The review of Aeroclassics 2015 releases can be found here.
I already covered Aeroclassics January-April 2016 releases in an earlier review which can be found here.
Thanks to Michael at Waffle Collectibles for use of his photos.
After a heavily classic leaning first 4 months of 2016 Aeroclassics production evened out and the year's production volumes normalised between equal classics and modern buses. Overall in 2016 226 models were produced by Aeroclassics, which is only 20 or so under the combined production of Gemini Jets and Phoenix. As I've said before this is achieved by producing smaller production runs and multiple versions / hybrids of similar liveries. It is still nonetheless an impressive achievement and an increase of 26 models over the 2015 figures. Below are a selection of releases not discussed in more detail later on:
Budgies are Back
The return of the HS-748 to production was an unexpected and pleasant surprise. Previously Aeroclassics had only made 6 releases way back in 2010. It is one of the smallest of moulds available in 1/400 scale and was a type operated widely but usually in smaller numbers by secondary airlines, which makes it potentially a hard sell in the marketplace. Still Aeroclassics have produced a nice array of 748s this year, though they have at times chosen some unusual subjects (Makung Airlines) over much more well known ones (Dan Air, Skyways etc). Hopefully production will continue into 2017 and include some of the more familiar operators.
The only criticism of the 748s made so far has been some of the finishing on the models. The wheel configuration and size of the mould means the 748 doesn't have rolling gears, which is fine, however the painting of the tyres - especially the nosegear has at times been very sloppy.
Another old Aeroclassics mould that returned to production in 2016 was the Trident 2. However unlike the HS-748 this mould's return was rather ignominious. The choice of releases was ok but the rendering of the releases was far from well done. Incredibly on all of them (at least in the early batches) the incorrect number of maingear wheels was added! Where they should have 4 per bogey (side by side) they only had 2. That wasn't all as the British versions suffered from some poor cheatline printing and incorrect details to the wing. They were a right mess and sadly a bit symptomatic of some poor finishing by Aeroclassics this year. I wonder whether we will see more anatomically correct Tridents in 2017? Here are the releases so far:
The 727-200 mould has had a good runout in 2016. It's not a perfect mould by any means (see this now old 727-200 review for more) but it is good enough. Its usage in 2016 has mainly been for US 1980s airlines but with some mixed results. The Eastern, Republic and Delta are almost rereleases of aircraft Gemini has done and it is a bit annoying that the much requested 'Mary Tyler Moore' Republic was overlooked for another Herman. Despite my hatred for the man the Trump Shuttle 727 nonetheless is an important historical subject. The pair of TAESA's were also very welcome. The biggest 2016 issue for the 727-200 is the cockpit windows. Quite a few of the releases show oddly pinched windows giving the aircraft a weird angry look. Since the cockpit tends to be one of the most obvious features of the model this is disappointing and I avoided a few releases because of this. It's an easy fix as often the windows are done fine.
Mainly Classy Convairs
The local service airlines of the regulated US era have not had a great run in 1/400 - partly because of the lack of a Martin or working DC-3 mould. It was therefore a pleasure to see Aeroclassics slip out a good selection of sought after Convairs in 2016. Despite the understandable usage of the CV-440 mould for the CV-240 these are great models. The Lake Central and National Airlines examples were special holy grails for me. I really hope that there will be more Convairs in 2017 in other colours for Lake Central, Frontier, Allegheny, North Central and Central too. I should also add that though I love the Ethiopian release it is almost certain that the white tail colour is a mistake.
The downside of the Convair production has been the military examples. Both are full of errors. The markings on the wings of the Coastguard C-131A are wrong and the MATS C-131 is an amazing trainwreck having its titles spelt 'Milceary Air Transport Sekvice' rather than 'Military Air Transport Service. Andrew says the person responsible has been fired however I would say that the error wasn't with him alone and how this slipped through quality checking is beyond belief. It isn't the first time this has happened but it is the first time in a long time. In 2016 it was just one of a series of mistakes made.
Props Vs Jets
In the December releases post on 400ScaleHangar Andrew responded in his customarily grumpy way to people's comments about the models and said:
"My spy in China tells me that AC is discontinuing to make these beautiful propeller aircraft due to extremely poor sales and demand, and this was decided long before this stupid error was discovered, which, for the record, has cost the artist his job!!
If worldwide sales of prop aircraft is below 60pcs, then there's no point to continue making them. The question remains, if there are really no customers for props, or the dealers just refuse to offer them because they're afraid to hold any inventory, and potential customers don't know they even exist?? "
Hopefully this was Andrew just letting off steam, though I don't doubt some of the models made sell in only small numbers (Horizon and Makung HS-748s for example). It is almost certainly true that the market for classics is decreasing and I see on my own site that people are a lot less interested in the props than jets, but if AC stopped making props it would be a tragedy. Are smaller runs uneconomic? Certainly Panda Models seems ok making runs of less than 150 models. I can't help feeling that there must be a way to continue making the props and part of this is a wiser selection of those made. I also think classics collectors would be willing to pay a bit more for some of them. Hopefully we'll still see lots of spinning blades in 2017.
New Moulds - Tens and Tens
In last years review I hoped that Aeroclassics would produce a new modern classic like a 757 or MD-80 and a real classic like a CV-580 or DC-9-10. They almost came through and created the new modern classic (A310) and an almost real classic (DC-10-40). It's good to see that at least one of the manufacturers is producing new moulds (both Phoenix and Gemini have been quite restrained in 2016). Also as you'd expect from AC both the new moulds are excellent.
Puzzlingly the initial A310s weren't labelled as Aeroclassics but since then more releases have been badged appropriately. See my A310 mould review for a detailed look at the new mould. It is fab except that so far Aeroclassics have failed to produce a Pratt & Whitney powered version of the mould. Sadly this hasn't stopped them releasing A310s with P&Ws leading to incorrect models. Perhaps this is why the first batch wasn't labelled as Aeroclassics? They contained most of the incorrect models. Hopefully this rather major oversight will be rectified in 2017 and I look forward to a range of interesting A310s.
Below you can see the 2016 A310 releases and which have the correct engines. The RCAF A310 was reviewed here by ACPilot in November.
The DC-10-40 is a much simpler mould since it can mainly reuse Aeroclassics excellent DC-10-30 series just with new engines. There is a limited number of releases that can be made and so far AC have been dancing around the most obvious set - that of Northwest of which there are at least 4 variants that can be made (including the demo aircraft). The 7 releases made so far include 4 Japanese examples plus a couple of Aeroflot freighters and American Trans Air. The new series 40 hasn't stopped production of other DC-10 marks of which my favourite this year is the TAESA. Here are the DC-10 releases:
Rather ironically I expect that Aeroclassics nowadays makes most of its money from making semi-modern Airbuses rather than classics, despite the voices for classics on 400ScaleHangar and the like. In general they do a really good job of it too. The moulds are great, albeit they are gradually being surpassed by new examples from other manufacturers (like Panda models - which are better detailed and have aerials). In the Baby Bus range there has been a good spread of releases providing good competition to Gemini Jets, Phoenix and Panda Models. The A321s are especially welcome as here Panda doesn't yet have a mould.
There have been some lovely releases - my favourites have been the Mexicana, Canadian and Air China Sichuan specials. However it hasn't all been roses. The colour of the titles on the Sichuan Airlines A320s is incorrectly black rather than blue and the release of the LATAM A320NEO PT-TMN on a CEO mould was pretty shocking. There is no sign of a NEO mould from Aeroclassics yet but this release just seemed cynical and hardly meets the standards expected of this brand.
Here are the A319/320/321 releases from May-December 2016:
The BigBuses have also had a healthy run out in 2016. The results have been generally good but it is on these buses that the all to familiar colour problems, Aeroclassics is almost renowned for, show up the most. The shade Aeroclassics uses for HNA Group airlines for example is a very deep orange, the WOW colours are off, the SABENA colours are also too dark and the BMI colours and titles are wrong. I get the feeling if you looked in detail more issues would appear.
Still other models are superb. The Canada 3000s, Gulf Air, Swiss, Azores, Hawaiian, SAA and Emirates are all gems. Here are the A330 and A340s of 2016:
A bit of a mess of a year
In conclusion it is quite clear that Aeroclassics came out of a middling 2015 and has had a worse 2016. There are still plenty of magical models being made and Aeroclassics still make up the bulk of my model purchases (53 of 106) but the percentage is way down on previous years. The litany of errors in 2016 some of which were clearly put out with the manufacturer knowing about them is a poor look. Almost every major type I've touched on in this review has models with a major issue, be it poor finishing (HS-748 and Tridents), incorrect engines (A310), bad research (Convairs and Tridents), printing (727s and Convairs), bad colours (A330s) or the use of the incorrect mould (A320). There is suggestion that a lot of these mistakes happen when Andrew is away but if so it doesn't speak highly of the rest of the organisation.
At a time when there is renewed competition Aeroclassics really need to pick up their game. I really want the company to succeed and a lot of this stuff is just simple housekeeping. The research isn't that hard to do and there are plenty of resources that could be used. In general Aeroclassics puts together its models really well - far better than Gemini/JC Wings and Phoenix, but it has been asleep at the wheel often enough that I won't order without seeing photographs nowadays.
Here are the worst 5 models of the year from AC:
Fortunately as always there are far more contenders for best 5 than worst 5. Here are 5 from me but this could be a list of 50 odd:
I hope the unforced errors of 2016 disappear this year and that turboprops continue to be made. I expect there'll be plenty of A310s coming out - hopefully with the correct engines and obviously there'll be lots more modern Airbuses. Surely a NEO mould is inevitable?
On the classics front I'd like to see more DC-6s, DC-8s and 727-100s. I'd still like a new classic mould for a Martin, CV-580, DC-9-10 or early 707 but I'm not very hopeful. Overall I feel a little concerned for the future of Aeroclassics with the decrease in classics collectors, increase in competition for moderns and the company's seeming inability to operate without AK's direct involvement. Hopefully this concern is misplaced and AC returns to its topspot in 2017.
7/1/2017 01:51:20 pm
Excellent comprehensive and honest review describing the good, the bad and the ugly! As I have said on many occasions, good sales of the props and other historical classics is down to the livery. If AK insists on producing obscure and little-known liveries on these, then he has only got himself to blame for poor sales. Why three Mahalo F27s when everyone wants Aloha? Who obscure Fokker F28 liveries when British Airways Landor livery leased from TAT is a no-brainer? Why Horizon Airways HS748 when everyone wants Dan-Air, Skyways and a Queens Flight Andover? I could go on, but will step off my soap-box now!
8/1/2017 05:02:35 am
Fair and balanced review Richard, just like FOX news!!
8/1/2017 06:10:54 am
What a comparison! Thanks Andrew and I hope to be buying lots of great Aeroclassics in 2017.
Eugene van Heerden
10/1/2017 08:17:53 pm
Thanks Aeroclassics for the SAA A330 and A340. Mine is still on the way, but I trust it would be superb.
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I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: