JC Wings is active in both 1/400 and 1/200 scales and from what I have seen gives the 1/200s a bit more priority than the smaller scale, at least nowadays. When they started they had a roughly equal 50:50 focus on classic and modern releases but in the past few years, as with Gemini, they seem to have largely given up on the classics in favour of modern aircraft. These modern releases are firmly targeted away from the market satisfied by its partner Gemini and instead are in direct competition with Phoenix (and to a lesser extent the Aeroclassics Big and Baby Bus ranges). Either by choice or by necessity however JC does not match either Phoenix or Aeroclassics for number of releases and in 2015 produced by far the fewest of the big four companies - only 63 models (I'm not including models announced which haven't actually shown up yet).
Proportionally more than any other manufacturer JC Wings had an interest in China in 2015 with 16 releases. Mostly these were models also released by Phoenix, however there were 3 releases in particular which were very pleasing - the 9 Air 737-800, Shenzhen A320 and China Eastern 'Young Pioneer' A320. Shenzhen airlines in particular is a huge airline nowadays but has been largely ignored in 1/400 (as has the equally large Shandong Airlines).
JC Wings presumably has access to all the moulds which Gemini does - in fact in reality it appears to be Gemini which has access to JC's moulds. The range of moulds that exist has been very impressive in the past but the contraction in JC's classics output has seen a corresponding shrinkage in the moulds they have used as well. To that end JC have used only 22 moulds in 2015, which considering only 63 models have been made isn't bad I guess.
In general the active JC Wings moulds are middling to good. The 777s have always been seen as inferior to the Phoenix versions, which they are, however they are still ok. The same goes for the A380. More recent new widebody moulds like the 787s and A350 seem to have upped the game substantially and are as good or better than the Phoenix versions. The jury is still out on the new A330 - see below.
As regards narrowbodies the A320 mould is pretty decent even though it does have a substantial seam present. Interestingly JC don't seem to have an A319 or A321 version - which may be why Gemini haven't made many of either recently (Gemini were using the Phoenix A321 but didn't in 2015). The 737NG moulds I am not a big fan of as discussed in the Gemini review.
As regards non-Airbus or Boeing aircraft JC has a large group of moulds available, of which in 2015 it hasn't used many. The ATR-72 mould is ok though the nose is a bit pointy and the EMB-195 is pretty good too (though the nosegear wheels seem too small). It is nice to see the Britannia 100 get a reuse after many years of going missing. This appears largely down to the tireless efforts of Adrian Balch who has been prodding JC back towards classics as much as he can. The Cathay hybrid will surely pave the way for a BOAC blue tail and I'd like to think maybe a couple of others (Laker and Britannia Airways) too.
Hopefully the rebirth of the Brit will enable some of the other unused moulds to reappear as JC Wings has many unique moulds which are very good - especially of smaller types like the BAC One-Eleven 500, Fokker 50, Fokker 70, Fokker 100, Saab 340, Shorts 360, DHC-8-100, ATR-42, ERJ-145 and HS-748 amongst others. Not to mention of course the sublime Ilyushin 86 mould. These are the kinds of models we need from JC Wings. Hopefully with Gemini recently going back to some classics and reusing the F70 and ERJ-145 moulds we may also get some more old'uns from JC too.
One of the most annoying things about JC Wings is their habit of jumping the gun. Their strategy often appears to be to announce a model will be produced multiple months in advance of its appearance. Its hard to say whether they are trying to get advanced orders ahead of Phoenix or whether they are just poorly organised but its bloody annoying either way. Made especially so by the fact that when they announce a model they almost never have a real photo of it available. You are left with the choice of ordering from a drawing of the model or potentially missing out (Phoenix admittedly do this too but usually release the model within a month of the announcement). It certainly doesn't allow you to compare models against the competition, which can be a big issue when the JC Wings quality can be variable (see below). I suffered from this myself in 2015 as I wanted to order the China Eastern 'Young Pioneer' A320 but wasn't going to based on a drawing. Then it was ages after the announcement the model came out and due to the limited stock I missed out on it at my retailer. I haven't got around to tracking it down subsequently as of yet.
RUSH TO MARKET IMPACTING QUALITY?
Being charitable it may be the apparent rush to market which has resulted in some dubious models being released. From what I see from others JC models regularly fail in terms of colour and details when put up against the same Phoenix releases. When you consider that the Phoenix moulds are usually as good and often better then this combo is a big hit against JC Wings even with Phoenixes' quality issues. I think many collectors would rather JC worked on the quality of their releases rather than the announcements and getting the finished product out in line with the Phoenix version. I would have thought their current strategy can only work for so long with most collectors who are paying attention, but maybe it works with the general collectorate who are less well informed?
CHINA ONLY RELEASES
Another minor peeve I have is that there appear to have been some China only releases - I'm thinking mainly about the China Southern ERJ-145. If you don't speak Mandarin and can't naivgate the treacherous waters of Taobao then these models are out of reach, which is a poor show. If anyone can get me a CZ ERJ-145 please shout!
DOES THE A330 HAVE A PROBLEM?
In my recent mould review of the A330 I said nice things about the newish JC A330 mould after receiving the two special scheme China Easterns. Both are superb, however the recent Gemini Delta A330 on the JC mould and some of the other JC releases show a worrying issue with the wings which are way too high at their tips. I am not sure what is going on but at the moment it seems to be buyer beware as some models appear to show the problem and some don't. I'm also not sure whether it is a model by model problem or one associated with certain releases. Time will probably tell.
I should also mention that some of the JC A330s appear to be showing very large cockpit windows which is a bit offputting. See what you think of the below releases - the Eurowings and Azul look especially bad regarding the wings, the Etihad and China Eastern new colours as regards the cockpit windows:
BIG BIRD MK3
My understanding is that JC Wings purchased the entire mould collection of Witty and its sub-brands and it is they who are behind the recent reappearance of Big Bird. Beyond that who knows what's going on - are they really interested in producing models on the Witty moulds or are they just removing potential competition? So far Big Bird have produced a pair of admittedly excellent 747-300s and that is it. What is going on, when will there be anymore releases and what are JC's plans, if any? I guess only time will tell.
In an ideal world several of the Witty moulds would see extensive use. The ex-Aeroclassics used 747s for starters plus the Apollo (not Witty) 747-400, the Tristar, IL-76 and the CV-880. Several of the other moulds are not bad (727, 737-200), some clash with existing JC Wings moulds (747-400, 767-300, A320, 737-800) and some are godawful (A319-21). I am sceptical about what will happen with this new Big Bird but at least I got one of the two excellent Cathays.
JC Wings is an interesting company and their actions certainly add some spice to 1/400 scale. On the one hand we have Gemini's production and mould powerhouse, then we have the Phoenix competitor wannabe, then the possibility of some classics competition and finally the mysterious BigBird Mk3. Amongst all this they are kicking out some great releases - mainly Chinese short-haul, regionals and 787/A350s.
I may make it sound like I am not a fan of JC and that isn't true. In fact in 2015 I bought more new JC wings models than Phoenix and Gemini. Of my 56 new purchases 7 were JC Wings (not including the Big Bird CX 747-300). I do however hope that in 2016 they work on their accuracy a bit more and rediscover some of the unique classics that they did so well in their earlier years. Whatever happens they do seem to have cemented themselves on the die-cast scene.
P.S: JC if you're listening and thinking about using the DC-6 for yourself or Gemini - fix the length of the bloody main gear!
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: