Gemini Jets 1/400 scale Boeing 737-300, Western Airlines Final (Bud Lite) Livery

Written by George Andritsakis

Western Airlines.  America’s Senior Airline.  The Only Way to Fly.  It helped make Los Angeles the big-time metropolis that it is (San Francisco, at the time, was far bigger, and was also the West Coast Terminus for the Transcontinental Air Mail).  It put Salt Lake City on the map as a viable airline hub, not just another backwoods destination.  Movie Stars flew them all over the West Coast.  Champagne and Hunt Breakfast Flights.  Swizzle Sticks and Wally Bird.  The airline that got me utterly HOOKED on this wild and insane industry.  Western was never a giant, but it managed giant feats for an airline its size, and with its geographical handicaps (thanks to a laggard Civil Aeronautics Board, Western’s Route System grew very slowly).  Once deregulation hit, the airline found itself struggling to survive.  Only a drastic redrawing of is system centered around the principal hub of Salt Lake City and a secondary hub in Los Angeles could save Western from an early grave.  That same new management also decided that the recently ordered Boeing 767-200’s just didn’t fit the new route structure, so the order, instead of being cancelled and valuable deposit money being lost, was converted to an order for a mix of Boeing 737-200’s and the still in development 737-300.  This move turned out to be the best thing for Western, and the rest is history.

Ever since I was a kid, I had always kept an eye out for any model with the iconic “Flying W” livery on it.  Any scale, any size, didn’t matter.  I had to have it.  Over the years, the 1/400 scale industry has exploded, and there have been a few Western Airlines releases over the years,  but usually it was in the Indian Head livery of the 1950’s and 1960’s, or the red and white “Flying W” livery introduced in 1972.  Very few offerings of the final bare metal “Bud Lite” scheme.  In fact, Gemini Jets released the DC-10-10 in said livery, and Aeroclassics also released a 737-300 and 727-200 as well, all of which have a spot in my collection.  But when Gemini Jets announced in Summer 2019 that they were releasing a 737-300 of N306WA, the 8th 737-300 delivered to Western, I never got the memo.  In fact, I never knew about the model until I walked into The Airplane Shop in Las Vegas just the other day!  So, I did what anyone in my predicament would do.  I bought the model and brought it home for review.

I’ve found most 737-300 models in 1/400 are terribly tail heavy, and therefore, tend to lean back on their tail when put on display.  The only ones I haven’t noticed this with are the original Dragon Wings mold (the New York Air example comes to mind).  In terms of the mold itself though, Gemini has the best one.  It is far more accurate and detailed that Dragon Wings was, or even Jet-X or Aeroclassics at that.  It also has a good heft to it as well and is solid metal through and through (unlike Dragon Wings).  The engines are (for once) properly sized and shaped to scale with the model, and the landing gear is correctly sized with the tires not oversized.  There’s quite a few molds out there that suffer from that (the original Gemini Jets 707’s for example).   The cockpit windows and window rows are properly placed and printed correctly as well (again, this seems to be a big issue with the 1/400 scale).  The livery is perfectly placed and in the exact shades it should be.  All in all, despite the tail-heavy tilting, it’s a fantastic model, worthy of being picked up by ANYONE into the classic airlines of yesterday.

My absolute favorite thing about Gemini Jets models is the packaging.  On the 1/400 models, you lift the top cover up to reveal the model, and the inside of the cover details the history of the aircraft type, and also includes pertinent information about the particular aircraft itself, such as delivery date, line number, etc.  It’s very cool packaging indeed, something I wish they would’ve done with the larger Gemini200 1/200 scale model line as well.  Ah well, maybe in the future?  Just something to think about, dear ADI (the folks who make Gemini Jets).

Speaking of the aircraft itself, N306WA was the 8th Boeing 737-800 delivered to Western Airlines, the 1,173rd Boeing 737 off the line, first flown on November 18, 1985; and delivered to Western just a few weeks later, on December 6.  She flew with Western for a little over a year when Western was fully merged with Delta Air Lines on April 1, 1987; where she flew faithfully and reliably until she was retired and withdrawn from use in May 2006 and met the scrappers torch in May 2007.  Delta’s 737-300’s were my favorite aircraft to fly on, and aside from a few examples, all of the former Western birds (and a pair of ex-Western Pacific logojets) stuck to the Salt Lake City hub during their tenure.

