The 737 Next Generation series successfully revitalised Boeing's short haul family after its classic 737-300-500s received rather a mauling from the newer and more advanced A320 family. The extended series 600-900ER have been going toe to toe with Airbus ever since the late 90s and although the 737 MAX family are now taking the strain Next Gen 737s will be a major feature of almost every decent sized airport for a long time yet. They are also a common subject in 1:400 scale so here I take a detailed look at the currently active moulds for the type.
I have previously taken a detailed look at the A330 and A320 moulds in use and as with them the 737-700/800/900 series moulds tend to share the same characteristics across the variants. Therefore in this review I'll only look at the most common type - the series 800.
As my general mould review states and describes there have been various 737NG moulds over the history of 1:400 but nowadays only three are in regular usage:
All three of these moulds nowadays come with aerials and in this review I'll take a look at some more recent examples. So let's get onto a detailed look at the three moulds.
NOSE / NOSEGEAR
NOSE: The nose is all important to me when I'm buying a model and yet on the 737NG it is one of the features the manufacturers really struggle with. The Phoenix model has the length but the nosecone is asymmetric, curving too strongly at the bottom, and the line down from the cockpit is too curved. The JC Wings example is actually very good whilst the Panda is also nice, but perhaps a little angular above the cockpit.
NOSEGEAR: Phoenix have really struggled to attach the nosegear of their 737s in the past year or so. The above example is one of the better efforts but even here the nosegear is too long by some distance. The gear does have nice tyre hubs however and the gear door is fine. JC Wings have serious issues with the size of the nosegear tyres, which often are touching the gear doors. The doors themselves don't curve upwards as they ought to and have a horizontal bottom line, which makes them look too big. Panda has perhaps the best sized tyre but the hub barely exists. The rest of the Panda gear and door are good. Phoenix are the only ones to correctly colour the gear silver.
COCKPIT: I know this is technically a printing issue but it is so important it has to be mentioned. Although the above Phoenix model is adequate usually the cockpit printing is appalling. The windows are either too low or the upper line of the windows slides downwards towards the rear whilst often the starboard side is much lower than the port. This has ruined countless Phoenix 737s. There are no problems with the JC Wings or Panda cockpit windows.
ENGINES & MAINGEAR
ENGINES: The Phoenix engines are one of the mould's better points. The shape is good, especially from the front, although they don't sit high enough on the pylons. Even so ground clearance is adequate. The Panda engines look good from the side except the exhaust pipe is too long. They do sit very well on the pylons but from the front are a bit too rounded on the lower edge. The JC Wings engines nearly touch the ground, mainly because they sit far too low on the pylon, otherwise their shape is good.
MAINGEAR: The Phoenix maingear is good - well shaped gear doors and a correctly sized tyre. They do in this case however overdo the tyrehubs. JC Wings maingear is also good although once again the tyre may be a bit too large. Panda's maingear is the mould's weakest part. The tyres are a little small and the hub is also too small. In addition the shape of the gear doors near the tyres is not curved upwards enough.
TAIL / TAILCONE & AERIALS
TAILS/TAILCONES: All of the vertical stabs and tailcones are pretty decent with these moulds. If I have to criticise I'd say that the Phoenix version is a bit too curvy at the tailtop and tailcone, whilst the JC Wings fin fillet is a bit chunky. The Panda is probably best overall but they are all close.
AERIALS: As you can see this OKAir Panda 737 doesn't have aerials however Panda have now started fitting aerials to all their models. The Phoenix aerials are good but the lower ones are a little large. This is also an issue with the JC Wings aerials. The newer Panda aerials are the best sized and shaped. Again they are all pretty decent however.
So when it comes down to it which of the 737-800s currently on the market scores the best? Out of 35 total available points it is for me clearly the Panda Models 737 (also used for some Aeroclassics) that scores the highest with 27 points. The JC Wings / Gemini Jets comes in second with 24 and the Phoenix comes last with only 21.
Interestingly both the Phoenix and JC Wings / Gemini moulds have seen quite a bit of variation over their lifetimes. The Phoenix started off well and was damaged by Phoenixes meddling whilst the JC Wings started off very badly and has been improved substantially from the earliest releases. The Panda isn't strongest in every category and could do with some work on its maingear but for me is the best overall. That being said I am fine with buying the JC Wings mould. On the rare occasions when Phoenix don't make a mess of the cockpit and nosegear theirs is also decent.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of 1/400 scale model aircraft and airports. This blog reports work on my model airport dioramas and discussion of the model manufacturers output.