2016 has been very much business as usual for Gemini Jets. That's good news if you like modern US aircraft and fleetbuilding from a selection of other global legacy airlines, not so good if you are after more unusual or retro fair. Their business is built upon fulfilling corporate orders and if anything this year they have moved further away from the 'for collectors by collectors' tag with some hefty price increases. Let's take a closer look.
The findings of both my previous reviews still hold true so I won't repeat them again. Gemini have an impressive mould back catalogue to play with (though often the moulds are pretty ordinary) but use it mainly to focus on the obvious, avoiding heavy competition with their sister company, JC Wings, and Phoenix. There avoidance of classic releases mean there is rarely any overlap with Aeroclassics too, though there is some overlap on the modern Airbus front. Below are photos of 26 of Gemini's releases from 2016 - not the best and not the worst - just 26 of the fair to middling. One thing that seems to stand out is cockpit printing. The windows look too low on the China Southern EMB-190, KLM EMB-190 and Emirates A380s, too high on the EL AL and Norwegian 787-9s and just crap on the Delta 717 and Alaska 737s.
Between May and December 2016 Gemini have released 68 models and have easily done so with the most different moulds - 28 in fact. Boeing types account for 16 of these moulds.
Geographically the US dominates as is usual; especially American Airlines/Eagle (8) but also Alaska Airlines (3), Delta Airlines (3), Hawaiian Airlines (2), Jet Blue (3) and United Airlines (3).
Within Europe Gemini favs British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa and Virgin all feature alongside stalwarts Air France and Thomas Cook.
Asia had a stronger focus in the last 2/3 of the year than in the first third with 11 releases. Vietnam Airlines accounts for 3 of these (I assume they have a contract with GJ) but Thai Airways also gets 2 releases.
In the Middle East Emirates, as always, gets a few releases but so too have Israeli airlines. Mexico is traditionally well served by Gemini and gets 4 releases but there is not a single model from South America, India or Africa, which is a poor show.
Some of the releases are still perplexing. Why did Gemini release a China Southern Embraer when JC Wings had made the same model on the same mould and has done a better job of it?
There hasn't been a lot of movement on the mould front in 2016. This is a shame because a couple of Gemini's newer moulds (which are really JC Wings efforts) have quite large issues. I'm thinking the A330 (and its incredible wings) and the 737-800 (and its pointy nose and giant tyres). One area that has seemingly changed however is the A321. During 2015 Gemini didn't release any, after having used the Phoenix mould in 2014. In April 2016 they look like they slipped out a new mould with little fanfair. It does look quite similar to the earlier one but the nosegear, wings and aerials look quite different. Unfortunately I haven't seen it in person.
The appearance of the new JC Wings A320 mould means it must be time to say goodbye to the older version. It had some issues (seams and undercarriage detailing) but it wasn't bad (when put together properly - which it often wasn't) and at least it looked like an A320. I can't say I'll miss it hugely but it was an ok mould that just couldn't compete against the Aeroclassics version. Here are some of this years A320s:
The newest version of the 747 has been something of a turkey saleswise but Gemini have access to an excellent mould for it and of all the manufacturers perhaps seem keenest to release cargo airlines. This has meant the 747-8 has got a decent run out and in some more unusual schemes. There has been Air Bridge Cargo in June, Silk Way in September and Saudia Cargo in November. Then again these releases have often had quite major colour issues. In addition the Qatari private jet 747-8i release seemed to get good reviews too.
Gemini is hardly known for releasing obscure airline models but has slipped out a couple of more interesting models since April. The Icelandair 'Hekla Aurora' was many people's model of the year despite the chunky undercarriage of the 757 mould. The Vietjet A321 suggests that Gemini will sometimes move away from legacy airlines, but it was September that perhaps saw the two most unusual releases - an Arkia 757-300 and Magnicharters 737-300. Sadly the nose of the Gemini/JC 737-300 is a complete disaster rendering what would have been a buyable release useless in my eyes. To be honest when I look over the releases list there really aren't anymore especially surprising releases. Are Interjet and MASWings unusual - probably if you're a Gemini buyer? Then again it seems the majority of the collectorate are happy with the standard Gemini fare.
Possibly the most pleasing aspect for me has been Gemini's engagement, in a small way at least, with the modern Russian market. They released Aeroflot's budget airline Pobeda on a 737-800 in July and more unexpectedly the 737-500 got a rare run out in UTAir colours in November. I still struggle with the 737-800 mould (see below) but I suspect I will eventually pickup the UTAir to go with the JCWings 767-200. Hopefully Gemini will release more Russian narrowbodies in 2017.
I keep seeing people praising the Gemini 737NG mould, even thinking it is one of the best. As I've said in this review I just don't see it. Compare below. Obvious issues are :
- The aerials are far too large
- The tyres (especially nosegear) are far too large
- The nosegear legs are too short (maingear too but not so bad)
- The area around the cockpit is incorrect and/or the cockpit windows are printed incorrectly
- The nose is too pointy (this appears worse on some releases than others)
Now it's not a total write off and none of the 1/400 737NG moulds are perfect (see my mould review) but it's hardly one of the best moulds available let alone the best 737NG. It could certainly be massively improved with smaller aerials and new undercarriage at the very least.
I am not a Gemini buyer anymore. In 2016 so far I have purchased 106 models and none have been Geminis! That says something about their releases. I almost got the Air China 787-9 but in the end settled for the Phoenix version. I may pick up 1 or 2 but that'll be it. Having said that this is hardly new so can't really be called a disappointment. For others (mainly American buyers) I know Gemini is producing just what you're after.
Ideas - or lack of
And that brings me to the cost. Historically Gemini have been the cheapest of the manufacturers and certainly on the seconds market their models do not hold their value in the way Aeroclassics and Phoenix do. Yet a new pricing regime brought in by Gemini in 2016 has seen the price of the models skyrocket. This has especially impacted British buyers (thanks to the Brexit madness) but is also noticeable in USD pricing. Nearly $50 for an A380 is way above Phoenix prices (around $42) and miles above Aeroclassics. The models simply are not often special enough to warrant such hikes, which seem like a cynical cash-in on collectors.
Below is the full list of Gemini 1/400 releases by month. After that we conclude with the best and worst Gemini Jets of the year according to me :)
Gemini do make some crap, albeit nicely detailed, amongst a generally inoffensive bunch of models. There are just some bad moulds in the JC Wings catalogue that get used. The Magnicharters 737-300, Delta 717 and Southwest 73G are all just outside the bottom 5 but here are probably the 5 worst efforts.
I probably sound like I don't like Gemini models and that isn't the case. They make some good stuff too. My top 5 of the year goes to these lovely efforts but the A350s and 747-400s score highly as well:
Face it Gemini don't really care about collectors. They are going to keep trucking along charging high prices for mediocre offerings of obvious models. If you are into collecting modern US airlines tough luck - they have you over a barrel unless it's an Airbus. My opinion is that given the price hikes and the variable QC you are almost always better of getting an Aeroclassics or Phoenix if you can. Sadly a lot of the time you don't have the choice. I don't expect Gemini to change their business model at all next year and I can't see me picking up many of their models in 2017. There's plenty of other models out there to collect and Gemini aren't going to miss my business. They appear to be doing fine doing it their way and if you've been happy with them in 2016 you won't care anyway (and you probably need glasses).