Since the appearance of their new Airbus A350 moulds Aviation400 have taken a substantial lead when it comes to representing the type in 400 scale. Certainly, they quickly developed an ascendancy over Phoenix and JC Wings / Gemini, although JC has reacted by modifying the nose region of their A350 to make it more competitive. Now that NG Models has also entered the A350 arena it remains to be seen whether Aviation400 can still compete, however, just like NG, Aviation400 have shown a willingness to incrementally update and improve their moulds as is shown by this Fiji Airways release – one of the most recent offerings.
THIS REVIEW IS SPONSORED BY PRAIRIE DIECAST
Each review is to split into three key areas:
The Aviation400 A350 has become my go to A350 casting and I’m not sure that’ll change even with the NG version now appearing.
For many it has been the nose profile that has cursed the various A350s in this scale with the older JC Wings effort typically coming in for a real hammering, although the Phoenix was not great either. The AV400 has never had this issue to the same extent. It reproduces the slight change in angle upwards beneath the cockpit well. Holding it up in front of a photo of the real thing the change is perhaps still a little too subtle but overall it matches.
The fuselage is excellent including the complicated post wing area. It also usually has exceptional mould detailing. There are however only four of the six antennae (3 on the roof, 1 on the belly forward). Previously the two missing small belly antennae have also been fitted and I’m not sure why they’ve been excluded this time.
One of the benefits of adding rooftop elements as extra units is that they can be excluded where necessary. So, for instance, on this release the tiny dome usually on the roof above the wing is not present as it appears to be absent in the real thing. The small forward dome ahead of the first roofline aerial is missing and is only detailed in outline.
As with their other 400 scale moulds, AV400’s A350 has both beacons (red plastic inserts) on the upper fuselage and underneath. They work very well for me, better than the taller versions on the A330 casting. This aircraft also has a sizeable satnav/Wi-Fi dome, unfortunately it isn’t particularly well shaped. On the real thing it is a teardrop but, on this model, it is rather uniformly shaped, albeit very well fitted.
The engine pylons and nacelles themselves are very good also keeping the engines well off the ground and closely fitting to the wings. Early AV400 A350s had an issue with engine orientation, whereby the engines pointed upwards but that has now been fixed and removes the biggest issue with the mould. The engine inners are very finely detailed. The engines are see-through, in fact the most see through I’ve ever seen in 1:400. This isn’t necessarily a compliment as the blades are way too thin.
Looking at the undercarriage and it is very finely built. The nosegear is a good length but not as chunky as the Phoenix. The maingear bogies are separate pivoting units (as in the Phoenix 777) and so can be moved independently to replicate different positions. The mechanism for doing this does mean that the bogies lack detail and look rather unrealistic. Aviation400 have recently increased the size of the maingear tyres on their A350s and these are now better sized and also hide some of the maingear bogie too.
It is also the undercarriage which has seen a further improvement with this model. The size of the tyre hub has been decreased and the gear legs are now a silver colour rather than the previous less realistic light grey. These incremental changes to the landing gear have all been improvements and show a willingness to improve by Aviation400 that is most welcome.
With a combination of features and exceptional detail to the aerials, undercarriage and engines this is an excellent mould. It competes well with the new NG Models version, which I have not had the chance to review on a finished model yet.
SCORE - 9
PAINT & LIVERY
The rebranding of Air Pacific to Fiji Airways was a product of the agency FutureBrand with the challenge to:
“redefine a national airline to embody the values and unique spirit of Fiji with a brand experience that would not only create advocacy for the airline itself but also create a proud symbol for Fiji and its people.”
The result was a partnership with the Fijian Masi artist Makereta Matenosi who created a traditional Masi as the centrepiece of the scheme. Although in many ways the scheme is yet another mainly white livery the interesting titles and complex Masi designs on tail and engines elevate it to form a unique offering. It has been broadly welcomed and won the ‘Global Rebrand of the Year’ in 2014.
The colours of the livery are simple and yet cause for some confusion. The initial renderings had an almost brick red and chocolate brown, but in photos of the actual aircraft the colours almost always seems closer to chestnut and black. In fact, I am struggling to tell whether the standard colour is now black not brown. Certainly, looking at photos of the A350 and comparing it to the model the colours match.
The livery elements are made up of 3 main Masi patterns. In the centre of the tail here is the Teteva. Surrounding this are replicating Makare motifs and on the engines are the Rova motifs. Other Masi shapes are used internally. In general the complex Masi shapes are well placed on the tailplane and rear fuselage, although if you look very closely they are not 100% accurate.
At the rear tail top and just in front of the horizontal stabiliser there are inaccuracies of form and placement. These are minor and the Rova motifs on the engine nacelles are excellent. The interesting double lined main titles look great although I think the AIRWAYS lettering underneath is a little too thick.
The Sharklets are nicely finished and correctly have FIJI titles on their inside. On the underside of the fuselage the large FIJI titles are superb. Overall, I am happy with the colours, which leaves only a couple of minor positional issues largely imperceptible to the human eye.
SCORE - 8
PRINTING & QUALITY CONTROL
Aviation400’s printing is very good and widespread. Cockpit windows have been a major area of concern on A350s to date with both Phoenix and JC Wings / Gemini Jets regularly misplacing them. AV400 does not and the bandit mask is exemplary.
Printing detail is particularly strong on the roofline and underside (an area of usual Phoenix weakness). Together with the navigation beacon the underside of the model looks excellent. Yet, despite these complements this particular example is not AV400’s finest work. On the right side forward between the nosegear and titles there is an odd extra layer of something that has been painted over. It is raised and in photos looks kind of like a crease.
There is also a small paint nick on the right-side engine exhaust but these are at least correctly metallic blue and not silver. The engine inners are however rather silvery and not dark enough.
Construction quality is good on this model except in one place – the forward belly aerial. This is fitted side on and firmly attached so can’t be moved to its correct orientation.
SCORE - 7
Aviation400 are producing excellent A350s and this is another fine example, which would be much better off if AV400 had worked a little harder on the end finish. It is a rarity to have to knock three points off for finishing issues with an AV400 release but I'm sure they only impact this particular example and not the release as a whole. Interestingly this airframe has been produced now by AV400, JC Wings and Gemini Jets, with Phoenix producing its sistership soon. Judging by the images I have seen JC Wings got the colours wrong and Gemini missed off the lower aerial. Personally, I think this is the best of the three and I’m certain that the upcoming Phoenix effort won’t be able to match it.
FINAL SCORE - 24
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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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