The first point I should make is that typically the A319 and A321 moulds share the same characters as the A320, even when they ought not too! The A321 for example has a different rear wing edge structure, but not all the manufacturers even notice this. Anyway usually the A319 and A321 moulds share most of the same deficiencies and strengths as the A320s, although often they do accentuate either the positive or negative.
Currently in 1/400 scale there are distinct A320s active from the following manufacturers:
It should be strongly noted that Aeroclassics and Panda are at war and the latter basically stole and cloned the Aeroclassics mould. They therefore share almost exactly the same features aside from the fact that Panda has added aerials to their version recently.
JC Wings makes models for Gemini Jets and so both share the same mould. This is a new A320 mould released towards the end of 2016. It replaced a maligned but pretty damn good A320 and for comparison's sake I will include both the old and new mould in this comparison.
The format of this review will match the A330 review I have done, so let's begin a detailed look at each area of the moulds:
NOSE / NOSEGEAR
NOSE: As you'd expect the Aeroclassics and Panda versions look exactly the same and are excellent, as is the old JC Wings mould. The Phoenix A320 nose is ok but a bit too short and rounded - a bit snoopyish. I'm not sure what is happening with the newer JC Wings mould as the two examples I own show worrying differences. The jetBlue is better than the Lucky Air. The jetBlue is not bad, probably better shaped than the Phoenix. The Lucky Air is pretty poor and far too asymmetric.
NOSEGEAR: As you can see from the photo above the A320 nosegear is slender, has very small gear doors and points slightly forward. It's positioned under the L1 passenger door. The Aeroclassics and Panda versions should be the same but as you can see there is some variance. On the Aeroclassics model there has been too much paint added. This isn't always the case but the Panda example here looks a lot better. The gear doors are a good size and the gear is placed ok. You can see from the Aeroclassics version the gear can be subject to some movement when in position and certainly the tyre is too small. It looks like Panda is using a slightly larger tyre. Certainly sometimes AC models have a slight nose down attitude.
The Phoenix has better tyre hubs but the gear legs are a bit chunky and the gear doors too large. The old JC Wings mould has a nice angled gear leg, but unfortunately it is pretty much just a stalk. The new JC Wings nosgear is an abomination. The gear leg is hugely thick and chunky, it doesn't have the correct angle, the gear doors are the wrong shape and the whole nosegear sits far too far back on the fuselage. It really damages the whole integrity of the mould.
ENGINES, WING JOIN & MAINGEAR
The A320 of course comes with two engine options - either long nacelled IAE V2500s or shorter CFM-56-5s. We'll start with the IAEs:
The size of the IAE engines differs quite heavily between moulds. The new and old JC Wings moulds have shorter engines whilst the Aeroclassics and Phoenix moulds both have larger longer engines which appear a bit over-sized and finish one window later at either end. The older JC Wings engine pylons aren't as good as the newer ones.
The Aeroclassics/Panda and Phoenix moulds have great CFM engines whilst the old jC Wings CFM is well shaped but lacks the exhaust nozzle and the new JC Wings CFM is seemingly too large. The new JC Wings CFM also doesn't really get the large exhaust cone part of the engine correct either.
MAINGEAR: The A320 maingear looks pretty simple as it is sheathed from the outside by large gear doors. The gear leg doors aren't long enough on the old JC Wings, whilst the wheelhubs are rubbish on the Aeroclassics/Panda. The tyre hubs are coloured best on the Phoenix but it is probably the new JC Wings mould that has the nicest tyre hubs, albeit incorrectly coloured light grey.
WING JOIN: The wing/fuselage join of the A320 is an obvious teardrop shaped attachment clearly visible. Three of the moulds in this comparison are newer slot in wing moulds but ironically the older JC Wings mould, which is a cradle effort scores well here as the seam follows the outline of the real thing's teardrop well. Both the Phoenix and newer JC Wings moulds almost ignore the join forward of the wing completely and are rather slab sided. It is the Aeroclassics, which has the best attempt shapewise, albeit it could do with some more outlining. All of the moulds except for the Aeroclassics also have less than perfect wing attachment profiles too. There are poor joins on both the slot in wings of the Phoenix and new JC Wings A320s.
TAIL & TAILCONE
The vertical stabiliser of all the moulds is well shaped as is the tailecone of all except the new JC Wings effort. The tailcone on this is too short and therefore too tall at the tip. The only other issue is the tightness of fit on the old JC Wings tail is not as good as on the other moulds.
AERIALS & DOMES
The A320 has 4 aerials - 3 larger ones and one smaller one in front of the tail. Only one is present on the underside of the aircraft. Some airlines have satnav domes but a lot do not. Aeroclassics refuse to do aerials completely whilst JC Wings aerials are a little oversized. On the older JC Wings mould the smallest aerial is missing and on the newer JC Wings mould the underside one and one of the roof ones are absent at least sometimes (see the jetBlue above). The best aerials fall to Panda models and Phoenix. Panda has only recently begun to add aerials but like the Phoenix offering they are well sized and shaped.
So when it comes down to it, which mould looks most like an A320 overall? Here are the contenders:
The Aeroclassics mould is an excellent base from which Panda have improved their offering (albeit illegally by cloning the Aeroclassics). These two are easily the best but the Panda scores higher for better attention at the nosegear and new aerials.
The older JC Wings and the Phoenix mould both have virtues and the scores look close to the Aeroclassics, however the Aeroclassics beats them in almost every criteria aside from the aerials. If you don't care about aerials then buy the Aeroclassics, which obviously is far more widely available than the Panda version anyway.
The new JC Wings mould easily gets the booby prize. There are issues spread throughout the airframe, which make it hard to recommend. Here are the final scores out of 40:
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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