Few would have foreseen the change 2023 has brought to Phoenix. For a long time they produced mainly the same releases as JC Wings, of a relatively small number of Asian and European airlines, but now they are producing an unusual variety including something they've barely made before - US airlines. Partly I think this is a response to the entry of NG Models into the market, but I also know they are listening to a collector friend of mine who has been giving them some excellent advice. Before this year they hadn't made a single Delta release - now they've made three. Admittedly one was on their 747 mould, but this release gives me the first chance to take a look at their MD-11 in years.
Each review is to split into three key areas:
The MD-11 is a type that hasn't had a new mould made for it in twenty years. Of the three moulds (by Dragon Wings, Gemini Jets / JC Wings and Phoenix) all date originally from that time although the latter two have both been updated since. The best of the original versions is probably the Dragon mould, one of their finest but the updated modern versions certainly give that old mould a run for their money.
The result of the mould updates, performed in 2013 for Phoenix, has created what looks like a modern mould with aerials and rolling gear on what is a firmly pre-2005 casting. This is an upgrade on the original but far from a complete success as the original mould's issues have not been resolved.
The updates to the competing Gemini / JC Wings MD-11 are in a similar vein to the Phoenix and also leave the original mould issues untouched. This is somewhat ironic considering the moulds already shared quite a similar likeness.
The age of the mould dictates that it is a cradle mount with a wingseam, however the seam is discrete and wraps around the underside of the fuselage. It does mean that the small fuselage to wing fairing is effectively absent forward of the wing but is no worse than on the Gemini version.
What the mould does have is an excellent rounded nosecone and cockpit region. The rest of the fuselage, including the screwdriver style tailcone is very nice as well.
Both the wings and vertical stabiliser have rather strong panel lining. The sort that some Dragon moulds are pilloried for. It isn't awful but is a lot more pronounced than on the competing moulds. The wing form is decent with good dihedral. The winglets are less good as the lower winglet is straight rather than correctly angled outwards. All the three moulds have this issue.
One of the moulds biggest concerns is that the engine pylons hang the engines too low. The nacelles themselves are good but the engines are definitely too low. They are prevented from making that too obvious by one of the mould upgrades Phoenix has made - the rolling gear.
The new maingear is nicely detailed, as is the nosegear - however the latter is definitely too long. The model has the nosegear leg at a strong forward angle but even so it makes the front of the aircraft higher than the rear. If it were straighter, as it should be, the effect would be even worse. It's a shame as the gear looks good, aside from its length. At times it can make the model look like it is on stilts, but I have to say in the hand here the effect isn't as bad as some photos have made it look before.
Three nicely sized aerials have been added to the model and a great feature it has that the competing Gemini / JC Wings version doesn't is that inside the centreline number 2 engine you can see the fanblades correctly deep inside the nacelle. Another area where it has the edge on the competition is that the middle engine exhaust fin is one piece not two.
Lastly a further small difference is that the Phoenix mould has the pair of small ADF fairings on the rooftop moulded in and not just printed. Overall the Phoenix MD-11 is a decent mould, but one showing its age. It has nice details that the Gemini / JC mould doesn't (ADF humps, middle engine fan, one piece exhaust fin) but also has inferior engine pylons and gear length.
SCORE - 7
PAINT & LIVERY
There are few liveries more iconic or close to enthusiasts hearts than the widget. This model represents the very last version of it with the Skyteam added. Skyteam wasn't formed until 2000 and in fact this aircraft was never repainted into either of the two later liveries used during its career. It was retired from Delta in 2004 still wearing the Widget.
The dark blue on the Delta widget was soo dark it is sometimes hard to see it isn't black and only in upclose photos where it transitions to black at the cockpit onto the radome is it obvious. On this model it is hard to tell too but I think the transition is there when you see closeup shots.
The position and size of the cheatline and red pinstripe are good but if I'm an ultimate nitpicker the cheatline should end midway along the horizontal stabiliser not at its rear margin as on the model.
Although the tailfin is generally good I'm not 100% convinced by the angles of the widget itself, especially the red triangle's lower margin. It should be beneath the upper margin of the exhaust fin. The MD-11 titles on the number two engine are also a little squashed - most obvious when looking at the D.
The main DELTA titles look nice and the fleet number, 806, is present on the tailfin and nosegear doors. A solid rendition of a classic scheme and in my opinion the minor positional issues noted at the tail don't amount to more than a point dropped.
SCORE - 9
PRINTING & QUALITY CONTROL
I admit when it comes to printing detail I don't think of Phoenix as being top of the pile. This model does illustrate that but it isn't a bad effort. One thing I am thankful for is that the cockpit windows are printed in the correct location. This is an issue on my admittedly ancient Gemini version from 2001. The cockpit windows look great here and in general the printing is good overall.
The chrome belly is also very nice and has some great detail printing on it too. So what are the issues. They are minor but include a classic of Phoenix's - no maingear doors being printed. Additionally the printing of the Skyteam logo over the red and black lines isn't great as they can be seen through it - only at magnification mind.
Lastly on the paint side when once again you zoom in there is some paintbleed from the black nosecone into the white on both sides of the nose. This is almost impossible to see with the naked eye so hardly a big deal. Given the need for macro-photography to note these issues I'll round up them and the lack of maingear doors to a point lost.
Build quality is superb, so no problems there.
SCORE - 9
I wasn't sure whether to get this model, as I have the old Gemini version already. I am glad I did as the fresh printing colour and detail and mould improvements definitely make it superior. They certainly offset the engine pylons and nosegear height, which have put me off previous Phoenix MD-11 purchases. Clearly the MD-11 could do with a more modern mould, but in its absence this model has turned out very nicely. In the past 4 years I have only bought 7 Phoenix models, whereas in 2013 for example I have 22 from them. Hopefully this new diversity will continue as I can see that on certain moulds there is still potential for Phoenix to impress.
FINAL SCORE - 25
I'm Richard Stretton an aviation enthusiast and major collector of 400 scale models. On this page I take a detailed look at new releases.
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