Some airline / aircraft combos are guaranteed to get a lot of exposure from the model manufacturers and that has included two recent A321s - namely the Express Freighters (Qantas) P2F and this CX version, that has resulted from the unfortunate closure of the Cathay Dragon arm. I actually reviewed this very aircraft in Cathay Dragon colours back in September and although only HYJLwings and JC Wings were the only brands to make that version Cathay Pacific's first narrowbody airliner since the 707 has been made now by at least 5 manufacturers - Aeroclassics, JC Wings, HYJLwings, NG Models and Panda. In this review I'll take a closer look at the latter.
Each review is to split into three key areas:
Panda Models didn't make its own A321 until late 2018 and has only used it 20 or so times since, compared to NG Models who have only used the HYJLwings A320 since 2020 and have already made 26. Nonetheless, the scarcity of releases shouldn't be a reason to ignore it since the mould is excellent.
I have been a big fan of the HYJLwings / NG Models A321, so the fact that it shares a lot in common with the Panda mould is a good thing. There are differences to be found between them but they are minor and don't impact the scoring much. The HYJLwings version sits ever so slightly higher at the nose and has slightly taller Sharklets.
Somewhat ironically the easiest way to distinguish between the Panda mould and the HYJLwings / NG Models one is not an airframe feature but is actually the position of the stand hole on the underside. The Panda version has the stand hole a lot further forward at the front of the wing join rather than nearer the maingear.
The shape of the entire fuselage is near perfect so there isn't a lot to say other than 'BRAVO' at an annoyingly loud volume (that's a Blackadder joke for any poor soul who has never seen the genius).
Of course, as I have pointed out a few times previously when reviewing A321s the type is more than just a stretch A320 since the wing is equipped with double-slotted flaps. Only JC Wings and HYJLwings have got this correct until this Panda mould. The wing is effectively impossible to tell apart from the HYJLwings, which once again is a good thing. Obviously, if you are considering the Aeroclassics release of this same aircraft this is a point to bear in mind since it incorrectly uses an A320 wing.
Considering the size of the LEAP engines ground clearance is pretty decent and a touch better than on the HYJLwings version. Another area where there is great attention to detail is the moulding of the CFM LEAP engines, which correctly have an unusual asymmetric nacelle thanks to a bulge on the lower forward left side.
The engines themselves are accurate and introduce the final difference between this Panda and the HYJLwings A321. The HYJLwings has see-through engines whereas this model does not. It actually probably looks better for the solid fans as reproducing the correct number of fanblades in a see-through engine at this scale is very difficult, however I recognise that for some collectors this will matter.
On the aerials front the model has all the major aerials (3 on the roof and 1 on the rear belly) and is only missing the very small one on the forward belly. A minor issue is present at the maingear where between the struts there is no gap. I had previously thought this plastic flashing infill was a QC issue but it appears to be a mould feature.
Overall this is a fabulous effort from Panda Models and I will nitpickingly detract half a point each for the solid engines and maingear flashing. The mould is clearly superior to the JC Wings and Phoenix versions and, even if it shares a common ancestry, also to the Aeroclassics. It is very much a spot the difference contest between this and the HYJLwings / NG Models mould. they are both exemplary.
SCORE - 9
PAINT & LIVERY
Cathay's distaste for unlicensed models hasn't stopped their livery from being incredibly common in 400 scale (although models are often listed as 'Missing' or 'Not Available' or such). That means literally everybody has attempted this livery before. The simplified 2015 livery only uses three colours (green, grey and white) and the repaint from the Cathay Dragon scheme to this one must have been quite easy.
Although it photographs quite dark the green colour being used here is very nice and clearly green. Likewise, the grey band and engine's are also replicated well.
Positionally the livery components are well placed. The brushwing forward of the L1/R1 door is higher than on the Aeroclassics and better for it. The Squire logo on the rear fuselage is present and the large brushwing on the vertical stab has plenty of detail to it's feathered top.
SCORE - 10
PRINTING & QUALITY CONTROL
Panda can really print a model well and as usual the best proof of that is a look at the underside where there is a lot of print line detailing - over 30 separate bits. Other detailing, like the wings surfaces, is equally impressive. The inside of the engines have also been well painted. They aren't black and they aren't silver - they are a much better dark titanium grey.
The only criticism of the paint application is that the bandit mask around the cockpit windows is a little thin especially at the lower sides.
There are no major concerns with the build quality of the model. I did notice that the wings are a little loosely attached and do wiggle in their sockets but they haven't come off.
SCORE - 9
I don't review as many Panda models as I'd like because they just aren't making that much and a lot of what they do make is for Asian retailers. However, when I do review their models I am almost always impressed. This is a very good mould, more than competitive with the best other A321s available, and a lovely model overall. Hopefully Panda can get their act together and start making more models that will appeal to my collecting sensibilities.
FINAL SCORE - 28/30
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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