1/400 Review of 2015: Phoenix
Once again using the excellent DiMA database as a guide I can see that in 2015 (so not including the most recent batch of models which are in the database as 2016) Phoenix has been prolific and produced 168 models. That is far more than Gemini, which managed 97. Before I tackle the elephant in the room let's look at what they have made. Below are a selection of what I would call standard fare models made by Phoenix in 2015:
Even though Phoenix does cover the Asian and European majors well they are still more likely than Gemini to slip out smaller airlines or carriers from other parts of the globe, In 2015 these included TAAG, Air Calin, LOT, Monarch, WOW, La Compagnie, Azerbaijan and Silk Way amongst others. The 737-400 mould is rubbish and they've ruined the 757 mould by mucking about with the nosegear but still top marks for effort on these:
Almost all of Phoenixes' output is of modern aircraft, usually the very latest liveries. Of the 2015 releases only a handful can be thought of as classics - probably just the Varig 747-300, two SAS MD-80s and two Malaysia MD-11s. Even these don't stretch back to earlier than the mid-90s so aren't really classics yet!
Whilst Phoenix does make sure it hits the major airlines it also has a focus on the new breed of low-cost carriers and in 2015 has produced a decent range of 737s and A320s for airlines like Jetstar, Vanilla Air, Peach, VietJet, Thai AirAsia, Thai Smile, Lucky Air etc. Below are a selection of the 2015 low cost carrier releases:
The other thing Phoenix loves releasing are special schemes, which is great as many are very attractive. If it's a special scheme from Asia or Europe you can be pretty sure Phoenix will release it. Here are some of 2015's finest Phoenix special schemes:
Generally (see below for the exception) when it comes to widebodies Phoenix has excellent moulds, often considered the best available (A330, A340-500/600, A380, 777-200/300) or on par with the competition (A350, 767-300, 787-8/9). When it comes to narrowbody types the moulds are not as good but both the 737 and A320 family moulds are usually passable. Phoenixes problems are not with the moulds themselves - or usually the colours or detailing on the models. No - Phoenixes problems are all to do with something else...
One area of major disappointment with Phoenix is their persistence on using the 747-400 mould, which itself replaced the top deck dip earlier version. It is an awful mould which manages to not look at all like a 747. When there are so few good 747s in circulation it is a crying shame that Phoenix carry on making them on this dreadful piece of crap. Please, please, please don't buy them - they are rubbish! I should mention however that the Phoenix 747-8 is a much better mould. Here are some of the series 400s from 2015 - yuck:
Where Phoenix fall down is in the quality department. The models themselves are usually great but the putting them together is not. You never know what you are going to get when you open the box. These aren't model specific errors but across the board systematic failings that fall into a range of categories such as:
The list goes on and on. Buy even a small number of Phoenix models and you are liable to run into multiple of these issues. I know some people have stopped buying Phoenix models because the issues are so rife. I sympathise with them and would like to be able to do the same but Phoenix just produce too many models that fit my Chinese modern collection criterion. I have been relatively lucky so far however things like this Air China A320 I received are an embarrassment which should never leave the factory:
These issues have been ongoing for several years now but things seem to be getting worse not better. I really don't know what Phoenix are thinking and they really ought to be pausing to sort the mess out. Having said all that when you get a good model it is usually a dream, but buying new Phoenix models does seem like you're taking a bit of a chance nowadays and considering the price that shouldn't be the case.
737 WINDOW PRINTING
While I'm at it something else that is hit and miss with Phoenix is the window printing on their 737s. It is an issue just with the 737s and only with certain models, but on these models the left hand cockpit windows are too low at the rear and the windows themselves when seen head on are not straight. It ruins the look of the entire model and yet again I can't understand why they can't get this consistently correct. Check out some of the 737s they have made this year below. The Transavia and GOL are especially poor while even the right side of the KLM is wonky. I should also mention that apparently the top of the wings on the split scimitar mould (the Thomson and TUIfly models below) are awful, though I haven't seen them in person.
So what to say in summary? I want to be able to recommend Phoenix models as the moulds are generally great and the airlines / liveries represented varied and interesting. But the quality issue is a major problem. You just don't know what you are going to get - it could be awesome or it could be a Frankenstein's monster of a model. I'm no hyper-real collector with my magnifying glass out but I've yet to see real aircraft with smudges and giant fingerprints on them! Phoenix must do better and if they fix these QA issues they would be beating Gemini in my book.
So for 2016 I want to see a vast improvement in quality. I also want them to stop producing 747-400s, print the windows on their 737s properly and go back to producing Russian types. Is all that too much to ask? Yes probably it is.
Anyway of the 56 new release models I bought in 2015 only 5 were Phoenix models (2 73Gs, 2 A320s and a 77W; and this includes that awful CA A320). This wasn't because of the QA issues but more a reflection of the fact I only collect modern aircraft from China and Russia. For now I will continue to collect Phoenix but if I get much more rubbish from them I'll be reconsidering my position. As it is for now Phoenix make excellent models right up to the point they put them together. From then on it's luck of the draw.
Once again thanks to Waffle Collectibles for the photos. Michael gets really good numbers of Phoenix models in including those that sell out fast so check him out.
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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: