Panda Models didn’t release a lot in 2020 and a good chunk of what they did release was for specific customers rather than general release. From what I’ve heard that is likely to be the pattern in 2021 as well, which is a shame as their models tend to be high quality. It’s hard for me to get too upset with them though as 2020 did bring not one, but two new Tupolev Tu-134 castings, although it wasn’t until December that the 2nd appeared. Now it has arrived let’s take a look.
THIS REVIEW IS SPONSORED BY PRAIRIE DIECAST
Each review is to split into three key areas:
Panda’s first release of a Tu-134 was a Tu-134A in the original colours the type wore with Aeroflot. The primary difference between an A version and the B version, represented here, is at the nose. Whereas the A had the traditional bomber style glazed radome and chin radar the B acquired the standard solid nose radome. This difference means that although the mould is largely the same as the A version at the front it is substantially different. The B version has a completely different profile with a much longer pointier nosecone.
Pleasingly this second Tu-134 casting is as exceptional as the first. The forward region is lovely and the new nose perfect. The Tu-134 has a very thin nosegear leg and I think this model has about as thin a leg as is possible in this scale.
The wings droop slightly down as they should and have a lot of finely etched detailing on them. The two wingtop strakes are present, although possibly a little too low. The large main undercarriage pods midwing are also excellent and nicely shaped.
It is good to see Panda have fitted aerials to this mould, including the pair of long strake-like ones atop the fuselage. The two smaller aerials, on the forward roofline and underside, are correctly kinked as in the real thing. This is no mean feat as they are really incredibly finely made.
The rear of the mould is also a thing of beauty. The shape of the engines and tail region are perfect to my eye. What I particularly like are the etched lines of the rudder, including the hinges, and the moulded in bumps atop the engines. There is no denying that this is a beautiful mould and a real piece of craftsmanship from Panda. I can’t fault it.
SCORE – 10
PAINT & LIVERY
Air Koryo have operated a pair of Tu-134s, built in 1984 and inherited from its predecessor CAAK in 1993. This airframe was still operational into 2020 and the airline is the last to operate the type. Until early 2016 the 134s had worn the classic thicker red spear cheatline scheme of Air Koryo and although Panda made both livery versions this one is the one that illustrates the type the best for me.
The classic Air Koryo livery is a rather nice scheme based around the national flag, which for a supposedly Communist regime is surprisingly attractive with nary a hammer and sickle in site. A slanted flag fills much of the tail and the model’s version looks good. It is however not necessarily the correct colour with both the red and blue being darker than on the real thing.
The red cheatline runs through the windowline with a thin blue pinstripe above and below. Towards the cockpit the cheatline tapers to a point near the nosecone. The cheatline once again looks good but the tapering at the nose begins too soon and so the black anti-glare mask is a little too large.
The airline’s blue crane logo and multi-lingual titles are finely and well printed. It took me the use of a magnifying glass to confirm that the unusual multi-part English letter characters are correct but they are. Other small components such as the registration font and tiny aircraft type markings on the engines are present and correct.
SCORE – 8
PRINTING & QUALITY CONTROL
The mould in this case has a lot of etched detailing on it, especially on the wings, which renders a lot of extra print detailing unnecessary on the topside of the model. On the underside however Panda have really gone to town and I counted over 40 pieces of detail printing on the fuselage alone. It is super fine and super impressive. Elements that are easy to make a mess of, such as the maingear doors on the wing fairings, are delicate and top class.
The only area of discontent for me is on the nosecone where it looks like the white paint still allows some of the point of the cheatline to be seen through it.
This is a really dainty 1:400 mould and feels very light in the hand. Despite this, construction quality is outstanding all over except on the tiny static tyres, which are not all applied straight and true. It is a very minor issue that is only really visible under magnification.
SCORE – 8
These little Tu-134s, and it really is a surprise to see how small they are in 400 scale, are a delight and if only Panda could release a decent number of them then it would have its place sealed in 400 history, as the mould is outstanding and this is an aircraft type I was beginning to think we’d never see in the scale. With now both the A and B variants on strength there is plenty of room for releases of both in the same liveries, but I still have a nagging feeling Panda just isn’t going to deliver on the release front. Even so, this is a model of some class and it isn’t at all crusty*!
FINAL SCORE - 26
* Crusty was the NATO reporting name for the Tu-134
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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