Firstly let's get the quality question out of the way. The printing on the models is as good or better than anyone elses and the moulds are pretty damn good. Andrew has consistently stated that the Panda models are for kids and rubbish but in reality they are just fine and you can't tell the difference between them and Aeroclassics. That's not to say they are perfect and they make just as many mistakes as everybody else, but I don't see any difference myself. The people that run Panda models may or may not be a***holes but the models are fine.
Below: Spot the difference - one of these is Aeroclassics and one Panda
Below: Close up shots of several Panda releases
So far the following moulds have been used: A320, 737-300, 737-700, 737-800 and Y-20. It seems that Kang Kai also owned the 737-300 mould Aeroclassics has used judging from what Andrew has written. What this means for continued Aeroclassics 737-300s I am not sure? Whether Panda also own the Aeroclassics A320 or cloned it I don't know but the mould is the same. I'm not really interested in military models but the Y-20 Kunpeng heavy transport appears to be a new Panda mould. It's ok except for the big wing seam accentuated by the high wing (see the Gemini AN-124 for another example of this).
Aside from two Japanese 73Gs the models all represent Chinese airlines and have been a mix of 'classics' from the 1990s and more modern types. Pleasingly they have often been showcasing some of the newer and more obscure airlines from China rather than continuous release of the big 4. I am quite happy with this as personally I find the Chinese market interesting and I'm sure there's a market for a few hundred models in a population of over a billion!
The initial releases heavily lent on the 737NG moulds but recently the 737-300s and A320s have been coming to the for.
As with all manufacturers the releases can be a bit variable. Some like the China United 737-800 are exceptional whilst others aren't quite as good. It does seem like Panda have been playing with the undercarriage of the 737NGs, which is probably the worst part of the mould. I thought they had fixed it with the CUA releases but the recent Xiamen 737-800s returned to the older style wheels. A recent disappointment was the YTO 737-300BCF, which for some reason lacks a registration.
Panda's latest release announcement is for an obscure private A319 operated by the Evergrande group. The model has literally just arrived at Skywings:
More interestingly at the recent Hobby Expo in China Panda exhibited two new mould prototypes. These are for the 737MAX and the much delayed but finally in service DC-9 partial copy ARJ-21. Assuming the join lines won't be in the real thing I think they both look excellent and I am certainly thrilled to see an ARJ-21 release coming.
It is up to you to decide whether to purchase Panda models. I feel I can only judge the releases and not the manufacturer themselves and so far I've been very pleased with their output. Nobody else regularly produces 737s from China anymore and I don't see the Phoenix, JC or Aeroclassics producing the variety of smaller airlines that Panda has. I wish Aeroclassics was just making the models so I didn't have to go to the lengths I have to to purchase them but at present Panda seem like good competition for the existing producers. My suggestion - check out the models and make up your own mind.
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: