Southwest Airlines has proven to be a popular subject for many of the North American Panda Models retailer exclusives, with to my count 8 having been produced to date. Having said that, unsurprisingly the majority of these releases have worn the current livery and this Prairie Diecast version is the only one wearing the classic Desert Gold scheme, which even then only dates it to around 2006. As such, it just falls within my WN collection criteria.
Also a shout out to Nicolas Glogovac who helped behind the scenes to decide the exact aircraft and livery to be made plus to try and colour match the scheme, which is far from an easy task.
Each review is to split into three key areas:
Panda Models retired their old 737-700/800 moulds in April 2019 but it wasn't until around August 2020 that the successor moulds were available. Since then they have used the new 73G version only 11 times and all but 3 of those have been for retailer exclusives. I admit that although not perfect I rather liked the previous Panda 737NGs, however the new moulds are clearly superior and can compete with the best (i.e. the NG Models versions).
Comparing the Panda and NG 73Gs is to compare fine margins, but it is clear they are both miles ahead of the nearest competition - the JC Wings / Gemini mould. The Panda 73G has an accurate nose profile and all new landing gear. It is at the nosegear that the first difference of note with the NG appears. The Panda has a smaller nosegear door and slightly chunkier gear leg. Both are good but the NG is slightly superior.
Across the rest of the fuselage and wings the Panda and NG are almost indistinguishable from each other with their excellence. Once again it is the additional elements that provide a point of difference, however small. The engines and pylons near match but the exhausts are slightly longer on the NG version.
The only other area of contrast are the horizontal stabilisers, which are angled slightly more on the Panda version. The Panda mould features 4 aerials including the underside aerial offset to port (I think technically this might not actually be an aerial but at this scale it looks like one).
From the underside the easiest way to tell the Panda mould from the NG Models one is that the Panda has a standhole whereas the NG version does not. If I had to choose a favourite between these two moulds then I think I would probably pick the NG version, but the differences are minimal and at the point where knocking points off isn't warranted. Therefore I will give this Panda mould full marks as I don't do half mark deductions. Ten doesn't mean it is perfect but it is close enough to being perfect if that makes sense.
SCORE - 10
PAINT & LIVERY
As with most schemes that have an non-white base colour (BA Landor, UA Battleship etc) getting that colour correct is a major challenge. For the Desert Gold scheme this is not helped by the fact it seems to have changed across the years anyway and in many photos the lighting condition and fading of the original colour make it look quite different.
I know that Nicolas and Adam worked hard on the colour being used here and settled on the colour using reference shots like these:
The finished article is certainly very different to other Desert Gold fleet members by Aeroclassics and Gemini Jets, which are a lot darker, as you can see below:
Checking other reference photos of this airframe from Jetphotos here, here and here I do think that the fuselage base colour is too pale, although it is far closer to the real thing than the other 737s in the photo above, at least for this 737-700. Even so, the white titles do not stand out as much as they should.
The other colours and placement of the colour bands are accurate. The outer wheelhubs are correctly red. The model features the aircraft as it appeared in the second half of 2006 without southwest.com titles on the winglets, but with the eyebrow windows filled in. By 2008 the winglets had gained the website titles and by August that year it had been repainted into the Canyon Blue scheme.
There are a couple of other inaccuracies with the scheme. The fuselage windows should be outlined much more heavily in white than they are and on a real nitpicking level the bottom tip of the heart should be touching the white pinstripe. The former rather stands out once you notice it but the latter is incredibly minor.
SCORE - 7
PRINTING & QUALITY CONTROL
I am a big fan of Panda Models print capability and this model exhibits the usual high standard of detail. As mentioned earlier the aircraft features the filled in eyebrow windows but that hasn't stopped Panda showing them in outline, just like on the real thing. It is a level of fine printing some others are incapable of.
Nonetheless, it doesn't matter how good the printing is if things are printed in the wrong place and I do think that the windowline is printed slightly too high towards its rear. The windows should follow the line of the red belly but do not quite. From a correct starting point at the forward fuselage they end up too high by the time they reach the wing. It doesn't stand out dramatically but they could do with being a mm or so lower at the rear fuselage.
I admit I am also not entirely convinced with the cockpit windows either, which would look a little better if they were ever so slightly taller. The painting is very tidily done and in particular on the underside the delicate painting of the red flap track fairings really stands out, along with the curving lines on the winglets. Build quality presents no issues.
SCORE - 8
There has historically been a lot of mediocrity when it comes to 737NG moulds and it is good to see that has now changed. Unfortunately, this model suffers somewhat, from a scoring perspective, due to the issues with the windows. The cockpit window template could do with a small tweak and the fuselage windowline should be lowered. Adding the issues with the rendition of the livery and this model receives an unusually low score for a Panda release.
FINAL SCORE - 25/30
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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