For previous annual reviews of JC Wings see:
Who are JC Wings?
The JC in JC Wings stands for Johan Chan who is the owner of the brand. As well as managing their own brand JC Wings are responsible for the production of models for Gemini Jets, although there is a separation of duties between the two. It seems Johan takes rather a back stage position and the contact I have had direct with JC Wings has been through one of his able lieutenants.
Unlike pretty much all the other manufacturers JC Wings are friendly and open to suggestions. They also appear to work easily with others and make models for other brands (BigBird, Skywings and Dream Air to name three) as well as for themselves. They can be contacted through Facebook and are more social media savvy than any of the other manufacturers.
Below are 20 of JC Wings 2017 releases:
What do they make?
In many ways JC Wings are a direct counterpart to Phoenix since they too focus mainly on the Asian market. As with Phoenix if there is a new aircraft / airline combination in Asia then it is almost certain it will be announced by JC Wings quickly (although the actual release may take some time to appear). Within Asia JC Wings has a strong interest in the home China market and has made nearly twice as many Chinese airliners as Gemini, Phoenix and Aeroclassic put together (only Panda is stronger in China).
Modern aircraft are the name of the game, however sometimes individuals like Adrian Balch, or affiliated companies like Skywings, appear able to influence JC Wings to make something more classic, especially if it is a Chinese classic.
JC Wings appear to have an agreement with Gemini Jets whereby they don't tread on each other's toes so there is almost never competition between the two. Although there have been 41 announced releases outside of Asia they are not models Gemini have or will make.
JC Wings Production in 2017
JC Wings have announced an impressive 138 models in 2017 (and made quite a few more for Skywings and Dream Air). This is a lot more than their partner Gemini (98) but slightly less than their major competitor Phoenix (152). More than half of the 138 models (66) are Chinese with another 31 being from other Asian countries. As with Phoenix the Cathay Group is too big a fish to leave alone even though Cathay have been actively trying to stop people making models of their aircraft. As with Phoenix the models are just released under the covers with the manufacturer hidden. The moulds however make it clear where the models are coming from.
The big issue, as always with JC Wings, is that they announce models and then it can be months before they actually hit the shelves. This makes it hard to review them but even harder to pre-order them. This is an issue they simply must sort out. Of the 138 models announced only around half have actually appeared in shops outside of China. Often JC Wings models appear in China substantially before elsewhere, however when ordering a JC model you simply don't know when they will show up. There has I think been some slight improvement in 2017 on this note but even so I simply will not pre-order anything from JC Wings.
By Aircraft Type
JC Wings have access to the largest mould catalogue of any of the manufacturers since they have their own moulds, the old Gemini Jets moulds, the old Witty Wings moulds and are actively creating new moulds for themselves (and sometimes Gemini Jets). Bizarrely this does mean that sometimes they have multiple moulds for a given type - and they don't always seem to know which are the best! For example for the standard L-1011 Tristar they have the original Gemini Jets mould (fair), Blue Box mould (poor) and the Witty Wings mould (awesome).
One question is what has happenned to the CS100 mould? Herpa made a complete mess of the Swiss example they made but JC Wings have shown no interest in the type in 2017.
There isn't a lot of excitement to be garnered from JC Wings choice of airlines. It is often a mirror image of Phoenix but with a heavier dose of the Chinese. Some of these airlines (Kunming Airlines stands out) are very pleasing to see since they have been ignored by everyone else (even Panda). Even when the airlines have been made by Panda the liveries are often unique to JC Wings. If only so many of these weren't using the inferior A320 moulds.
Outside of China Korean Air, Japan Airlines, All Nippon, Finnair, China Airlines and Eva Air are repeat offenders.
If you are looking for non-Chinese diversity you will be hard pressed. Probably the most unusual model from 2017 was the Pan Am fantasy 747-8i but who really wanted it? A pair of Ukrainian 777s and a Turkish Air Force A340-500 have been announced but as of yet haven't seen the light of day.
In fact the most diverse area for JC Wings isn't airlines at all but manufacturer house colours. There have been quite a lot of Airbus, Boeing and even McDonnell Douglas house colour releases this year and they are usually good. However they don't have this space to themselves as Phoenix is also into house colours, although so far the overlap has been limited.
If there is one thing that has annoyed me about JC this year it is the state of their 'new' A320 and A320neo family moulds. They have used them a lot, as you'd expect with new moulds, but they are very poor compared to everyone elses. This annoys me because a lot of the released and announced subjects are models I really want to be able to purchase. I just can't bring myself too.
Here is a detailed comparison of the A320 moulds available in 1:400. JC Wings really need to fix the position of the nosegear and the tailcone. For the neos they need new better sized engines that don't look like huge barrels under the wing. It doesn't help that the JC Wings mould has polluted the output of Gemini's A320s too.
Innovation - New Moulds
JC Wings are the only one of the major manufacturers that seem to have a sensible clue about innovation and the only one investing in new moulds in any quantity. For both of these things they should be applauded. Five new moulds were announced at the end of 2016 and all have come into being in 2017. Of these they are more hit than miss. Only the A320 has major problems.
The new 777-300 mould is the best in 1:400 whilst the new 737 MAX-8 is as good as anything in the narrowbody space (and as good as the Panda MAX).
The A330-200F suffers a bit from its relationship with the JC Wings A330 passenger mould (the undercarriage position and length) but is ok. Clearly below you can see that the A330 mould has a taildown position when ironically the bulge on the A330F was needed to make it level because it is usually nosedown:
The A350-1000 has the same issues as the JC Wings A350-900 but is still competing with the Phoenix model:
The 787-9 and 787-10 moulds are very good:
Lastly there is a new 777-200 mould coming soon, which is not out yet. I am expecting it to be as good as the series 300.
Innovation - Flaps Down
In last year's review I mentioned the flaps down models but I don't think I gave them their due. Now I've seen and own some I can confirm that they are excellent. This is what collector's want Phoenix - not spinning fanblades, but interesting new ideas that actually make the models different and better. Plus JC Wings has done such a good job on the flaps down models and always produced pairs of up and down variants giving the collector choice.
Flaps down appears here to stay and can be found on the following moulds in 1:400:
I reviewed a flaps down 787-9 at Diecast Flier in May.
The Cathay Tristars
Way back in May JC Wings announced a pair of Tristars but it seems now that they may never appear. At the time I had been talking with JC about getting some Tristars made using the excellent Witty mould. They were open to it but very cautious and frankly didn't seem to know which of their 3 Tristar moulds to use! Anyway since most of the Tristars I wanted made fell within Gemini's sphere of influence the idea didn't get very far (they had to ask for Gemini's permission first). Then this pair were announced but they seem to have fallen foul of the Cathay licensing problem. I don't really understand this since plenty of other Cathay models have been made on the quiet. Perhaps these will be slipped out and perhaps not. They may even be followed by some All Nippon Tristars but I guess 2018 will show us whether the big Trijet will return. I'm optimistic as long as they don't use the old Gemini or Blue Box moulds.
Quality - Lots of Quality
In 2016 I gave JC Wings a true pasting over their quality issues but 2017 has seen a massive turnaround and improvement. So much so that nowadays they are one of the best manufacturers for quality - right up there with Panda who produce much smaller runs. It is a staggering improvement and I am thrilled.
When I've talked with JC Wings they have shown a real wish to improve their models and it is really testament to them that they have achieved such a turnaround. This doesn't mean the occasional mistake isn't made (ahem CAAC 747SPS) but it does mean that you can buy JC Wings models knowing that they will be well put together.
Even better my detailed reviews have shown that their printing is the best in the business. The level of detail is excellent.
My Purchases in 2017
I bought 16 JC Wings models in 2017, which is a substantial improvement over the 11 from 2016. It also indicates that I am beginning to trust them as alternatives to Phoenix models as some like the Cathay 777, Hainan and Xiamen 787-9s were bought in place of Phoenix releases. Only one of the 16 models I bought has proven to be a disappointment and you guessed it that was an A320.
Worst of the Year
Obviously at least one A320 must get into the top five worst. Some have been passable but they all suffer from looking so inacurately like an A320. I'll put in two since the neos are a whole extra level of horrible. I reviewed the Royal Thai Air Force A340-500 at Diecast Flier and it was just a poor model overall. The CAAC 747SP cockup was embarrassing (or should have been). Thankfully I got a correctly printed skywings version instead. Lastly photos suggest that there needs to be a lot more care taken with the undercarriage of the ATRs.
Best of the Year
Pleasingly there have been lots of great models this year. I gave the Air China 'Smiling China' 777 model of the year over at Diecast Flier so that has to be in the top 5. Joining it is a house colours MD-11 and 787-10. Almost any of the flaps down models could be picked but I particularly liked the Xiamen 787-9 and the 787-8 looks great too.
Summing Up: Great Progress, Great Opportunity
My feelings towards JC Wings have been transformed by 2017 and lead me to have high expectations for them in 2018. It's not all fabulous, as the A320s are crap and Gemini appear a drag on JC Wings own potential, but the combination of friendly people who want to improve, great new moulds and innovative ideas is hard to beat. For those reasons they are my manufacturer of 2017 overall. Panda may beat them on scoring detail but they haven't shown level of improvement that JC has. I wish them good fortune in the new year.
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: