joined Viasa to replace YV-135C. The scale model sports Viasa's thre-shades-of-blue livery from the late 1980s. It was produced by GeminiJets exclusively for the defunct store AdamJets. However, the models were packaged in boxes intended for Aeroclassic's LatinClassic series, which is why the model is often associated with Aeroclassics. Enjoy: Haga click aquí para la versión en Español de esta historia

  • Historias Coli-naranja: El DC-10-30 YV-135C de Viasa

    DC-10-30 YV-135C por LatinClassics en escala 1:400 El avión real fue entregado a Viasa el 26 de julio de 1978. Junto al YV-136C y YV-137C, fue uno de tres DC-10 que se compraron a raíz del boom petrolero causado por el embargo de la OPEP en el 73. Con esos tres aviones la flota de DC-10 llegó a cinco, ya que otros dos originalmente de KLM se operaban desde el 73/74. Este avión se accidentó en Buenos Aires - Ezeiza el 26 de noviembre de 1993 tras aterrizar en medio de un chubasco. No se perdieron vidas, pero el avión nunca volvió a volar. Luego del accidente el YV-135C fue reemplazado por un DC-10 ex-Iberia que recibió la matrícula YV-139C. El modelo a escala porta la librea con los tres tonos de azul que Viasa implementó a finales de los ochenta. Fue producido por GeminiJets para la difunta tienda AdamJets. Sin embargo, el empaque utilizado corresponde a la serie LatinClassics de la marca Aeroclassics, lo que hace que aveces el modelo sea asociado con dicha marca. Disfruten: Click here for the English version of this tale

  • Versus Series Vol. 11: Southwest Airlines 727-200 GeminiJets vs. Aeroclassics

    To highlight their exclusivity in aerospace circles, it has been said that there were fewer Concorde pilots than astronauts during the years the supersonic airliner was active. But very little is said about another group of aerospace professionals that was even more exclusive: The Flight Engineers of Southwest Airlines. Southwest has - almost - always been a 737-only operator. In fact, they have consistently been the largest 737 operator in the world for several years, and have operated more than 1200 aircraft of the type (not at once). The fleet uniformity has been one of the many factors that have contributed to Southwest's success. But during two different periods in 1979 and the mid-1980s a different type of Boeing aircraft briefly wore the Southwest livery, the 727-200. The 737 is designed and certified to be flown by two pilots, whereas the 727 requires a third person in the cockpit: a Flight Engineer. This is why being a Southwest Flight Engineer was such a distinction among the flight crews of well-established airlines. Southwest operated a total of seven 727-200s. The first one was a 727-291 originally delivered to Frontier in 1968 as N7276F, and acquired by Braniff in 1972, which re-registered it as N406BN. Braniff leased the jet to Southwest in 1979 as part of an anti-trust settlement. Yeah, Southwest earned itself a few enemies in the Dallas area during the seventies. N406BN was used by Southwest for 10 months on what was their busiest route at the time: Dallas-Love Field to Houston-Hobby. Later, in the mid-eighties, the 727-200 joined the Southwest ranks once more. This time, six 727-227s leased from People Express were used on new longer flights for which the 737-200 did not have the legs. These airplanes were sort of a stopgap while the airline waited for the more capable 737-300. Okay, so that was the aviation history part of this article. Now let's move on to the airplane model collector bit. Here I have two -tiny- 1:400 scale replicas of N406BN, Southwest's first 727-200. The first one was produced by a brand called Aeroclassics in 2009, and quickly sold out. Recently, another brand, the more mainstream GeminiJets, released N406BN in 1:400 scale again. Since the two models attempt to replicate the same airplane in 1:400 scale, they should be identical, right? Not quite, not even close in fact. You see, scale models are works of art, so when two model brands attempt to replicate the same airplane, we get two different artistic representations of the same subject. Just like artists, diecast airplane model brands have their unique signatures. Let's look at photos of the two models, and compare them. Is one better than the other? Can we learn any peculiarities about this aircraft through these scale models? Can you spot all the differences!? Southwest Airlines 727 Aeroclassics vs. GeminiJets Real Deal Images linked to source: Thoughts Much has been said about the accuracy of the colors of both models. N406BN was notorious for wearing a slightly greener version of Southwest mustard color that differentiated it from the rest of the 737 fleet. Aeroclassics seems to have exaggerated this a little bit. It has been pointed out that GeminiJets went with the standard Southwest Mustard Rocket colors worn by current 737s on their representation of N406BN. To me, that seems to be the case. The color issue is not that big of a deal to me, as the real airplane could look like either model in real life depending on the lighting. A bigger issue that I had not noticed until I started comparing the two models is that Aeroclassics omitted the two most forward passenger windows on the port side, and placed the Southwest titles too far back, aligned with the titles on the starboard side. In reality, the Southwest titles were justified with the 1L and 1R doors, which are staggered. GeminiJets got it right. One last thing on the livery artwork, Aeroclassics depicted a grey access panel below the reg. on the port side, which is not present on the real aircraft. The GeminiJets model enjoys antennas (one at least) and modern printed details. I also like the overall shape of Gemini's 727 better, especially the nose section. Two things I prefer about the Aeroclassics example are the shape of the number 2 engine intake and the size of the nosewheel tires. Ironically, the GJ 727-200 mold used to be comparable to the Aeroclassics one in those areas, but things have evolved for the worse. As you can see in the photo below, older GJ 727-200 nosewheel tires were less detailed but better sized. Also, while the horizontal stabilizer seam on the tail has been eliminated, its overall shape suffered, including the leading edge of the vertical stabilizer and the characteristic tail engine (#2) intake. So, is one of the two representations of N406BN better than the other? That's for you to decide! I like the GeminiJets "refreshed" version better, but the Aeroclassics one remains a valid option, I think. Special thanks to George Hamlin for allowing the use of his photos of N406BN in this article.

  • Amsterdam Aviation Collectors Fair 2024

    On the 18th of February, the 6th edition of the Amsterdam Aviation Collectors Fair (or AACF) was held in the Van der Valk hotel Schiphol. With more than 250 tables, 129 exhibitors and 1200+ visitors, it was again a huge success. Vintage & diecast scalemodels, safetycards, actual planeparts and lots of other aviation related items, there was something for every collector in the world. Just like last year, I had two tables to sell a large part of my 1/400 collection. I came with 5 crates full of boxes and went home with 3.5, a result I'm happy with. Ofcourse I bought some things aswell: 3 diecast models, an airplane tag from a Martinair MD-11 and a book with pictures of historic KLM aircraft. But that's not all I took home with me, because I won two prizes with the tombola aswell: a clock, of which the backplate comes from a Fokker 100, and a Thomas Cook A320 plastic model, which you got after not winning anything 10 times. One ticket costs €1, so with a little bit of luck you actually get great value! There were lots of returning exhibitors and collectors. It's great to meet the people you talk to online and a fair like AACF is the perfect place to do so! Some people just like collecting models, and some have been in the aviation industry for decades, so lots of stories to be told. One of the highlights was the reveal of the next Diecast Trading exclusive release: a 1/200 Martinair Cargo B747-400 PH-MPS (using the JCwings mould). This particular aircraft has been made by Inflight200 back in 2016 and would go for crazy prices whenever one pops up secondhand, mainly because it's the last remaining aircraft wearing the Martinair livery, and ofcourse because it's a 747. The nextx edition will be held at the same venue on the 23rd of February 2025 and tables are already being booked. Perhaps it will be even larger than this years edition, so I hope to see you again next year! A big shoutout to the organizers: Patrick, Rutger, Arjan and Matthijs. - Mark Retrohangar Diecast on Instagram Mark22 on MAF, 400SH, DAC and DIMA Want to collaborate or let me review your product? Send me a message via the channels mentioned above! Pictures by Anton B.

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

  • Versus Series Vol. 9: American Airlines 767-200 Aeroclassics vs. Dragon Wings

    And yet again, another recent release of an American Airlines model in the Vignelli livery, this time by good old Aeroclassics, comes to join a previous Dragon Wings version in my collection. As of the writing of this article, American Airlines is the most represented airline in my 1:400 collection. They had an enormous presence throughout the Americas when I was growing up, and I flew extensively on them. Hence, AA jets from the 1990s in the Vignelly livery satisfy multiple criteria in my collection. Keep'em coming! Contestant Number 1: Aircraft: American Airlines Boeing 767-223ER Reg.: N303AA Brand: Aeroclassics Release Date: January 2024 Contestant Number 2: Aircraft: American Airlines Boeing 767-223ER Reg.: N301AA Brand: Dragon Wings Release Date: 2000-2001 (DiMA) Together Real AA 762 Thoughts Even with all the room for improvement it has, the Aeroclassics one is easier on my eyes. The Dragon Wings 767-200 mold is not as handsome as its bigger brothers (-300/-400). This is common with DW, the smaller the type, the poorer it looks, generally speaking. Keep in mind that in 2000 that was the standard in 1:400 scale, and the only thing that DW models could be compared with back then would have been Herpa Wings 1:500, which were noticeably inferior. Overall the DW is a good mold, but the unrefined nose, which in this model is accentuated by the cockpit windows placed too low, takes a lot of points away from it. It is what it is with Aeroclassics. Very nice model, but there are a few areas that I will talk about below. Also, there are some QC issues in the form of paint patches and glue blobs. Also, there is a bizarre fuselage deformation on the sides above where the wings are fitted. The model seems squished. Landing Gear: The Achilles heel of Dragon Wings models has always been their crude landing gear, and this model is no exception. Aeroclassics' landing gears have also historically been criticized, especially their lack of tire hubs. The 767-200, nonetheless, is one of the few Aeroclassics molds that have been fitted with some rather nice tire hubs. However, it results in the nose gear tires looking oversized. Ah, the irony! Engines: For practical purposes, 767-200s have two engine options: General Electric CF6 and Pratt & Whitney PW4000. They look almost identical from the outside. American Airlines 762s were equipped with GE engines. Looking at the models in this article, seems like DW cut the nacelle too short. That leaves AC having the "most" correct engines as they seem to resemble the GEs better. However, AC engines are extremely unrefined. Ah, the irony! again! I hope you found this model comparison entertaining and informative.

  • Phoenix Models Releases the First* Drukair Scale Model

    *The first mass-produced model known to the everyday collector, that is. I'm sure corporate and custom jobs are out there. Drukair - Royal Bhutan Airlines is the state-owned flag carrier of Bhutan, a kingdom with a population of less than 1 million nested in the Himalayas. The airline is as modest as the country itself with a current fleet of only 5 aircraft: three A319s, one A320neo (the model released by Phoenix), and one ATR 42-600. When I first became aware of Drukair a few years ago its classic and colorful livery with a very 1990s look immediately caught my attention. I searched for a Drukair airplane model only to find out that there was not a single diecast offering in any scale. That was until Phoenix came to the rescue. The classic livery comes from the Bhutanese flag. The Druk, or Thunder Dragon in Dzongkha (Bhutan's official language), is part of Tibetan and Bhutanese mythology and a national symbol of Bhutan. In the Bhutanese flag, a white Druk sits in the middle of an evenly split yellow and orange background. The yellow represents the Dragon King of Bhutan, who traditionally has used a scarf of that color, and the orange represents Buddhism. The colors of the flag happen to match those of some popular liveries of the 1980s and 1990s (Iberia's Landor and Southwest's Mustard Rocket come to mind). It is nice to see those tones used in a current livery. The tail art is essentially the flag of Bhutan. The fuselage titles borrow the orange from the flag and are depicted in a custom font with a classic look that incorporates what seem to be subtle elements inspired by the Tibetan script. As far as I can tell, Phoenix did a wonderful job with the livery. Please enjoy: Jorge A. Zajia

  • Versus Series Vol. 8: American Airlines 767-300 Phoenix vs. Dragon Wings

    Here we have two 767-323ERs produced by two well-known brands that don't cease to amaze. One of them because their recent release sets have been consistently full of newer versions of highly popular subjects, and the other one because of how well their twenty-something-year-old models stand up to today's product. Contestant Number 1: Aircraft: American Airlines Boeing 767-323ER Reg.: N377AN Brand: Phoenix Models Release Date: Summer 2023 The Phoenix 767-300 mold is highly praised as it is the only one that features slot-in wings out of the ones in use today. It is also a pretty good mold overall, as most 767-300s in 1:400 scale are. American is a popular airline and many collectors are after their "chrome" livery that was popular during the 1980s-2010s. GeminiJets had released an American 767-300 in this livery using this same Phoenix mold back in 2010 (pre-antenna era in 1:400) which has become rare and sought after (as you can see here). That model came with winglets though, but do not worry, Phoenix didn't stop with the model featured in this article, they went full on and also released one with winglets and another one in the One World c/s; all of them with current level of detail and antennas. The non-winglet version that I purchased looks excellent. And below a photo of the real aircraft represented by the model as it looked in the early 2000s, with the "Luxury Liner" titles on the nose area: The titles on the model appear to be not bold enough. Otherwise, looks very nice. Contestant Number 2: Aircraft: American Airlines Boeing 767-323ER Reg.: N351AA Brand: Dragon Wings Release Date: 2000 Dragon Wings produced no shortage of American Airlines models, but during the majority of my time as a collector, it was GeminiJets who had a monopoly in that market. GeminiJets works hard to protect the value of its collectibles while focusing on corporate deals with airlines and other aviation companies. That translates into plenty of current subjects released by them, while the output of classic subjects is a trickle at best. Needless to say, before NG and the rebellion of Phoenix, AA contemporary classics, including DW releases, appreciated well on the secondhand market. Still, DWs were the cheaper option, so I have plenty of their AA releases in my collection. As was the case with the majority of diecast models during those years, it was difficult to scale the landing gears properly. This in turn gave the wide-bodies, such as the 767, an upper arm. For a 24-year-old model, it looks remarkably well: And the real aircraft: Despite the model being painted (though a chrome metallic version exists) and lacking a lot of detail, DW seems to have done a better job with the boldness of the fuselage titles. Also, the DW wing-to-fuselage joint looks better. Together: In the picture above it is evident that the DW version has too much of a nose-up attitude (though If I'm being picky I'd say the Phoenix sits a tad too flat). This is probably just a byproduct of having chunky removable landing gear. DW also printed the cockpit windows a tad low - this is something that I have seen both manufacturers do from time to time. But look at how fine the edges of the windshield are on the DW example! Phoenix's got the overwing window exit pathway markings spot on. Also, as far as I can tell, Phoenix did an outstanding job with the placement of sensors, intakes, panels, and similar details all around, including the belly. The DW version is extremely crude in terms of details. But remember, the DW model was released 24 years ago when 1:400 scale was less than half a decade old; something that in itself can add value to the model. Wrapping Up Once again, I applaud Phoenix for their release choices; no-brainers if you ask me. American Airlines is very popular, particularly around my neck of the woods, and that chrome livery has joined the ranks of the most iconic paint schemes of contemporary commercial aviation. In this case, the Phoenix model is not replacing the old DW one in my collection, but it rather has become its wingman.

  • Who had the best 1/400 releases in 2023?

