The A350 is rapidly making its mark in the aviation industry and therefore also in 1:400 scale. However unlike its rival the Boeing 787 the moulds used in 1:400 differ from each other significantly and have caused some disagreement about which is the most accurate. A lot of that disagreement centres around the shape of the nose. Now that Aviation400 have joined the scene it seems timely to let the moulds fight it out to see which is best.
Incidentally I have heard that the 'new' AV400 A350 is a scaled down version of their 1:200 A350. I don't know enough to be certain however if it is it may explain why it is not as accurate as you would expect from a completely new mould.
Currently in 1:400 scale there are the following moulds for the A350-900:
As is usual JC Wings shares its mould with Gemini Jets. These are the three moulds that will be compared in this post although for completeness sake I will also include an earlier Phoenix example before they modified the mould.
The specific aircraft used in this review are as follows:
NOSE / NOSEGEAR
NOSE: A point of major contention for many collectors. The JC Wings / Gemini Jets mould has a nice underside and the nosecone itself looks good but they have missed the change in angle at the cockpit completely and in fact sometimes it looks like it curves outwards (like a Roman nose).
Phoenix do have a slight kink at the cockpit although it is probably not strong enough. The nosecone on the Phoenix is also shorter than the JC Wings and rounder. I prefer the cockpit of the Phoenix but the nosecone of the JC Wings.
Aviation400 have probably the best nosecone of the three and a more sloping angle from cockpit to the cone, however they too appear to have missed the kink upwards from the cockpit. It is also worth mentioning that none of the three moulds have a high enough fuselage although the Phoenix is the furthest out.
This is a tough category to score as none of the noses are accurate. I think the JC Wings is the weakest of the three whilst the Phoenix and Aviation400 moulds both have issues (nosecone with the former and cockpit angle with the latter). I'll be generous with the scores.
NOSEGEAR: The first thing to point out is that none of the manufacturers get the colour of the gear correct. JC Wings and Aviation400 go with a light grey whilst Phoenix goes with silver. They should all be aiming for a dark metallic grey.
The JC Wings gear is too short by some distance, whilst the rear process on the AV400 is too high up the gear leg. The front processes on both are also not great - too short on the JC and too long on the AV400. In fact the Phoenix has the best nose gear in terms of the structure of the gear leg and the wheelhub. It does however have the weakest gear door of the three. Historically Phoenix have also used oversized tyres although this Hong Kong example is fine. Indeed the AV400 nose tyre is perhaps a bit too large.
Yet again none of the trio are ideal but I'd say the Phoenix win this round.
ENGINES & MAINGEAR
ENGINES & PYLONS: Another area of contention with this mould is the engines or more specifically the pylons and the ground clearance. Looking at the nacelles themselves first and they all appear ok except the second part of the exhaust on the JC Wings engine is too long. The JC Wings does however have the best shaped pylons and despite having the shortest gear legs has adequate ground clearance.
There is definitely an issue with the attachment of the engines on the AV400, which point upwards a bit. I'm not sure if this is a mould or QC issue. The Phoenix as you can see used to have real problems with ground clearance due to the engine pylons. The engines themselves also just seem larger. This has been improved but it still has the worst ground clearance of the three.
Once again none of the three are accurate and once again the inaccuracies are in different areas - exhaust shape (JC Wings), engine angle (AV400) and pylon shape (Phoenix).
MAINGEAR: The AV400 maingear trucks can be moved but this comes at the cost of a rather lumpen maingear truck with a rod through it. The JC Wings gear can also be moved but to a much lesser extent and again there is some inaccuracy to allow it. The Phoenix maingear truck is static, which allow for much greater detailing. It also has the best wheelhubs once again.
The maingear doors are all ok but Phoenix misses off the upper tab. I also think that the JC Wings maingear is probably a little short again.
All of these models have see through engines with static blades, however it seems the wish to have the see through element has meant the manufacturers have reduced the size of the blades so you can see through more. This is counter to the reality of the engine. JC Wings keeps it closest to the real thing with the blade thickness whilst the fanblades on the AV400 mould are way too thin. On the other side though both JC Wings and Phoenix have far too few fanblades (13 or so) whilst AV400 has a much more realistic 18 blades.
TAIL & TAILCONE
The tail of all three moulds is good. The JC Wings probably has the sharpest vertical stabiliser of the three. The forward fuselage join on the AV400 is a little abrupt whist the shape of the Phoenix is the least well defined. At the lower portion it is perhaps not quite wide enough and at the top rear it isn't pointy enough.
This is one area where in my opinion the Aviation400 mould takes some beating. It has all 6 aerials (3 up and 3 down), the small roof humps added in as attachments and beacons above and below. The inlet scoops underneath are also very nicely moulded. The only complaint is that perhaps the above side aerials are a little too tall.
The JC Wings mould only has 4 aerials (3 up and 1 down) and ignores the above wing bumps completely. The scoops underneath are there but not as well defined as on the AV400 mould.
The Phoenix has 5 aerials (3 up and 2 down). The above wing humps are moulded in but not particularly well and the underside scoops are a bit poorly defined.
What this review has taught me is that all the existing A350 moulds are flawed, but that each is flawed in its own ways and in the end it is which flaws you are most accepting of which'll determine which mould you prefer.
Basically all three moulds end up with the same score, which is really surprising. I am told that JC Wings is just about to introduce a new A350 mould so I assume this will fix the nose issues and could possibly elevate it to top position. We shall see.
Personally I am happy to buy any of the three but I think I prefer the Aviation400 mould. For me the noseshape and additional extras win out and the landing gear doesn't concern me. The Phoenix mould is good now they've mainly fixed the engines and for me the JC Wings mould comes last because of the nose and short landing gear. Even so they are all ok and each has it strongpoints.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of 1/400 scale model aircraft and airports. This blog reports work on my model airport dioramas and discussion of the model manufacturers output.