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Atlantic Models 1/100 scale 747-100 in Columbia Airlines livery (Airport 1975)

Written by George Andritsakis

I have a confession to make.  I LOVE those cheesy 1970’s disaster flicks, especially the iconic Airport series.  Out of the 4 movies, Airport 1975 is my all-time favorite.  Not only does it have a star-studded cast of legendary Hollywood heavyweights (look up the cast, go on, I dare ya), the inflight and air-to-air scenery are some of the best aerial footage ever taken (in my not so humble opinion).  Oh, and did I mention the Boeing 747-100 stole the show?  I’ve never seen a more well done and gorgeous fictitious livery.  OK, I may be stretching that last one a bit, it’s nothing more than American Airlines’ classic Silverbird livery modified for Hollywood to depict the unfortunately fictitious Columbia Airlines, but still, the Queen wore it stunningly well.

A few years back Inflight200 made a line of models depicting airlines from the movies.  They had the Trans Global Boeing 707 from the original Airport, Columbia’s 747-100 (with damage above the cockpit depicted) from Airport 1975, the Stevens Corporation private Boeing 747-100 from the mainly underwater adventure Airport ’77, and the doomed Federation World Airways Concorde from The Concorde…Airport ’79.  I barely blinked and the 747’s were all sold out.  I couldn’t find one anywhere, for ANY price (lately, I’ve been seeing the Stevens 747 pop up on eBay for somewhat extortionist prices, but the Columbia bird eludes me to this very day).

So, about two years ago, I got fed up with waiting for the 1/200 scale model to come across my path, so I contacted the fine folks at Atlantic Models in Miami, Florida and asked about making me a custom 1/100 scale Columbia Airlines Boeing 747-100, minus the cockpit damage.  I also asked them to make the plane completely chromed out and shiny, which added to the cost, but oh was it worth it.  Not only did the finished result look incredibly phenomenal, but the model itself also looked like a larger scale than the 1/100 it was.  You could call it a “Super 1/100”!  It took just a tad over 6 months, but the folks at Atlantic kept me up to date and sent me photos during construction to keep me drooling until final delivery.

Ok, enough drooling and reminiscing, onto the review.  Atlantic Models does a fantastic job on large scale models from 1/200 on up.  Honestly, in this avgeek’s humble opinion, they far outperform Pacmin in every respect.  It’s no wonder airlines like Southwest and American call on them for all their large-scale model needs (don’t believe me?  Just check out the lobby to Southwest’s Headquarters at Dallas/Love Field, or American Airlines’ CR Smith Museum for some of the most amazing model airliners you’ll ever lay eyes on).  The model itself is a solid, single-piece model, meaning the wings and stabilizers do not detach like most large-scale models do (I requested it built this way), and therefore is HEAVY (27 lbs., or 12.24 kilograms to be exact).  Which is perfect for its intended use, as the centerpiece in my recently remodeled living room, to be placed on top of a giant vintage travel chest.

Now, when it comes to this particular aircraft and airline, the smaller 1/200 scale version from Inflight200 has the “cockpit damage” look right above the starboard side of the cockpit, depicting where the Twin Baron collided with the 747 on it’s descent into Salt Lake City, Utah in the movie.  I’m not a fan of that look, at least not the way it looks on the model.  In my eyes, it just looks too hokey and fake (I know, I know, it’s just a fictitious airline from a movie, get over it, George).  The BigBird 400 model does not have the damage and looks absolutely stunning as well (I’m trying to get my hands on this one as well, but it’s been well over 10 years since I’ve seen one for sale).

Since my 1/100 scale version was chromed out, it looks far more realistic than a lot of other non-chromed 1/100 models from airlines with buffed out, bare metal finishes, and I LOVE that.  When compared to some of my American Airlines models, the Columbia model pops out far more.  The chrome added to the cost, but oh man, it was worth it.  The model has since become a centerpiece in my house.

The rest of the livery was perfectly applied by those magicians at Atlantic Models, and the model itself has no flaws on it and is proportionally accurate.  To keep with the accuracy and branding as close as I could to the actual film aircraft, this model also has the registration added (most 1/100 models sadly don’t).  The only real issue (a minor one, at that) is the top of the tail has some slight curving to it.  Not a whole lot, but it’s noticeable if you look for it.  Another thing, and most larger Boeing 747 models don’t have this either, are the HF Antennae on the wingtips were not included.  Other than that, again, the model is the absolute best and most gorgeous model I’ve ever had.  If you have the ability, funds, and room to do so, a custom-built model from Atlantic is a heck of a way to go.

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