    2023 is coming to an end, and with all manufacturers having announced their December releases, it's time to reflect back on the past year. There are already threads on the forums about what the best and worst model / release is, which is entirely subjective. So instead I will be taking an objective look at what manufacturer had the best releases. I will do this based on the amount of variety of the five main manufacturers: Aeroclassics, NG models, JCwings, GeminiJets and Phoenix. Massive thanks to Jorge for helping me out with calculating the scores. I will look at the following criteria: 1) Geography: how many regions are covered? 2) Aircraft types: how many different aircraft manufacturers are used? 3) Airlines: how many different airlines are used? 4) Modern/retro ratio: what is the ratio between modern and retro aircraft? Disclaimer! - Everyone has different collecting criteria, meaning that the results say nothing about one brand being the best or worst for all collectors. It only shows averages based on variety. - Everything is calculated in percentages, as otherwise manufacturers with larger releases would have a huge advantage from the start. - I did not take "future releases" into account as it would be very confusing to determine which model belongs to what month. Instead I looked at the full release lists posted on the forums and/or social media. - I did not look if a model has already been made before, as this would take a huge amount of time. Geography We start by rating the variety in geography. There are 7 regions I count seperately: Europe (including all of Russia and Turkey), North America (USA & Canada), Latin America, Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Middle East. For every region included in the release, the score goes up by 14,3%. More models usually means more regions covered, which is why NG is on top here with on average 5 regions each month. JCwings and Phoenix are in the middle with 4.5 regions on average and GeminiJets is on the bottom with 3.3. Not surprising as their releases are relatively small and targeted to the North American market. Aircraft types For this criteria the score goes up by 20% for every aircraft manufacturer included in a release. 5 different manufacturers is enough variety for 100%. This method is not as detailled as it could have been, but I did not have enough time to count actual aircraft types for every release. In this category it's clear that larger releases does not always equal more variety. Despite NG's releases being about twice as large as JCwings, they are still noticably behind when it comes to using their entire mould catalogue. I did not expect Aeroclassics to be this low, considering the large variety of moulds they have, but the most likely reason for this is that some of these moulds don't have many liveries left that sell well enough. Airlines This one is a little more complicated to explain, so let's use an example: When a release is 20 models and 2 models are of the same airline, there are 19 unique airlines and 1 duplicate, so the score is = 19/20*100 = 95% Here JCwings is again on top, but this time by a large margin, even approaching a perfect score. NG's strategy to split one livery into different registrations is not helping them here, but from a business perspective it makes perfect sense to not have one large batch of the exact same model. The other three manufacturers are close to eachother, but nothing unexpected. Modern/retro ratio Each manufacturer has both modern and retro moulds available. I consider any aircraft introduced before or in 1990 as retro, unless still in production like the A320. A ratio of 50/50 scores 100%, after that it goes down 1% for every point difference. For example: 39/61 = 22 points difference, score = 78%. For the first time the winner is Phoenix. GeminiJets and JCwings are not far off as they rougly have the same ratio of modern:retro moulds available. Aeroclassics is slightly behind, for obvious reasons, but still far ahead of NG. Despite having the moulds, they are barely using them, which is a huge shame as the quality is better than the competition. Winners and losers per criteria Now we know the scores, let's sum up who the winners and losers are for each criteria. Geography Best: NG models (72,7%) Worst: GeminiJets (46,5%) Aircraft types Best: JCwings (83,3%) Worst: Phoenix (58,3%) Airlines Best: JCwings (96,5%) Worst: NG models (73,7%) Modern/retro ratio Best: Phoenix (56,2%) Worst: NG models (17,8%) Who is the best overall? The graph below shows the overall score of each manufacturer: NG models is last with 59,4%. Aeroclassics is 60,5% and then GeminiJets with 61,2%. Phoenix is second place with 65,3% and the winner by far is JCwings with 74,3%! The scores are much closer than I expected with the bottom three being seperated by only 1,8%! 