For previous annual reviews of Aeroclassics see:
Who are Aeroclassics?
Aeroclassics is Andrew Klein and Andrew Klein is Aeroclassics! This is not a bad thing most of the time since, although online he can be grumpy, Andrew is a true collector and has a real interest in aviation history that I am eternally thankful for. If it wasn't for Andrew my collection would be a lot smaller and more boring! Without his drive I doubt we'd see any classics made in 1:400.
As I understand it (put me right Andrew if I'm wrong) Andrew has a real full time job and Aeroclassics is his side project, which he manages as well as his primary profession. He is active on the forums, and on Facebook, and if you can catch him in a good mood he can be very helpful and responsive. We don't always get along but the 1:400 scale seen is immensely richer for Andrew's presence (if not his thread editing on 400 Scale Hangar).
Below are 62 of Aeroclassics 2017 releases:
What do they make?
Aeroclassics make an exceptionally wide range of airliners covering the history of aviation from the late 1940s through to the modern day. Mostly they have a range of great classics moulds but they also have superb BabyBus (A319/20/21) and BigBus (A330 & A340-200/300) moulds with which to make ultra modern fair. Aeroclassics production doesn't necessarily follow aircraft production trends and airline news and instead aside from the buses they tend to cycle through moulds for several months at a time.
Nobody covers the sheer diversity of aircraft types or geographical range that Aeroclassics manages. In addition nobody produces the sheer number of releases that Aeroclassics does. As I understand it the production runs are usually significantly smaller than Gemini or Phoenix but Aeroclassics bulk this up by often producing similar, but slightly different, livery combinations. This creates a welcome boon for the collector and it is the, probably mainly, older collector that Aeroclassics is surely aiming at. They have at times made corporate releases but this is the exception and not the rule.
Andrew I assume determines what is released, which means that there is often a slant towards nations he favours. Most obviously this seems to be Canada, Israel and Indonesia. It's his company so this makes sense to me and besides there is usually a wide enough spread to satisfy most collectors.
Aeroclassics Production in 2017
Impressively Aeroclassics have produced even more models in 2017 than they did in 2015 and 2016 with by my count 232 releases. To put that into perspective this is only 12 away from as many as Gemini Jets and Phoenix combined. Geographically as you can see in the below table North America has been a major focus in 2017 followed by Europe. In fact in terms of geographical spread the picture almost mirrors 2016. The one area that has seen a significant drop in releases this year has been China - there has been less than half as many releases here. I expect this is due to the heavy competition in this market at the moment from Panda Models, JC Wings, Phoenix and now Aviation400.
By Aircraft Type
Aeroclassics has a great range of almost always excellent moulds and isn't afraid to use them. They have in 2017 used 31 different moulds, which is more than everyone except Gemini. However unlike Gemini they produce a good range of models on each mould and not just 1 or 2. The only moulds not used that were last year are the A340-200, Vickers Viscount 700/800 and C-46 Commando. As with Phoenix and JC Wings in 2017 Aeroclassics has created A320neo and A321neo moulds by simply adding new engines to their existing ceos. Since the existing mould is so good this is not a major issue - although, as with Panda who stole the moulding, they are not faultless.
Some mould's usage has been winding down in 2017 (B720, HS-748, CV-240, DC-4, Trident) but judging by the end of year and January and February 2018 release announcements others are coming back into circulation (F27, Viscount and B707-320).
There is no such thing as a standard airline for Aeroclassics. They can and do produce a dazzling range of carriers. This year Air Canada's new livery has unsurprisingly got quite a bit of attention. Whereas you might get an A321 and a 787 from Gemini, Aeroclassics has made an A319, A320, A321 and A330 (as well as several older AC releases).
In April Qantas got no less than 8 separate A330 releases covering all the various liveries the type has worn in service.
Northwest Orient and Northwest Airlines have also featured strongly with a good number of DC-9s and DC-10s covering important missing models:
Iceland had been rather ignored as a nation in 1:400 until 2017. That has all changed as there have been 3 Icelandair and 2 Lofleidir Icelandic models produced. A lovely quintet:
Another airline to have been well represented is rather oddly AeroPeru. There have been 5 releases, which seem to have sold incredibly well (or been produced in small numbers). They are very colourful and fill a nice gap in the South American scene:
The last airline that has been unusually popular in 2017 is Overseas National Airways, which again gets 5 releases - all DC-8s. You certainly can't go wrong with these lovely models:
Holy Grails Aplenty
In fact you can't fault the models being released by Aeroclassics in 2017. In addition to the models already mentioned there have been a number of 'holy grail' type models made showing that Andrew is listening to the collectorate. Particularly noteworthy additions have included:
A five aircraft series of Piedmont and USAir Fokker 28s:
Five varied Aloha and Aloha Cargo 737-200s:
A trio of Eastern DC-8s:
Six Braniff International 'Ultra' 727-200s:
The first ever model in 1:400 for Zimbabwe:
I'm sure there are many more that represent special models for individuals.
Another useful service Aeroclassics has provided this year is the ability to replace a variety of older and nowadays inferior Gemini Jets releases with beautiful modern versions. Examples of this include an Eastern DC-8, Aloha 737-200, 2 ONA DC-8s, Aero California DC-9, Loftleidir DC-8, Aeroflot A310 and BCal A310.
Not only that but they have also replaced a few of their earlier models with superior versions - like the Loftleidir and Aeronaves de Mexico DC-6s:
No more Mata Hari
It was a long lived staple of 1:400 scale that Andrew would report on 400 Scale Hangar each month as the 'Mata Hari', predicting which registration prefixes the coming month's secret releases would include so that the collectors could work themselves up into a frenzy of anticipation. This year Aeroclassics gave up its secrecy around the next month's releases and rather than announcing them literally a week before they came out has started announcing months ahead. This makes a lot of sense from a retailer and pre-sales perspective, plus in theory allows errors to be fixed, however it is sad to see the announcement threads go.
No more 737-300s?
Only 3 737-300s were made this year and as I understand it these used castings Aeroclassics had stored from when they were borrowing the mould from the owners of Panda models. That probably means that no more 737-300s will be made by Aeroclassics, which is a real shame since there are plenty still to be made (AirCal, New York Air, Air Europe, Monarch etc etc) that I can't see Panda ever making. It is an excellent mould so hopefully Aeroclassics still has some more castings stored away.
A320 and A321neos
Aeroclassics has trailed Panda in fitting new engines to its ceos to make neos but has made up the time by producing a much wider range of aircraft using the new moulds. Even so yet again India has been ignored so far, which seems really odd. I'd have thought airlines like Indigo, Go Air and Vistara would sell well?
The neo moulds themselves look great but, as with the Panda versions, suffer from the only weakness the ceos also have - the nosegear wheels. They are simply too small and with the larger neo engines it does mean that the engines threaten to touch the ground. This is nowhere near as bad as with the JC Wings/Gemini neos but a simple new tyre would probably solve the problem.
When it comes to the A321neos Aeroclassics has rather jumped the gun and suffered inaccuracies because of it. Their Virgin America lacked the aircraft name (as did Gemini's) and the Hawaiian Airlines features the old scheme.
One of the best and worst moves of 2017 was the announcment of models released with GSE sets. The classics sets were in my opinion a triumph whilst the modern sets where not up to the same standard. To see my reviews of both see:
Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes
One of the problems with Aeroclassics being Andrew's own fiefdom is that it doesn't seem he has a very competent staff to manage things when he's absent. Aeroclassics has always been quite poor on the colour front (reds and blues are particularly off) but 2017 has also seen a worrying trend of lazy research.
Titles are a major weakspot. The font, spacing and size if often incorrect marring what would otherwise be exceptional models. There are multiple examples this year and I bet if I looked in more detail there would be more. Off the top of my head there were the following:
Another annoying mixup was releasing a Swissair A310-300 with the registration of an A310-200. Or should I say incorrectly using the mould of the 300 for a 200.
Another example was printing the logo the wrong way around on the port side of the LATAM A321 below:
When I've looked in detail there has often been cause for a moan - the livery application of the Piedmont and USAir F28s was a good example of this.
Construction & Print
This is an area that I never previously had to worry too much about with Aeroclassics. They were reliable. Things have changed somewhat in 2017 or at least the slide in quality that 2016 signalled has continued. I received a 737 with the wing unattached (this is a recurring issue with the 737-200) and several of the DC-6s I've acquired have had the wing/fuselage join poorly attached or the nosegear doors poorly fitted.
Printing has also sometimes been slipshod. I received this very poorly printed ATA DC-10 for example:
Now look at the tail printing of this SAS A320:
Most recently my Icelandair DC-6 doesn't have 'Flugfelag islands' printed properly on either side of the tail (also note the nosegear doors):
Worst of the Year
With so many releases it stands to reason they can't all be top notch. In general Aeroclassics makes fantastic models that I am eager to own. Then again some are not so fantastic. The Qantas title cockup affected at least 4 of the 7 A330s and the font of the old titles looks nothing like that of the titles this scheme had, so one of those must surely be included. I really wanted to buy N143US to replace my old Dragon DC-10 but couldn't because the DC-10 titles were so wrong. The colours on the recent Olympic DC-6 are way too light and the NWA DC-9s way too sparkly. Lastly the Latam error is just embarrassing.
Best of the Year
This is super difficult as 2017 has been a strong year for Aeroclassics even with the production issues I've mentioned. For me the Air South 737-200s encapsulate the best of Aeroclassics. They were well made and show an obscure but interesting airline - just what I want to see in 1:400. The Mt Cook HS-748 from back in January again is a perfect AC model, whilst at the opposite end of the size spectrum the Surinam A340 looks great and shows the diversity that I wish others would embrace. The Eastern DC-8s continued a great series of historically important first generation jetliners. Lastly the return of the DC-9 was most welcome and the Aero California a great vehicle for it.
In Summary: Great Choices, Average Execution
Disappointingly I could copy and paste the conclusion from the 2016 review into this one. Aeroclassics are making excellent choices for the models they produce but are still too often ballsing up the delivery with some inexcusable errors. Some of the colour things I can live with but simple research failures and some shoddy workmanship I am less likely to accept. Even so their moulds elevate them ahead of much of the competition, for now at least, and they get it right more often than wrong.
For classics I think Aeroclassics are in general where I'd like them to be but I have to admit that for the modern releases I have been won over by the antennae and satnav domes being used by everyone else. In this area Aeroclassics need to move with the times or face being left behind by the likes of JC Wings, Panda and Aviation400.
I hope that they take some of these criticisms to heart positiively in 2018 as for me they are still way ahead as the no 1 manufacturer in 1:400 scale in terms of purchases. I also hope to see some additions to the classic mould catalogue (a DC-9-10 would be very nice).
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: