I used to write detailed annual analytical posts of what each of the manufacturers had been up to each year, but the amount of effort involved in those was colossal and they were getting a little repetitive. They still have value for looking at trends and the general characteristics of the manufacturers and can be found here:
In 2018 I purchased 142 models, which I admit is rather a lot! I did get a couple of those to review free of charge but the vast majority cost me hard currency and were mainly acquired from Waffle in the USA or Skywings in China. I shudder when I think of the combined postage cost! This total was slightly lower than in 2017 (147 models) but the outlay was greater due to the increased retail price of NG Models and HYJLwings. That is their only negative point.
There are some interesting trends to be seen in my purchases. For starters it is worth understanding that I collect a wide range of models but do try and fit to the following collection criteria:
That’s a pretty broad catchment but does actually almost totally rule out Gemini Jets and a good chunk of what is made by Phoenix and JC Wings. On the other hand, it favours Aeroclassics, NG Models, HYJLwings and Panda Models.
Aeroclassics has been my go to manufacturer ever since I started collecting (or at least paying close attention anyway) and you have to go back to 2002 to find the last time they were 2nd in my annual manufacturer importance (I only started collecting in 2010 but I count secondhand models by their year of production).
Depending on how you slice the manufacturer cake Aeroclassics remain the outright number one or tie for first place. HYJLwings is run in some ways like a separate manufacturer and yet I know that their models are made by NG Models and they share the same 757. Then again, they have exclusive use of the A321 mould variants. So, it is a bit of a toss-up whether NG and HYJLwings should be treated as one or two manufacturers. I’ll treat them as two here.
In that case the trend year on year is a significant decrease in Aeroclassics purchases (74:54) and a massive rise in NG Models (0:33) and HYJLwings (3:20).
NG Models & HYJLwings
For NG Models and HYJLwings the 757 has been the break out mould of the year and I couldn’t get enough of them since they have regularly hit my collecting criteria spot-on with ‘classic’ 1980s and 90s UK and US examples, plus a wide selection of Chinese 757s.
HYJLwings A321s also have continued to hit the spot for me, when they’ve stuck to Chinese examples at least. Both manufacturers are in solid positions to capitalize on their existing and upcoming moulds in 2019 since across the board they are best in show. I almost feel a relief when they branch out to make models I’m not interested in they are making that many high-quality models I am keen on.
Below: A selection of HYJLwings A321s
As you can see I actually bought more NG Models 757s this year than I did all the other brands combined. In fact even the above numbers are inflated as I purchased the Phoenix A350, Phoenix 747 and JC Wings 757 primarily for review purposes. The table gives an idea however of my go to moulds for certain types where they aren't made by AC, NG or HYJL.
Phoenix & JC Wings
The starkest changes in my buying patterns was for Phoenix and JC Wings. I only bought 3 new Phoenix models last year, compared to 12 the year before, and 5 JC Wings, compared to 14 (17 if you include Skywings models made by JC Wings) the year before. The reasons here are different for each.
Phoenix in my opinion is lagging some distance behind the pack nowadays. JC Wings has a better 777, NG and JC better 787s, Aviation400 a better A350, Aeroclassics and Panda better A330s, HYJLwings, Aeroclassics and Panda better A321s, and Aeroclassics and Panda better A320s. Almost everyone has better 737s than them, which doesn’t leave a lot left over aside from 747-8s and A380s. I will buy Phoenix A320s, A330s, A350s and 777s but only when there is no other option available. It doesn’t help that their build quality is frequently poor too.
JC Wings have excellent 737 MAX-8s, 777s and 787s but poor A320s, A321s, A330s. Many of their other moulds are decent and it is only to AV400’s A350s and NG’s 787s that they’ve lost any sales to me (that’s harsh as well, as the JC 787 is excellent). Nonetheless the usual impossibly long timescales for releases to hit the shops means that there just aren’t that many models to buy. There are quite a few JC releases that haven’t turned up after months and months I’m looking to get. There is an A350 revamp in the wings for JC but it hasn’t yet seen the light on any of their models. Even so there is plenty of scope for 2019 seeing more JC in my collection.
Panda Models also saw a significant decrease in my purchases in 2018, down to only 14 – the lowest year since they began. This is due to two reasons, firstly NG Models and HYJLwings have been making models that I have had to prioritise and secondly Panda has moved away from my collection criteria with a lot more modern European releases. The models are still good but with the drop-off in Chinese releases and the seeming end of the Skywings store branded releases in 2018 my interest in Panda has waned.
AV400 & Gemini Jets
Aviation400 don’t make a lot at the moment in 1:400 scale but I have a weakness for Chinese A350s so I bought more of their models than I did a much larger manufacturer like Gemini. Gemini successfully almost totally avoid my collection criteria, aside from a smattering of Chinese releases.
So, all three purchases in 2018 were Chinese narrowbodies – China Eastern BAE-146, and China Southern Saab 340 and 737 MAX-8. It wasn’t always this way and I still own 192 of their models made between 1999 and 2008 (despite many older Geminis being replaced by newer Aeroclassics) whilst from 2009-2019 I have acquired just 52.
Best of the Year
So that is a brief view of the collecting landscape for me in 2018. Given the trends in 2018 I would expect my purchases for 2019 to mirror the above. The Gemini / JC Wings response to NG Models is too little too late for me (and the moulds are generally inferior) so I would expect to continue to be an avid NG customer, whilst I know Aeroclassics will continue to make models that I want and at an improved level of quality this year. You can also bet on significant Tristar activity this year.
Picking my favourite models of the year falls heavily on my personal taste and emotional attachment to the subject matter. Some of the models I have reviewed at Diecast Flier already and yet the best model I reviewed there (the Honeywell 757) is not one of my favourites as it isn’t really a model I particularly was looking to add to my fleet. Here is a quick look at my highlights of 2018:
Aerovias Q Curtiss C-46: The Cuban C-46s were the sort of super interesting left-field release I love Aeroclassics for, plus they gave me the opportunity to investigate these relatively obscure airlines and a period in Cuba’s history – see Cuban Commandos: Aerovias Q and Cuba Aeropostal
NG 757s: I could pick pretty much any NG 757s as excellent models but being a kid who grew up at Gatwick in the early 90s and got the rare annual visit to Heathrow how could I not be excited by these four:
HYJLwings A321s are excellent and the NEO LR was stunning – see here for the detailed review. Yunnan Hongtu Airlines also peaked my interest as it represents one of the smaller private Chinese airlines (since renamed) that I love to collect:
Aeroclassics makes excellent Douglas products and the Ariana and LAM DC-10s were at the pinnacle of their releases for quality, historical importance and uniqueness:
Retro Models: It finally arrived, after all the sweat and tears that seem to have gone into its production. It sounds traumatic for all involved but without that sort of madness we’d probably never see a TU-104 in 1:400 scale. A great model, which I just hope is followed up with more:
The Aeroclassics 767 hasn’t quite reached the heights I’d have liked but it is showing great promise and releases like the Pacific Western raise hope that once most of the large national airlines are out of the way there’ll be room for the smaller historically important airlines too.
Lastly, I feel I should include an NG 787. I was skeptical about the need but I was wrong. The models are excellent and released in a timely fashion. Since I recently flew on a CZ example I should include it too:
That was my 2018 in collecting. I hope yours was happy and interesting too. 2019 looks like it'll be just as good.
I'm Richard Stretton, an aviation enthusiast and major collector of 400 scale model aircraft. This blog discusses ongoing events in the world of 400 scale.
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