2023 from my perspective This year had lots of great models, but those I was seriously interested sometimes had major issues. Hopefully next year we will see less issues as prices continue to increase here in Europe. It's difficult to make decisions as it's very unlikely some of these models will ever be made again, but I refuse to pay today's prices for the quality of 20 years ago. Besides that there have been quite a few frustrating moments when the hints were promising, but I ended up dissapoined with re-releases over and over. Now on the more positive side; lots of new moulds have been introduced in 2023 (most of which are not modern twinjets!) and I have hope they will make the 400 scale more diverse again. Ignoring Gemini's very cheap B767-400 and NG's "B747 classic", there is clearly still interest by manufacturers to fill the market with new moulds that have the quality we may expect in 2024. Massive props (no pun intended) to JCwings for the AN-26 and AN-32, which for me are the best of all new moulds. I'm quite confident they have AN-24's in the pipeline aswell, perhaps even the AN-30? Despite skipping on some models, my wallet still lost plenty of weight (2023 releases only): 3x Aeroclassics DC-10 (Swissair, Hawaiian Express, RNLAF) 1x Aeroclassics B767-200 (Air New Zealand, Hangar Club exclusive) 1x Aeroclassics B737-200 (Wien Air Alaska) 1x Aeroclassics C-46 (Canadian Pacific) 1x Aeroclassics A320 (Kingfisher) 1x NG models L-1011 Tristar (Atlantic International) 1x JCwings B747-400 (KLM with Aviationtag) Predictions for 2024 Now we have the statistics for 2023, what do I predict for 2024? Aeroclassics I think Aeroclassics will be pretty much the same. Maybe one or two modifications or returning moulds, but the same amount of variety and quality. Hopefully some re-releases of sought after 747's, because we need those. NG models With the "Year of the classic" theme that was announced not long ago and recent mould announcements, I have hope we will see a lot more retro aircraft. Besides that I think the A330neo, A340-200/300, B747-400 and MD-80 will enter the market plus two new mould reveals: MD-11 and A340-600. JCwings Not much will change in 2024 if you ask me, but considering their deal with GeminiJets and their already good releases, not much change is needed in the first place as they have the best variety already. No more than one new mould revealed, but it's completely new in 400 scale. GeminiJets Nothing new for GeminiJets, just loads of American models with a few other random continents here and there. Phoenix One new mould, which is an addition to an existing aircraft type, but no improvements to other existing ones. The great variety stays, including a couple that fit my narrow buying criteria. Wishlist for 2024 Finally my wishlist 2024: Aeroflot AN-26 (JCwings / GeminiJets) Aeroflot AN-32 (JCwings) Aeroflot IL-18 prototype (Aeroclassics) Aeroflot TU-104 white/silver livery (Retro Models) Aeroflot TU-104 orange livery (Retro Models) Aeroflot IL-62 with KLM titles (GeminiJets, even with the wrong engines I would buy) KLM DC-7 diagonal striped tail (Aeroclassics) Transavia A300 (Aeroclassics) Transavia DC-6 (Aeroclassics) Martinair DC-7 (Aeroclassics) Martinair F28 (Aeroclassics) Martinair B747-400BCF PH-MPS latest scheme (JCwings) Pulkovo TU-154 (NG / Phoenix / Aeroclassics) Pulkovo IL-86 (JCwings) Air Pacific B737-200 rainbow livery (Aeroclassics) ~~~~~~ - Mark Retrohangar Diecast on Instagram Mark22 on MAF, 400SH, DAC and DIMA Want to collaborate or let me review your product? Send me a message via the channels mentioned above! All pictures are mine (unless stated otherwise) and may not be used without my permission!

  • Versus Series Vol. 7: United Airlines 777-300ER Aviation400 vs. NG Models

    This is an excellent model comparison opportunity since it involves two recent - almost simultaneous - releases of virtually the same aircraft, except for the registration, by two brands that have a strong following. However, one of the contenders happens to be my first model made by the most recent reincarnation of Aviation400. Because of this, this piece will also serve to share my opinion (spoiler alert: not a good one) of the brand that has captivated so many with its innovative level of detail and numerous gimmicks. My first 777-300s Before getting these models I had never owned a 77W replica in any scale. I prefer the proportions of the shorter -200 family, plus it fits better the classic leanings of my collection. However, living in Houston, it is easy to come up with excuses to add post-merger United models to my collection. While UA 77Ws don't currently visit IAH regularly, when they were introduced they were put on the IAH-LHR route for a bit. I also had the opportunity to fly on one under peculiar circumstances: In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, one of these birds (which still smelled like new) operated an airline-employee-only charter from IAH to ORD to take stranded employees to their homes, and others to work out of non-flooded hubs (I was in the latter group; at the time I was flying for a UAX regional airline). So with that, I had more than a perfect excuse to drop some cash on get not one, but two long triple-sevens! The models came safely packed and in great shape from my friends at West Coast Diecast. Their selection, (most) prices, loyalty rewards program, and free shipping on large orders to the U.S. and Canada, make them a good option. Check them out! Let the Battle Begging! Below are photos of the two models, and their boxes, grouped according to the angle they show. I also sprinkled some real 77W photos in there just to get a general sense of which model better replicates the real aircraft. Boxes While it is the content of the box that matters, and I do buy models without their original box as long as the condition is good and the model is priced accordingly, if boxes are present it is fair game to throw them in for comparison. NG is well-known for using sturdy boxes with stylish designs, and this one is no exception. Something that caught my attention was that the United titles and the aircraft name "New Spirit of United" do not contrast too well with the blue portions of the enlarged Continental Globe that serves as background. I don't know what to think about the Aviation400 box design. At least it has all the important information prominently displayed on it. Aircraft Looking at the profile pictures above looks like the titles on the NG example are a bit compressed vertically. While the colors on both models look fine to me, it seems that AV400 might be closer to what the real thing looks like. I do like NG's engine profile better, as well as their cockpit window printing. The sockets for the rear-facing white nav lights on the tip of the blended winglets look oversized on the AV4000 example, as do most of their other accessories (antennae, beacon/jewels, etc). From the angle of the photos above it is evident that NG's wing joint is much more refined and realistic than AV400's effort. Below is one of my photos of a 77W at IAH that supports my observation. In the two photos above seems like AV400's horizontal stabilizer joint resembles the real thing better, though it doesn't fit as neatly as NG's. The angle of the photos above is always flattering and both both models look fine from that vantage point. The fuselage shape of the NG one looks better to me though. NG wins when the models are seen from the front. I have seen some collectors state that the fuselage of the AV400 77W is not wide enough, and I think that is correct. Oh yes, AV400 has see-through engines and that is nice, but it doesn't help if the overall look of the airplane is off. And of course, I could not talk about these two models without highlighting the tilting main landing gear trucks that the AV400 77W comes with. It does look nice, but with the flaps fully retracted, and the nose landing gear strut compressed, having the main landing gear in an extended-in-flight position is as unrealistic as it gets. The stand I used to take the two photos above is the one that comes included with the AV400 model, which is a nice carryover from the original Aviation400. Wrapping Up The two models are very nice, and scrutinizing them is nothing but another way to enjoy them and appreciate the level of accuracy and detail that these models have. However, there is a model I prefer: the NG Models one. Despite the AV400 having the upper hand in the title font and, maybe, the colors, the overall look of the NG example is more refined and sober, and the model as a whole is ultimately easier on my eyes. AV400 numerous oversized details, including the beacon jewel, combined with the unrefined cockpit windows, wing joints, and engines make it seem as if they are trying to enhance a rather ordinary product with gimmicks; smoke and mirrors if you will. It does not help that my experience with the original Aviation400 was not what you would call memorable (though they are the brand behind the number one subject in my current "most-wanted list," the Lan Chile 747-100). From what I can see the essence of the original Aviation400 is alive and well in this modern version of the brand. Now, if you are a collector who is fascinated by tilting main landing gear bogies, lights represented with jewels, and tons of molded-in details in 1:400 scale, that's alright. I have to admit that I never thought I would see such features in these tiny models and I applaud AV400 for trying to raise the bar. However, excessive level of detail is just not the main reason I collect airplane models. Plus, I think many of the features AV400 has added to its 77W need to be refined. I have heard that their A380 is indeed a true masterpiece of 1:400 scale, and maybe the larger size of the aircraft lends itself better to the amount of detail AV400 seems to specialize in. Keep in mind that I am just speaking based on my experience with this United 77W. Jorge A. Zajia

  • Avensa & Servivensa Hybrids

    Recently Aeroclassics re-released an ANA 727-281 in the Triton Blue livery. Despite being an appealing subject, it wasn't the typical instant sell-out Aeroclassics model, and shortly after its release, it was being offered with a substantial discount at a Black Friday sale. I took the opportunity to grab one with the intent of converting it into an Avensa example that wore the Triton Blue basic ANA livery with small company titles in the late eighties. The project also prompted me to dig out a GeminiJets Eastern DC-9-30 that I had purchased years ago with a similar intent in mind. I want to share with you some of the historical background surrounding the aircraft these models represent. Overview of Avensa and its relationship with the 727 Avensa got its first taste of the 727 in 1979 when Boeing managed to sell them two ntu -294 units originally destined for Syrian Arab Airlines. The airline developed an affinity for the type and quickly turned to the second-hand market looking for more of them. In the early 1980s Avensa leisurely added more 727s to its fleet, mainly older -100 series built during the sixties. But in the late 80s, a flurry of -200s showed up, and the airline's 727 fleet peaked at somewhere in between 15 and 20 active airframes around that time, making the type both, the flagship and workhorse of the company. During this time Avensa had a comprehensive route network connecting every corner of Venezuela, including many destinations that have never seen consistent and reliable air service again since the airline's decline, with neighboring countries in Northern South America, Central America, The Caribbean, as well as New York and Miami. The European destinations using DC-10 aircraft that gave the brand some global recognition came later during the airline's last years and were nothing more than an agonic gasp as by then Avensa was merely a shadow of what it once had been. All Nippon Airways 727-281s that went to Avensa Five of the several 727-200s that joined Avensa's fleet in the late eighties were -281s that had been retired by All Nippon Airways (ANA). At least three of them were seen wearing basic ANA c/s with Venezuelan registrations around the time they were being delivered to Avensa. At least two of them went into line operations still wearing basic ANA colors with small Avensa titles, one of which was YV-94C, the customized 727 featured in this article. Below is a table summarizing the ex-ANA Avensa 727s: The Model: The real aircraft: Eastern DC-9s and Servivensa In the early nineties, as part of an aggressive cost-cutting campaign, the owners of Avensa created a sister airline called Servivensa. In short, the objective was to break Avensa labor unions by transferring the majority of the operations to the new, non-unionized, sister airline. As I recall, while they were effectively two separate airlines, from the passenger standpoint they were the same entity. As Servivensa was being created in Venezuela, in the U.S. Eastern Airlines (along with a few other legendary airlines) was going bust. The Avensa group purchased several of Eastern DC-9-30s and -50s (I counted 9). Initially, the aircraft were split almost evenly between the sister airlines, but in the end, the majority of the ones that went to Avensa also ended up being transferred to Servivensa. The majority of these DC-9s were put into service with both airlines while still wearing Eastern basic c/s, in many cases the faded silhouette of the Eastern titles and logos could still be recognized under the new operator's provisionary titles. This sort of perpetuated the Eastern Airlines' image in Venezuela, where the airline had been a regular visitor up until the end, for a few more years after its demise. Eventually, all of these airplanes received full Servivensa and Avensa color schemes. The Model: The Real Aircraft: Fun fact: The donor model's original reg. was N8988E, which is also the reg. corresponding to the aircraft that became YV-760C in real life. While I was too young to remember the Avensa 727s in basic ANA c/s, I do recall seeing the Avensa/Servivensa DC-9s wearing the Eastern colors, and even recall boarding one via stairs on what I believe was a CCS-MAR flight. They were a common sight in Venezuela during the 1992-1994 time frame and tend to bring good memories to those of us who remember them. Below a mix of Avensa and Servivensa DC-9s in the domestic ramp at Maiquetía airport, showing many already painted in their new operators' full liveries. The two aircraft still wearing the Eastern basic c/s are Avensa YV-764C in the forefront (Avensa titles, but Servivensa reg.) and Servivensa YV-760C in the background. Jorge A. Zajia

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