Whereas NG Models have recently rolled back on added features such as pivoting maingear and see through fanblades Aviation400 continue to push the envelope of what is possible in 400 scale. Their new A330-900 features removable magnetic landing gear and this is also being rolled out to their 787s as well. Whether you prefer NG's focus on accuracy or the extra additions that AV400 provide there is clearly a lot to like about both brands in 400 scale and considering that NG have also announced an A330-900 they continue to make an interesting comparison.
Each review is to split into three key areas:
THIS MODEL WAS SENT TO ME FREE BY AVIATION400 FOR REVIEW PURPOSES
Aviation400 are one of the brands that I work with closely so it is no surprise that they sent me the sample mould for their A330-900 back in September 2022, which I reviewed here:
That sample had standard attached landing gear not the magnetic gear of the production examples. Reviewing mould samples without any cockpit or windowline printing is difficult but at the time I thought the sample performed well against the existing JC Wings and Phoenix A330-900s and gave it the benefit of the doubt around the cockpit region.
Now with a completed version in hand I am less happy with the nose form, especially the shape of the angles down from the cockpit and the curve of the upper part of the radome. It just doesn't look like an A330 and is the weakest of the A330-900s on the market.
I'm also not convinced by the position of the nosegear. Changes have been made to the form of the gearleg but I find the whole nosegear to be slightly too far back. It's only a small amount but it could definitely do with being moved forward a mm or two, plus the whole gear leg has a tendency to lean slightly backwards. The lean wasn't an issue with the original fixed gear so is a byproduct of the removeable landing gear.
The rest of the mould is good, which only serves to make the issues at the nose more of a disappointment. The wing join to fuselage is excellent and the engine nacelles and pylons similarly top quality. The engine fans spin and are see through, but as is the case with this kind of feature the blades are too thin. Even so, the shape and number of them is good.
The wing form is good with a much better dihedral than on the JC Wings mould and well shaped squared off flap track fairings, unlike the Phoenix where they are too pointed. The form of the winglets is ok, no worse than the existing competition but inferior to the NG samples. Here I think the AV400 winglets are a little tall, wide and curved.
The new detachable maingear is better than that fitted to the sample, with a modified more accurate gear door shape and now pivoting gear trucks.
At the rear of the fuselage the tailcone and horizontal stabs are all good but I'm less convinced by the vertical stabiliser. The shape is ok until reaching the upper margin, which doesn't seem to have a flat-top to it as it should. Again this didn't jump out to me on the sample but here it does.
Detailing of the NACA intakes on the underside is good and the model comes with the usual level of strong detail finishing you'd expect from AV400 in the form of beacon lights and aerials. Unfortunately the aerials themselves are a little too tall and the form of the Wi-Fi dome not teardropped enough at the rear.
The detachable landing gear functions well and is easy to remove and refix. The model only comes with gear down at the moment though and not the gear-up elements necessary to show it in true gear-up state. As I understand the thinness of the wings is a factor in this and there is work being undertaken to provide the gear-up parts for future releases.
I admit that I can't help but be rather disappointed with this mould. The front-end needs some rework but there are other smaller modifications that could be made at the winglets, vertical stab and with the aerials/domes.
SCORE - 6
PAINT & LIVERY
I reviewed this scheme on an NG Models A350-1000 in October last year and my comments on the livery are still valid, which were:
The current Virgin livery was rolled out in mid-2010 and introduced large billboard titles reincorporating the full name, in purple, plus a lighter metallic grey paint for the fuselage. The tailfin gained a new metallic deep red colour. The metallic paints make this a challenging scheme to replicate in 400 scale and a challenging one to compare to real photos where it can look quite different in different lights.
I no longer own the NG A350 to compare this too but the fuselage colour here appears quite similar and a decent match for the real thing, at least when it is in bright sun. In darker more overcast shots (like this one from Airliners.net) this model is more yellowy than silvery. It should probably be a little more grey.
The micaceous nature of the paint is captured well and glistens nicely. At the nose the figure of a man in suite waving the Union Jack looks good and the name 'Space Oddity', in keeping with the G-VTOM registration (i.e. Major Tom of the David Bowie song of the same name), is easily readable.
Lastly the red is quite a dark red but within acceptable boundaries.
SCORE - 9
PRINTING & QUALITY CONTROL
The printwork on this model is top notch. The NG Virgin A350 I reviewed struggled to balance the detail printing of small elements with the granular nature of the micaceous finish, which led to a loss of detail. The micaceous aspect is finer on this model and so the printwork survives better with tiny text like 'Britain's Flag Carrier' after the cockpit windows still readable at magnification.
There's plenty of fine print detailing, which goes together with a flawless finish in terms of quality control. That is no mean feat when there are so many individual parts such as the spinning fans, 4 aerials, Wi-Fi dome, 2 nav beacons and the detachable gear.
SCORE - 10
Aviation400 are one of my favourite brands but here the A330-900 mould is something of a misstep. Both the nose shape and nosegear position need some modification. The rest of the model demonstrates AV400's quest for detail but it is probably true that this has its limitations in terms of accuracy. I'm not entirely sure the magnetic gear works as well here as it does on the A380 or is really needed. If I were AV400 I'd focus more on making sure that the add-ons don't end up detracting from the overall package as much as they add to it. Arguably the simpler NG Models A339 mould is superior (although not without its faults at the moment too). With some mods to the noseform this A339 will be very competitive against the existing Phoenix and JC Wings versions.
FINAL SCORE - 25/30
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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