The desire for new 747s in 400 scale remains insatiable but has only been slightly met by JC Wings and their newish 747-400 mould. Although they've now made over 30 releases, this includes flaps up and down variants as separate releases while most of the subject matter has been modern freighters or Asian airlines. Gemini have likewise only utilised it a few times and all for cargo airlines so far. This release is unusual in that it is in typical Gemini territory but is a JC release. It certainly makes an interesting comparison with the 2013 United Airlines 747-422 that was made by Gemini.
Each review is to split into three key areas:
There have been many 747-400 moulds but only four make up the majority of the 400 scale releases to date. The oldest three are the original, and much updated, Gemini, the Dragon Wings and the Big Bird moulds - all of which date from before 2004. They are all good moulds, to varying degrees, but unsurprisingly they all are a bit long in the tooth even when they’ve been updated with rolling gear and aerials.
The fourth common 747-400 mould is the 2007 Phoenix effort. My views on Phoenix 747 Classics are well known so I won't bother talking about that further here. The JC Wings mould used on this new release looks like it'll become the 5th important 747-400 mould although its usage has not been heavy since it finally crept onto the market in late 2020 - nearly two years after it was announced.
In this review I want to specifically compare the old 2013 Gemini release to this 2023 version. The first and most obvious thing to point out is that this new mould has modern slot in wings rather than being a cradle mount with resulting seam line. This allows for a very impressive wing / fuselage join and fairing.
At the front of the aircraft the nosecone and cockpit regions are more accurate and less pointy than on the old Gemini mould. It makes for a more pleasing front except for the impact of the mould's biggest weakness - the nosegear, or specifically its height. The gear leg is nicely detailed and the tyre fine too, but the whole unit is just too short and gives the aircraft a rather nose-down appearance. The model's nose sits lower than the older version and this is not better.
As I said the wings blend into the fuselage very nicely and their shape and detailing is very good too. The only criticism of the wings is their angle. This has been something that has impacted a few recent JC Wings moulds. From the front the wings angle directly upwards, while a real 747 has more of a curve to the wings. This means the model’s wingtips are a little too high. It isn’t anywhere as noticeable as the odd downward angle on the Phoenix model and obviously the angle of the wings does change depending on fuel load. Nonetheless the JC wingtips are higher than all other moulds of a 747-400 in this scale.
The engines and their pylons are well realized and this mould therefore avoids one of the big criticisms of both the older Gemini and Big Bird moulds i.e., the join of pylon to wing. The rear of the model is beautiful. The tail has an excellent free rudder zone, overall shape and attachment. JC Wings have also put effort into shaping the tailcone region of the 744. They have captured the fuselage end better than anyone.
The original 2013 release was made too early to have aerials or domes attached. This new version has 3 aerials and a small dome atop the rear fuselage.
So, the new JC Wings 747-400 as evidenced by this release is clearly superior to the old Gemini 747-400 it replaced in a number of ways - nose shape, wing attachment, engine pylons, vertical stabiliser and aerials but has a too short nosegear and too high wingtips. It is certainly a very nice mould and if only JC would take feedback and lengthen the nosegear it would be even better.
SCORE - 9
PAINT & LIVERY
The Saul Bass Tulip scheme remains a firm favourite of a lot of aviation fans. The modfied 1990s version with lowered cheatlines and enlarged titles fits the 747-400 well. It was certainly a much nicer scheme than the dour Battleship Grey that replaced it.
Comparing this new version with the older one they look almost identical from a livery perspective. The only real difference in colour and placement between them is that the orange stripe on the new version appears slightly darker, which is probably more accurate. The livery is effectively perfectly recreated.
One thing I'd like to point out is that the UNITED titles use the correct font, which is suprisingly hard to get right. Aeroclassics have never managed it and even the old Gemini version has less well-shaped letters, especially the N and D. They look better on this new JC version.
SCORE - 10
PRINTING & QUALITY CONTROL
This model illustrates well the improvements made in printing between 2013 and 2023. The JC version has a lot of extra detail missing from the older release. This includes fine line detailing such as the nose radome ring, blocked out windows and underbody printing. Overall, the printing is lighter and thinner, most noticeably at the doors. This isn't to criticise the old model, which is fine but shows how technlogy has improved.
In comparison with some earlier releases on the new mould this version has better cockpit printing. Another area of improvement is the engine inners. On older models it was common for them to be silvery but on the new models they are more often, as here, a darker titanium.
This isn't a flaps down version of the model but still has more parts than the old Gemini version. This is both good and bad. The general QC is good on the model and everything is attached well but complexity introduces potential for problems too. In this case there is a tyre tab on the nosegear and the independent gear trucks of the outer maingear hang at an odd angle, rather defeating the purpose of them pivoting, when on a stand.
SCORE - 9
It can be expensive and a little annoying to upgrade old versions of models, especially when they were perfectly adequate examples as the old Gemini release of this 747 was. Nonetheless, comparing old and new is does produce interesting results and in detail this new JC Wings edition is quite a bit better if you're looking closely. I'm really liking the 'new' JC 747-400 mould but it's just not been used enough for my liking and I so wish they'd make the nosegear just a bit taller.
SCORE - 28/30
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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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