Despite my anger at the actions of the Russian state the appearance of so much Soviet-era metal in 400 scale in the past few years has been most welcome. There are now two active competing moulds for the Tu-204, which if you'd have asked me 5 years ago I'd have struggled to believe. Both moulds debuted in 2021 and have been used rather sparingly, which is why until now I haven't had an example of the Panda version available. Classic Aeroflot examples are however too good to pass up so now I have the opportunity to take a closer look and compare it to the NG Models version.
Each review is to split into three key areas:
Although, as always with Soviet aircraft, the Tu-204 is disparagingly compared to Western equipment with a similar configuration, in this case the 757, it has a very distinctive look with high undercarriage, a very rounded nose profile and winglets (way before the 757 had them).
I obviously got an early and good look at the NG Models Tu-204 samples and was very happy with them. The same wasn't true of the Panda mould, which I have only just acquired my first versions of. There has been a welcome trend in 400 scale recently of moulds becoming so accurate that they look very similar. That is also the case here but there are still differences.
The most obvious difference when looking at both moulds side by side, and comparing to photos of the real thing, is the nose shape. The NG version has this spot on. This Panda mould has the correct shape and angles above the cockpit and beneath the radome, but the curve down from the cockpit to the nosecone is slightly too sharp and not curved enough.
It is quite minor but the nosecone does look a little pointier on the Panda version. The NG version also has a slightly longer set of gear legs, which again I think is more accurate if you compare where the forward prong on the gear leg should meet the gear door.
The main fuselage barrel and wings are essentially identical and look great. The only difference I can really see are in the wingtips and the tailcone. The Panda Models mould has a squarer and better shaped set of winglets than the NG mould.
The tailcone is more interesting. The Tu-204 has a rather obvious APU pipe coming out the tailcone and on the NG versions and the Panda Russian flag version that is shown well, however on this Soviet flag version the tailcone is blunter. Looking at photos it does seem that the prototypes had a shorter tailpipe so have Panda modified the mould for this particular release and filed the tailcone down a bit, or is it just a mistake? I can't decide.
The large Soloviev/Aviadvigatel PS-90 engines look great and match those of the NG version. The engines attach to the pylons differently for each mould but both attachments look good.
Overall the difference between the two Tu-204 moulds is small but discernable if you look closely enough. I think the NG wins with a better nose shape and undercarriage length, whereas the Panda has better winglets. Even so, the Panda mould is still very nice and an effective Tu-204.
SCORE - 8
PAINT & LIVERY
The Tu-204 first flew in 1989 but didn't enter service, with Aeroflot, until February 1996. This model represents the first production aircraft (line number 003) and the Soviet-era Aeroflot colours which it wore to the 1991 Paris Le Bourget airshow. This scheme was obviously never worn in service with Aeroflot and this airframe spent its entire life with the Tupolev Design Bureau.
Aside from the large 371 designator on the lower left fuselage the livery is the standard 1975 Aeroflot scheme. Looking at the colours and Panda have the deep blue of the cheatline and titles correct as well as the red of the Soviet flag.
The size and positioning of the tail flag and cheatlines are fine, as are the font and sizing of the main titles and hammer and sickle logo. The registration is correctly split across the wings upper and lower surfaces and well spaced. This is a seamless rendition of the classic Aeroflot scheme.
SCORE - 10
PRINTING & QUALITY CONTROL
Panda can match NG Models and anyone else for printing detail, which abounds here in fineness and quality. My only complaint is that the template for the cockpit windows doesn't appear quite correct. The inner four windows slant ever so slightly downwards from the outer ones rather than having the straight line top they should have.
Build quality is generally good except for minor imperfections with the landing gear. Only the tyres on the right maingear roll. That doesn't bother me much but the left maingear doesn't sit quite flush with the ground. You have to be looking carefully to notice.
SCORE - 8
The Aeroflot schemes are the most important Tu-204 liveries for me and I am surprised NG let Panda beat them to two of the three options in this space (NG has announced the third billboard livery). Having said that I am not bothered as the Panda Models version reviewed here, and the other Russian flag version, both look excellent. The mould may be slightly inferior to the NG version but I would be happy if the distance between moulds for other types from different brands such as the 737-800 and A320 were so small. It is a delight to be able to compare multiple moulds for this lovely aircraft.
SCORE - 26/30
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I'm Richard Stretton an aviation enthusiast and major collector of 400 scale models. On this page I take a detailed look at new releases.
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