For those that follow my work you'll know I often have cause to criticise Phoenix Models but that doesn't mean that they don't make fine models and that I don't buy any, although I admit in recent years the numbers have dwindled. This recent Black Friday did give me an opportunity to pick-up a trio of their older releases using one of their better castings - the Airbus A320. Let's take a look...
I usually buy between 130 and 170 models per annum and in my collection of just over 2,200 models 138 are currently Phoenix releases. That is a decent number and puts them in 5th place just behind Panda (140) and NG Models (148) , quite a way behind Gemini Jets (254) and miles behind Aeroclassics (1201). My golden period for buying Phoenix was between 2012 and 2017 when there'd usually be 12-20 purchases. In the past 3 years I've only acquired 6.
There are a number of factors at play here. Firstly the rise of often superior alternative brands has been a major factor. NG Models and Panda have both been producing high quality models in what was a major Phoenix area, modern Chinese airlines, that I collect. JC Wings has also improved its widebody moulds substantially. In comparison Phoenix has only tinkered around the edges with its moulds and has not improved its printing quality or quality control. In my opinion it is some way behind all three of the other mentioned brands in both areas.
The moulds themselves are also showing their age and even in areas that Phoenix once dominated, such as the 777, they have fallen well down the pecking order. Two moulds of Phoenix that I will still purchase are the Airbus A320 and A330s. Neither are the best in class but they are still decent efforts, especially when there are no alternative options for an aircraft/airline combination.
Browsing around on Black Friday I noticed some good deals on some older Phoenix A320s and picked up the following trio for between $16 and $22 each:
Although they are all A320s the Virgin Sun example is old enough that it isn't using the current mould and dates from back when Phoenix was partnered with Gemini Jets. It therefore uses the old pre-JC era Gemini casting without rolling gears. It isn't the most up to date mould, as it originally was first used in 2002 (and lost its tail seam in 2004). This is a classic example of lacking choice. I was keen to get a Virgin Sun model and this is the only A320 available for that airline. In the context of its time the model is nice and has good bright colours.
The other two A320s use the current 2013 mould. When I've reviewed this mould previously I have given it an 8 out of 10. Possibly a little generous but I still quite like it. In the detailed review of the A320 the mould scored 31/40, which is superior to the JC Wings / Gemini version and only marginally behind the Aeroclassics one. The winner was the Panda version. Of the 94 A320s I own 20 are from Phoenix and 16 use this newer mould.
I'm broadly happy with both the Indonesia AirAsia and West Air examples, both of which aren't new but could easily be 2020 releases. I had actually seen the very same West Air airframe at Guangzhou a few years back - see below photo of mine. Both models are good additions to the fleet although the West Air model illustrates some of the reasons that Phoenix frustrate me.
On its left side the tail logo is obviously crooked even though on the right side it is fine. It isn't an individual model error as I have the other wingletted version from Phoenix, which has the same issue. The main titles are also obviously not tall enough, seemingly because the windowline is a little high (a common issue with Phoenix Airbuses).
The other problem is almost a hallmark of Phoenix - the inability to hang the engines straight on the pylons. I have been tempted by several of Phoenix's recent Boeing 777-200s but even in advertising images of them they sometimes don't have the left-side engine hung correctly.
I originally was going to write this as a celebration of these Phoenix additions and don't get me wrong I like all three, however even with one of Phoenix's better moulds there are some issues and I admit if Aeroclassics or Panda had done the models I would have acquired them instead. In general Phoenix fall within my usual mantra, which I roll out when people ask about a brand's quality - see Who is the best. Nonetheless, in my opinion they have some work to do to match any of the other 1:400 brands in circulation in 2020. That won't stop me buying their models when they fit my criteria and look good, but it explains why they've lost a good chunk of my business too.
I'm Richard Stretton, an aviation enthusiast and major collector of 400 scale model aircraft. This blog discusses ongoing events in the world of 400 scale.
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