Aeroclassics had begun releasing Boeing 737NGs in 2014 but what few knew at the time was that Aeroclassics was actually 'borrowing' the moulds under license from their owner Kang Kai. The moulds were generally well received and recognised as being pretty good, and certainly no worse than any of the other Next Generation 737s available. Then in early 2015 seemingly unrelated various GSE sets (tugs and buses) began to appear on the market in boxes marked Aeroclassics. This was apparently news to Andrew Klein, the head of Aeroclassics, and it seems that the GSE originated from the same people that owned the 737s. Aeroclassics filed a 'cease and desist' order against Kang Kai to try and stop them using the Aeroclassics name.
Below some of Panda's GSE now own branded. The buses are great - the tugs a little large:
Soon afterwards Aeroclassics announced they would not be using the 737NG moulds any longer citing them as a 'engineering nightmare to use' and being of 'poor quality'. I can't help but feel the illicit GSE and the ending of 737NG production are strongly linked especially as the models had been well received and seemingly sold well.
Regardless there has obviously been a massive falling out between Aeroclassics and Kang Kai with allegations of IP theft, misrepresentation and violence. Andrew has stated that there has been slander towards Aeroclassics and its employees on public forums (I haven't seen it and it was probably in Mandarin anyway). To be honest I don't doubt what Andrew is saying here - doing business in China sounds fraught. Having said that as a consumer it is not my place to have to judge what is going on behind the secretive scenes of 1/400. There are plenty of cases of even manufacturers like Aeroclassics making unlicensed models and if I was to buy only those fully licensed my collection would be a lot smaller than it is! In my opinion if there is fraud or other business going on then in the absence of all the information being available it is for the manufacturers and legal proceedings to sort out - not me.
The models have until recently only been sold within China with Aeroclassics threatening legal action against anyone selling them outside. There has been at least one regular seller on eBay, while they can also be found on taobao (just about accessible to the English speaker through engtaobao) and at Westmain Toys in Hong Kong. I see that just this past week Aviation Retail Direct in the UK has begun advertising Panda Models also. Panda themselves appear to have an agreement with Guangzhou based Skywings (I believe it's a shop) and many releases have been made for them directly and are prefixed as PM-SKY-[No] as the release code.
Panda seem to announce 2-4 models twice a month judging from release so far.
In part 2 we'll look at the model releases and what the future may hold for Panda Models.
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: