Panda Models have become something of a custom shop, making bespoke models for specific retailers to serve specific markets. Although their mould catalogue is quite small the result has been some delightful models covering Indonesia to the USA, Taiwan to Argentina, Malaysia to Canada and elsewhere. From Canada, Prairie Diecast have now commissioned 6 releases (they additionally made an Air India 77W through JC Wings) and the last 3 have been in co-operation with the local Canadian airlines they feature. I have been lucky enough to be sent the latest model so I'm more than happy to take a closer look at it here.
THIS REVIEW IS SPONSORED BY PRAIRIE DIECAST
Each review is to split into three key areas:
It is no hyperbole to say that this Panda Models mould has been the saviour of the Boeing 737-300 in 400 scale, helped in no small way to an extensive run using it by Aeroclassics. Until this mould came onto the scene, under the Aeroclassics brand in 2013, there had only been about 50 737-300s made - mostly using the, very weak even for the time, Herpa and Dragon moulds.
Gemini Jets produced a mould in 2004 but even when you add on their production partners at various times (Phoenix and JC Wings) the mould's usage has been limited. This mould continues to be used in 2023, albeit updated slightly with aerials. It is just another of many old Gemini moulds that have been updated by JC Wings rather than being replaced with something better. In this case the added aerials are oversized and the aircraft tends to sits tail down - see my 2020 review of a United example. Even so, it is ok.
It doesn't hold a candle to this Panda Models mould, which has also been updated with better undercarriage and aerials since it was used by Aeroclassics prior to the great Aeroclassics : Panda schism. The only drawback is that Panda don't use this mould anywhere near enough (although I note they've just announced 4 more including a United example).
The overall fuselage shape of the casting is perfect and has the blunt rounded tailcone with APU shaped excellently. Three aerials are fitted, two above and one below. That is one more than on examples made for Miniature Models. All are well sized and shaped.
The engines are well shaped, with the flattened bottom, and hung high enough to give the correct level of ground clearance by the pylons. The wings are also well shaped and fit snugly into the fuselage.
The new undercarriage is an improvement over the simple previous version. The new larger tyres come with proper hubs and are better sized than before. The only criticism to mention about the mould is that the tailtop is not flat enough. This is very minor. I actually knocked off a point for that last time I reviewed a Panda 737-300 for this but I don't think it is enough for me to do so this time.
SCORE - 10
PAINT & LIVERY
The Air Inuit livery is a delight. It was designed by the Canadian creative studio FEED and the lead brand strategist Marc-André Chaput, and unveiled in January 2012. The redesign covered every aspect of the airline not just the livery.
The airline described the new design as follows:
"The Escher inspired orange and white goose design was created to reflect the Inuit’s love and respect of nature and the abundant wildlife that have allowed its people to survive for millenia in one of the planet’s harshest environments. It was also intended to underscore the company’s distinctive corporate culture and bold new vision for the future; it includes improved efficiency to cope with rising operating costs, the addition of new routes and specialized services, and a careful expansion into new markets.”
It also helps that the aircraft is bright as it stands out against the Arctic environment.
Prairie Diecast worked directly with the airline on this model so it is no surprise that the orange colour used is perfect. The trio of geese are corretly sized and located also. Their form is really good except for the most foremost. Although in general it is fine the eye is definitely too low and far forward. Nitpicking it may be but it doesn't look as good as the other two geese.
The airline's new logo features the word Inuit in traditional syllabics of the Inuktitut language, also in orange, which "highlight(s) the company’s Inuit ownership and cultural heritage."
In addition to the new logo and livery part of the design was also a new typeface named 'Air Inuit Sans'. This is used for the main titles and looks good to me. So overall, this is an excellent rendition of a classy livery that although now over a decade old looks as fresh and attractive as when it debuted.
SCORE - 9
PRINTING & QUALITY CONTROL
Print quality is a strength of Panda Models work and I would put them up their with the best in the scale. This aircraft has been converted to a Quick Change version with the large forward side cargo door. This feature gives Panda the opportunity to really show off what they can do. The line work is superfine and detailed.
Even more impressive has been the attention to detail with the paintwork - most obvious on the nosegear doors. They cover the area, which is the end of the grey belly and so the anterior portion is actually white with an arc showing the boundary between white and grey. This is the sort of detailing that some brands would never catch.
Build quality is superb overall. There is a little roughness to the forward edge of the nosegear door but you can't see it with the naked eye.
SCORE - 10
This is a near perfect model. The result of a combination of a retailer working direct with the airline and a factory that knows how to produce high quality output. It also comes with a rather delightful box so the total package is not only attractive all over, but great value too. It seems slightly bizarre that a retailer driven model can have this sort of attention paid to it when some brands, that actively make hundreds of releases and for whom that is their main business, can't raise their quality to simple things like attractive artwork or proper photographs. Anyway this release is a credit to all involved.
SCORE - 29/30
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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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