The avalanche of new moulds from NG Models has meant that the new Tristars haven’t had the same attention as the 757s got back when NG only had a few moulds. NG has been parceling out its L-1011s relatively sparingly, partly it seems due to some production issues with the type when it comes to a natural metal finish. There have now been 17 releases on the mould for the Tristar 1/100 and mainly these have covered major operators of the type – though often not in livery order. So, although there have been both Air Canada and TWA releases neither have been in the delivery colours. There have been a few charter examples including this Caledonian release, which of course with minor changes has also been able to be reused for an Aer Lingus hybrid. For me though the standard scheme is the one to get.
THE REAL THING
The relatively short-legged standard-length Tristar was reasonably popular as a high-density people mover transporting tourists to their summer sun on the Mediterranean or winter snow in the Alps. Both LTU and British Airtours were heavy users of the type on such routes in the 1980s and of course the latter would gain a new identity in 1988 following its parent British Airways’ takeover of British Caledonian,
The takeover of British Caledonian by BA was a tumultuous affair and saw the end of the second-force airline concept in the UK. Despite being based at Gatwick BCal was proud of its association with Scotland, which included tartan uniforms, Scottish aircraft names and the Scottish lion rampant on the tail. British Airways despite absorbing the entire airline decided to keep an aspect of its name by renaming its charter subsidiary British Airtours as Caledonian Airways in April 1988. This move wasn’t necessarily welcomed by bitter ex-BCal staff.
The new Caledonian continued to feature the Scottish Lion rampant on the tail and to name its aircraft after Scottish places, albeit Lochs in keeping with the same sort of naming style British Airways used for its mainline fleet. By this time most of the British Airways Tristar 1 and Tristar 50 fleet was already with Caledonian. In fact, of the nine airframes only one, G-BBAG, never served with either Airtours of Caledonian.
As Caledonian expanded its services its 737-200s were switched to the BA fleet and replaced by further Tristars and new Boeing 757-236s. G-BBAF had been delivered new to BA in November 1974 and gained the name ‘The Coronation Rose’ and later ‘Babbacombe Bay’. She was the last Tristar to join Caledonian, in December 1990 but wasn’t actually purchased by Caledonian until March 1995, when she was finally renamed ‘Loch Fyne’. That was the year that Caledonian itself was sold, to the Carlson Group and five L-1011s were included in the sale.
This aircraft was leased to Aer Lingus in June 1996 until October 1997 but returned to Caledonian service until she was retired in November 1999. By then the old Caledonian Tristars were showing their age and with the Carlson Group having been acquired by Thomas Cook the entire airline was merged into the new JMC Air.
As with several Tristars G-BBAF was sold to one of the variety of dubious and disreputable airlines from Africa and the Middle East in search of widebodies. In this case the airline was Ducor World Airlines from Equatorial Guinea, with whom she became 3C-QRL. The airline was implicated in arms trafficking. They were renamed or re-established in 2003 as International Air Services / Air Express Liberia and continued to use this aircraft, as A8-AAB. Finally, she was with Aircraft Machinery Works as TT-DWE. All three of these outfits were run by Duane Egli and undertook arms trafficking. This Tristar ended her days in the desert off airport in Abu Dhabi.
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.
This is a near perfect Tristar but given their original willingness to modify moulds it is somewhat surprising that NG haven’t modified its one flaw. Even so, this is still one of my favourite castings in 1:400 scale. As soon as I saw the prototypes, way back last April, I knew it was going to be great and generally my detailed review of the sample models still stands, although there have been some improvements made.
This isn’t the first Caledonian Tristar to be made in 1:400 scale so it makes sense to compare it with the Dragon Wings example, which still represents one of the best Tristars made to date despite its age. The NG Models Tristar is the first Tristar mould to accurately portray the dolphin like nosecone of the type. The Dragon L-1011 has a fine undernose region but the angle down to the cockpit is incorrect.
Nobody else has come close to this level of accuracy, which is evident throughout the entire mould. Nowhere is this clearer than at the tail region, which is beautiful. The Dragon tail is actually one of the best available but the NG Models example has a superior fin shape at the top and a more detailed and accurate no 2 engine exhaust.
The wings are well angled and very well detailed as is the wing/fuselage join and fairing. The engine pylons were an area modified prior to the first production release and look excellent. The one area that NG didn’t modify however has been the angle of the engines themselves. The rims should angle rearwards slightly from the side and they do not. This is something Dragon got correct.
One of the other areas that makes this mould stand tall over the JC Wings and Lockness moulds is the undercarriage. Not only is it in the right place but it is a nice height. On both the competing moulds it is too short. The Dragon mould has the gear height correct, but obviously being an older model, it is simple in comparison. The gear is excellently detailed but the maingear doors could do with a stronger angle at their rear.
I have previously given this mould full marks, but the engine and maingear door angle does perhaps just about add up to a lost point. Even so, this is the mould to beat and it is not hard to decide to replace even decent Tristars, like the Dragon Wings, when the new NG example comes a knocking.
SCORE – 9
PAINT & LIVERY
The 1988 Caledonian Airways scheme owes a debt to the mainline Landor livery but very tastefully combines elements of the original BCal scheme too. It is understated and altogether too tasteful for a charter airline!
The colours used by NG Models on this Tristar are perfect. The grey roof, deep blue base and golden lion and pinstripe are spot-on. The height and placement of the blue belly, pinstripe and lion are also millimeter perfect. The Caledonian lion is actually a little odd, with a square top to its head and a rather triangular nose but as odd as it looks it accurately fits the real thing.
Aircraft name, registration and BAF on tailtop and nosegear are present and correct. I can however find fault almost anywhere and I do think the main titles are not quite correct. The size and placement work but the font is ever so slightly off. The C curves a little too much, the A doesn’t have a flat enough top, the E is too symmetrical and the O too wide. The difference is small but I’m going to be mean and detract a point for it.
SCORE – 9
PRINTING & QUALITY CONTROL
NG Models continue to be leader when it comes to printing fineness, detail and quality. The complex L-1011 benefits from this attention to detail with some amazing linework especially on the fuselage underside. This is faultless work. A particular highpoint for those excited about such things, is the way the engine rims transition seamlessly from silver to a dark titanium and even with the dark colour the fanblades keep their silver edging but also have black between them.
In general NG Models usually come well built. I have had the odd wing off but this has been less frequent than from most and no more frequent than from anybody else. That is not an issue here but the wheel hubs of the Tristars are not always correct. Of the ten hubs on this model half of them are not showing proper hubs. This is a bit annoying as it has been pointed out multiple times before.
SCORE – 9
I’m having to work hard and be especially nitpicky when I review NG Models. They are good but not even they are perfect, having said that I imagine you could reasonably convincingly argue that, aside from the wheelhubs, none of the points I have raised really deserve an entire point lost. Tough luck, as I don’t give out half points. This is a great model and well worthy of replacing the Dragon version, which itself was a good model. It looks great next to my Caledonian 757 and I look forward to seeing more G reg L-1011s from NG soon, especially Court Line.
FINAL SCORE – 27