Comac ARJ21-700 Xianfeng in 1:400 Scale
Modified: November 2020
The ARJ21 has had an extended development life-cycle and until recently it looked like it would be seen as largely a failure. You can never underestimate the perseverance of the Chinese system though, and with new orders appearing at the end of 2019 and production gearing up it looks like it might eventually be a mild success. I wrote about the Xianfeng (Flying Phoenix) way back in mid-2017 at a time when it's future appeared very much in the balance. For discussion of its development see my previous article:
The aircraft itself is clearly not technologically comparable to other types in its class such as the MRJ, CRJ-700, E-Jet series or even probably the Sukhoi SuperJet, and is regularly derided by Western aviation fans - especially model collectors. However to do so is to miss the point. The ARJ is an important stepping stone to more successful projects and considering its rocky development it is impressive that production continues and even ramps up.
Even if the sizeable orders placed by the big three state owned Chinese airlines are motivated by the Chinese government's command the aircraft will provide much experience in providing full manufacturing and in-service support. Meanwhile since the type is used only within China competition is relatively light so the aircraft is not such a disadvantage as if it were used internationally.
Even though many of the original 'orders' were placed a long time ago and will never be fulfilled the order backlog stands at a passable 167 units and with a second production line now open two thirds of the 30 aircraft built have been made in the past two years. Of course even with its stuttering history the type is a source of pride for China and it is not surprising that it has seen the attention of the new Chinese manufacturers in 1:400 scale.
Comac ARJ21 Production in 1:400
As with the Y-20 and C919 the first appearance of the new ARJ21 mould was via Panda Models, although the first releases were actually made for the large Chinese model store Skywings under their own name. As I understand it they did not themselves build any of these moulds but were granted the right to use them. The mould was used by Panda Models five times in 2017 and once in 2018.
At the time the ARJ21 was still in effect a prototype although in mid-2017 the first officially entered airline service. This itself was more an extended trial. That left relatively small room for production. The five models consisted of one in AVIC colours, one in COMAC colours, a pair for the launch customer Chengdu Airlines, and the last was Panda's 2018 Chinese New Year model in a fantasy 'Year of the Dog' scheme.
There was also a blank releases, although how widespread this was I'm not sure. 2018 was the year when something happenned at Panda Models and one of the consequences of this was that they lost access to all three of the Chinese indigenous aircraft moulds, including the ARJ21.
NG Models (2019-Present)
It was well into 2019 before the mould reappeared in the usage of NG Models who had acquired access to the ARJ21, Y-20 and C919 moulds Panda had been using. This was just in time for the increase in production and customers and NG has been using the mould every few months as new customers appear, as well as making the odd fantasy release (as they have also done with the C919). The mould is unchanged from its first iteration.
The fantasy release is the China Eastern example. So far China Eastern has decided to place its aircraft with a new subsidiary known as OTT Airlines and registered as B-123A (a play on words as the OTT stands for One Two Three Airlines).
Comac ARJ21-700 Mould
The ARJ21 has a rather odd appearance due to its rather odd collection of parts. The fuselage and nose clearly owe a debt to the Trunkliner programme and in these areas it looks like a small McDonnell Douglas MD-95/Boeing 717. The engines don't really suite the fuselage and the Antonov designed wing appears as if it is designed for a smaller, lighter aircraft.
Essentially the mould is a very good representation of the ARJ and gets the big things all correct. The nose, cockpit region, fuselage and wing all are the correct shape and fit together well. The model has 4 of the 5 aerials, despite it being such a small aircraft. The aerials on the real thing look a little oversized and the model has well sized additions, only lacking the small underbelly aerial aft of the maingear.
The underside of the mould is delightful including the wheel wells within which the maingear fold and very nice undercarriage.
The mould isn’t however perfect, and has several small issues that can be seen when looking very closely. The winglets are the right height but not quite wide enough, the rear of the engines lacks the definition of the triangular edge of the first stage exhaust, the screwdriver tailcone is not quite square enough and the small bump atop the fuselage roof above the wings is not modeled in.
Overall this is a decent little mould, which I'd give a 9/10 too. It might not be the cup of tea of many Western collectors but it seems to sell well in China and has stimulated NG Models to also produce a 1:200 version.