Article By Richard Stretton, The Diecast Flier
JC Wings announced their 737-MAX 8 mould in both 1/200 and 1/400 scale way back in 2016 but it was beaten to the market by Panda Models, which produced an excellent 737-MAX 8 in January 2017. Interestingly JC Wings still hasn’t released its own MAX even though photos of it in delivery colours have been floating about for ages. The first usage of the new JC Wings mould instead falls to this Norwegian release for Gemini Jets so let’s take a look.
THE REAL THING
For some time it looked like Norwegian would be the launch customer for the 737-MAX 8 (as I discussed here) however in the end initial deliveries were to Malindo Air (or Batik Malaysia depending on how it rebrands) in May. Norwegian had instead to wait until June 29, 2017 when it received its first pair of aircraft simultaneously, from a firm order backlog of 108 aircraft. They were the 5th and 6th MAX 8s delivered and are both to be operated by Norwegian Air Shuttle’s Irish subsidiary Norwegian Air International, which it uses to access the European Union and piggyback off the open skies agreement between the EU and US to operate transatlantic flights.
The delay in delivery was due to issues with the low pressure turbine rotor disc in the Leap-1B engines but with the MAX finally entering service Norwegian enters into a new phase of its long haul expansion. It plans to use the 3,515 nautical mile range of the type to fly to secondary cities in the USA from secondary cities in Europe – kind of like a mini 787. Destinations in the USA are Hartford, Newburgh Stewart and Providence. These are to be serviced from six European destinations, namely Edinburgh, Belfast, Bergen, Cork, Dublin and Shannon. No other airline has announced similar long haul services using a 737 and these new routes are potentially groundbreaking if they can prove that avoiding the major US gateways with smaller equipment is viable.
Norwegian’s first pair of 737-MAX 8s are registered EI-FYA and FYB. It will transition the MAX’s to the new routes when its third aircraft arrives in July and instead temporarily has begun Edinburgh services to all three 3 US destinations using existing 737-800s, which are capacity restricted over such distance.
Gemini Jets has released its first 737-MAX 8 prior to the delivery of the airline’s actual aircraft and although it appears that it probably had connection with the airline for the model the result is not a real aircraft but a fantasy scheme with the registration LN-MAX.
Norwegian is of course renowned for placing the image of a famous Norwegian on the tail of its fleet (this has subsequently been expanded to famous people of other nations as well) and this model comes with Sonja Henie adorning the vertical stabiliser. She was a Norwegian figure skater, who won 3 Olympic Gold medals, and later became an actress. Alas both the initial 737-MAX 8s were delivered without their tail liveries applied and it doesn’t look like either will feature this person. EI-FYA is instead fittingly going to acquire the image of low-cost pioneer Sir Freddie Laker whilst Irish Antarctic Explorer Tom Crean will feature on EI-FYB.
Interestingly Boeing’s original artwork from the time of the MAX order does show a Norwegian MAX with Sonja Henie on the tail, which I assume is the inspiration for the model.
This model is clearly a fantasy model based upon the Boeing pre-delivery mockup images and as such I feel like I shouldn’t be comparing it to the real Norwegian MAXs that have just been delivered. As such I’m not going to mark it down for not matching some aspects of the actual aircraft. I will however note where the model deviates from the real thing.
The format for my reviews is to split them into three key areas:
- The mould of the aircraft
- The paint and livery
- Printing and quality control
Each can get a maximum score of 10 for a section giving a maximum combined total score of 30.
I was really impressed by the Panda models 737-MAX 8 that I reviewed in April so this JC Wings effort has its work cut out to beat that. Impressively it almost does and the two look very similar to each other, which is a testament to how good they are. For years the manufacturers have struggled with the 737NG so it is wonderful to see they can make a MAX. I was a little dubious about this mould when I saw the pre-release photos but I assume the delay in final release is due to some fine tuning as this 737 looks better than the photos I saw from 2016.
The nose, always the most important area for me, is perfect and the join of the nosegear doors to the fuselage slightly better than on the Panda. The rest of the fuselage and vertical stabilizer is excellent, however the tailcone is not quite pointy enough at the tip (interestingly the JC A320’s tailcone is also too stubby).
The wings and engines are a particular triumph with really nice etching to show control surfaces and very well shaped engine pylons and nacelles. In fact the underside pylon shape and chevrons on the rear nacelle are better than on the Panda.
The undercarriage is smart and well produced although the nosegear is slightly less defined than on the Panda. One area JC Wings never quite gets correct are the size of the aerials, which are a smidgen too large. Also JC Wings continues its tradition of missing the rear underside aerial off completely.
To be honest the differences between this and the Panda models MAX are small and both moulds are exemplary. If only we could get A320s of this kind of quality from JC Wings. None of my criticisms really impact the mould’s quality so I feel I must give it full marks seeing as I gave the Panda full marks.
Note that the real Norwegian 737MAX-8s have a satnav dome, which this model doesn’t. I’m sure JC and Gemini will be putting satnav domes on future releases and as such it isn’t a mould defect.
SCORE – 10
PAINT & LIVERY
Norwegian has a simple but classy livery that is easily identifiable without falling into the cheap and nasty category of some low cost airlines. The tail variations are likewise a great idea and no doubt add a lot to the culture of the organisation as well as to the joy of plane spotters. Norwegian haven’t really changed their livery at all for the MAXs but the addition of some new airframe features, like scimitar winglets, does mean Gemini has had to make a few guesses, or at least trust the Boeing artwork. This introduces some variations compared to the delivered machines.
The livery represented matches that shown on the Boeing order imagery perfectly. The red and blue colours are fine, whilst the airline titles and small 737-8 titles forward look great. Towards the rear the Norwegian.com titles and small 737 MAX 8 titles are present. The proportions of the tail painting are excellent and Sonja Henie is well rendered. My only criticism of the livery application is that the nose of Ms Henie is a little incomplete around the nostrils.
Now comparing this scheme to the real thing obviously the personage on the tail is incorrect. There are other variations too however. The delivered 737s have no 737-8 titles forward and the lower half of the winglets is not all blue as on the model but red with a blue stripe in the middle. I’m not knocking points of for that as it matches the Boeing artwork.
SCORE – 9
PRINTING & QUALITY CONTROL
Gemini have pulled out all the stops for this model. The printing is great and there are no flaws. If I’m really searching for criticism I could say that the inner engine rims and fans are too silvery but it is minor and not really noticeable.
Constructions is likewise superb. Everything is fitted perfectly – no loose connections, no tyre tabs, no dragging engines. If this kind of quality could be reached regularly by the manufacturers this part of the review would be redundant. Great work JC Wings and Gemini.
SCORE – 10
This is a great model there’s no two ways about it and I look forward to more MAXs in the future of this quality. The only issue is that this aircraft is never going to exist. I expect it was ordered by Norwegian and Gemini were told to use the Boeing artist impressions so I can hardly criticize them but nevertheless it is a fantasy model. The real thing has a different tail personality, different winglet colours and satnav dome. Even so this is a great fantasy. Well done.
FINAL SCORE – 29