I don't really understand JC Wings. On the one hand they are the mould factory for Gemini Jets and are pumping out probably the most new moulds and most innovative features of all the 1/400 manufacturers, whilst on the other hand they almost try and con people into pre-ordering ahead of time and have appalling quality control. They really are like Jekyll and Hyde. Here's what they've been up to in 2016:
I tried to cover JC Wings January-April 2016 releases in an earlier review which can be found here.
Thanks to Michael at Waffle Collectibles for use of his photos.
At the end of 2016 of the 101 models announced in the calendar year 42 still remain unreleased. At least all the 2015 models eventually turned up, though some were big disappointments - I'm looking at you Cargolux 747-8F Cutaway. Below are 23 of JC Wings 2016 output - models not discussed directly in the following text:
To the left is the full table of all 2016 release announcements.
I had thought that Gemini Jets was using the most moulds in 2016 but it turns out I was wrong and in fact it's their partner JC Wings that is doing so having 'used' no less than 30 different moulds - 32 if you take the flaps down versions as separate moulds. I say 'used' because 4 of the moulds have been announced but not released yet.
The spread of models is as you'd expect seeing as JC plays primarily in the Asian market competing against Phoenix. 72 of the 100 models are Asian. It is even more skewed when you take into account that several of the other releases are not airlines but manufacturer colours (MD-11, A320NEO, A350-1000, C Series). The only area where any diversity creeps in in any numbers is with the 737-800, which has gotten 6 much delayed European releases (mainly Ryanair and TUI).
JC like Gemini has moved far far away from classics in recent years and it is only the pestering* of Adrian Balch that saw the one true classic made this year - the BEA One-eleven 500. Of the other two possible 'classic' releases one was a fantasy BOAC Concorde and the other a not really classic: house colours MD-11. At least unlike Gemini when JC has made these classics it's done an excellent job.
(* by pestering I mean diligent oversight and hard work - i wish Adrian would have greater involvement not less and his engagement is most welcome)
This is a far cry from my hopes at the end of 2015. In that year the Britannia 100 mould got a run out but it appears to have gone back into hibernation so will we ever see the missing BOAC, Laker and Britannia schemes?
Referring back to my 2015 review not a lot has changed and in fact some of my criticisms have gotten worse. There are still major issues with time to market and quality. However so I don't sound like a broken record let's see what has changed this year...
JC Wings seem to want to be everything to everyone. They are releasing a decent number of 1/400 models (or announcing them anyway) using Gemini and their own mould catalogue but also put out large numbers of what appear to be very nice 1/200s as well. As of early 2016 they are also producing 1/72 military aircraft plus they bought the Witty 1/400 mould back catalogue when Witty ceased production. So they must be literally swimming in moulds of all scales.
As nice as this sounds I can only think it is a major factor in the slowness of releases and the very high variability of the quality of what they put out too. Basically it would seem the sheer vision of JC Wings appears to be damaging its output.
And none of this is seemingly stopping it from producing a lot of new moulds too.
In recent years JC Wings has updated its 777-200 and released new moulds for the A330s, 737NGs, C Series, 747-8, A350-900 and 787-8/9. The results have been pretty good except for the A330 and arguably the 737. JC hasn't been content with this though and this year has produced new moulds for the A320 and A321. I discussed the new A321 in the Gemini review. The first new A320 was the Cathay Dragon B-HSO announced in August but not released until a few months later.
Other new moulds have also been announced, though none have been released yet. The announcements in number at least put the other manufacturers to shame. So far there are:
- October - Airbus A320NEO
- October - Boeing 777-300ER
- December - Boeing 737-8MAX
- December - A350-1000
- December - A330-200F
Likewise I assume the A320NEO will be based on the new A320 and the A350 a growth of the existing A350-900. Both should be therefore perfectly acceptable. The A330-200F is interesting not least because (as with the A320NEO) they have been gazumped by Panda models. Hopefully it won't have the major wing issues of the existing A330 moulds.
I'm not sure about this model - how can they possibly make any money from it? I mean it looks ok (though the nosegear is far too large and the mid-wing join wrong) but it's a really random choice for a new mould. They have basically made a one off, which brings into sharp focus why we can't get a 1/400 Stratoliner, Mercure, Argosy, Martin or even TU-134. It's barely even fits the criterion for getting in this review let alone getting into my collection. Did anybody buy it?
If there is a prize for innovation this year then it must go to JC Wings for their flaps down A350 and 787s. I personally don't really see the need to own these variants but they look good and add something extra. Kudos to JC for trying something new. Here are some sample photos of the flaps down on the 787 and A350:
To the right you can see the flaps up and down release announcements so far and note that usually the same model (or almost the same - different rego) is made in both up and down configuration. This makes sense for collector choice and economics.
So far only 2 Cathay A350s and 2 ANA 787s have reached the US market, however I've seen some shots of the Hainan 787s.
One of the few areas JC Wings has distinguished itself this year in terms of airline choices is its interest in Taiwan. By my count there have been 14 Taiwanese airliners announced in 2016 and not all were from China Airlines or Eva Air. For me the pick of the bunch is the FAT 737-800 (despite my reservations of the mould) and the pair of Mandarin Embraers. I have to tell you I'm this far from starting a Taiwanese collection, after all it's part of China - right :) - I know I know.
The A330 has become one of the most popular workhorses of the airlines of today so it is not surprising that it appears regularly in 1/400. JC have announced 17 regular passenger versions this year so its a shame they are almost all so fatally flawed. When I got my first two A330s on the new mould last year I was impressed. However subsequent releases have shown a disturbing tendency to look like the are trying to take-off, but by flapping like a bird rather than like a plane. The wings point up at the most ridiculous angle and I can only warn any readers to steer well clear of the Gemini and JC Wings A330s until this is resolved. It doesn't seem to be the mould per se since sometimes the wings are fine - but is a weakness of the way the mould is put together. This issue is als apparent with the smaller number of A340s made and as I stated in the Gemini review, worryingly a similar issue looks like its happening with the new A321 too.
Look at this sorry bunch. They are universally awful. The wings are far too high and the maingear too low because of the wing fitting:
I like many rejoiced when BigBird Mk3 (re)appeared using the great Witty mould 747s but alas it has not been a success. It's not the models - they are fine just the paucity of the models. 3 or 4 releases a year hardly warrants getting excited about, which is a real shame. I don't know what is going on and why the BigBirds have stopped. It is peculiar to say the least as I believe there is plenty of potential for new high quality 747s in this scale. They have the potential to wipe the stain of the Phoenix 747-400 from the market - if only JC would use them.
JC Wings for all their good points seem to be the epicentre of a lot of what is bad about 1/400. They announce models months ahead of everyone else and either take forever to release them or rush them out early full of errors. Even when the models are good they are often very poorly constructed - lack of glue is common but fingerprints, smudging etc are prevalent too. They construct Gemini Jets for Gemini and have helped GJ models reach a nadir of quality this year so it isn't just their own brand they are damaging. The issues are easily resolvable yet JC don't seem keen to do so.
So charitably ignoring the company's inability to build the models and focusing just on the models themselves here are my worst and best of the released JC Wings models of 2016. First the worst:
Despite other scale preoccupations it looks like JC Wings are in 1/400 for the long haul so I'd expect good use to be made of all the new moulds that are coming. Having said that I don't see any suggestion that JC are interested in improving their quality control or research. Therefore I expect JC will underperform yet again in 2017 and not just in terms of getting models from announcement to market. It's a real shame as there is a great company fighting to get out buried in their somewhere. For now JC Wings are joint bottom of the pile with Gemini Jets.