This review is a little different to usual since it will focus on one of the new GSE sets from FantasyWings rather than a model aircraft itself. To that end I'll abandon the usual scoring regime. I have looked at several FantasyWings sets previously and use them on my own model airports so it is good to see them expanding their range of products. Despite the odd release from Gemini and JC Wings FantasyWings are the only company focused on professional ground service equipment production so they are an important brand in both 400 and 200 scale.
Perhaps unsurprisingly FantasyWings has a selection of base sets in its range, which it releases both blank versions of and versions adorned with airline logos. This set contains the following items:
1 x Belt Loader
2 x Cargo Loaders with either elevated or lowered platforms
2 x Baggage Tugs
3 x Container Trolleys for LD3/AKE containers
3 x Container Trolleys for large P6P Pallet containers
3 x LD3/AKE containers
3 x LD39/P6P Pallet containers
That adds up to an impressive 19 pieces of GSE. Retailing around the $32-33 mark in the US and £30 mark in the UK these sets aren't cheap but you do get quite a bit for your money.
The set under review here is in the current colours of Thai Airways (which I don't actually own any models wearing), although the branding is quite light and only applies to the belt loader, tractors and cargo loaders. Looking at some photos from Bangkok Suvnarabhumi it does appear that Thai has GSE painted in its colours and that broadly match the livery being applied here. I suspect however it is a stretch to expect the GSE in this set to match exactly with that being used by Thai.
FantasyWings has made other sets in the colours of Singapore Airlines and Eva Air. You could question producing sets in such tailored schemes that only suite the hub airport for the carrier but if that is an issue FantasyWings has produced the generic set without airline titling.
I am far from a GSE expert but FantasyWings does appear to have based its GSE on real units. The belt loader bares a good resemblance to several belt loaders (like the Tiger BL-2000 made by Victory GSE) although I can't pin the exact model down.
Detailing in 400 scale is obviously limited but there is a very nice distinction between the wheels and body. The safety rail running up the inside of the conveyor belt is very finely detailed as well.
The unit is not just a rectangle either and correctly has the cut-off angle on the front right bumper with recessed head lights.
What it does lack are small features almost impossible to show in 400 scale such as the rubber pads at the end of the belt and the operator's steering wheel.
Overall this is a lovely little unit. My only criticism is that although the conveyor can be raised up it often struggles to stay elevated at the correct angle.
The Cargo Loaders are the largest elements of the set and come with either raised or lowered rear platforms that can be manually switched out (rather than a platform that actually moves up and down). Once again I am not certain what cargo loader they are supposed to represent, although in comparison with the Commander series by JBT they do show the same general form.
Once again the model has lots of good detail albeit the operator cab is a little chunky when compared with the fine railings of the belt loader guard rail.
Making the rear platform removable simplifies the mechanism of the model, which is actually beneficial given how much hassle and easily breakable the Aeroclassics cargo loader with moveable platform is. The forward platform can be raised a small distance so it is level with the aft platform, but what is missing is the intermediate loading level with the fore platform lowered and the rear platform raised to that height. Against a 747 it is this intermediate height, which is most fitting and not actually achievable so I put the fore platform down and had the aft one raised.
It is also a little difficult to balance the platform in its up mode on the chassis, especially if you want to display it with the container atop. I had to use some blu-tack to keep it in place.
Also a minor point is that this cargo loader is only suitable for underbelly cargo holds as the forward platform does not raise high enough to reach the heights necessary for main deck cargo doors. Having said that FantasyWings has another cargo loader set for maindeck loading.
Baggage Tug and Trolleys
The baggage tug and the trolleys once again show an admirable level of detail given the small scale. The shape of the tug is excellent and my only criticism is that the light pole behind the driver's seat is rather oversized.
The baggage trolleys clip together with the tug, however I found that when they are attached they tend to raise each other off the ground a little and a more professional look is achieved by leaving them disconnected. Given their small size it is probably impossible to make them finer than they are.
The containers themselves are suitably chunky and have some nice print detailing.
Overall there is a lot to like in this set and the level of detail and fineness of components makes it good value for money. My criticisms are all minor and mainly relate to the finicky-ness of trying to put the set on display. There is no doubt that FantasyWings are producing the finest GSE sets, however obviously if you have a decent sized model airport it would be hard to justify the cost involved in populating it with enough FantasyWings sets. Nonetheless for specific photo-shoots or smaller dioramas these sets add real quality.
As someone with a large model airport I would like to see sets produced of larger numbers of common elements (especially containers and baggage carts). After all you only need 5-10 cargo loaders but need tens of baggage trolleys. Maybe that is something FantasyWings can look at for the future.
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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