Panda models continue to go from strength to strength and not only are they growing their relationship with Skywings and HYJLwings but they are bringing new moulds to the market. In the past four months these have included a selection of new A330s:
I have already looked at the freighter but how does the mould stand up to the other active moulds from Aeroclassics, JC Wings/Gemini and Phoenix? In this post I’m going to do a points comparison of the moulds from each of the 4.
The format for this review will be a detailed look at each of 8 areas. Each can get a maximum score of 5 for a section, giving a maximum score of 40 overall.
There is a suspicion (actually it’s rather blatant) that Panda Models has been cloning Aeroclassics moulds, enabled by past relations with Aeroclassics. That suspicion certainly carries over to the A330-200/300, however they aren’t exact copies of each other. There are differences and in detail the moulds are as different as any from each other. It is possible however that Panda originally began with an Aeroclassics mould.
Let's begin our detailed review:
NOSE / COCKPIT / NOSEGEAR
NOSE: Of the four the Panda and Phoenix have the pointiest and most realistic nose cones. The Aeroclassics has the roundest least pointiest of the noses and the JC Wings mould is somewhere in between. I'm not sure that JC has the transition from cockpit to nosecone totally correct.
COCKPIT WINDOWS: Technically this is a printing thing, but it has such a massive impact on the look of the models that I feel I need to include it here. In terms of shape and clearance between the individual windows the Phoenix model has the best look. The Panda and Aeroclassics look very similar and both don’t have the required clearance between the two side windows. They both have better defined window wipers than the Phoenix does. The windows on the JC Wings don’t have frames and seem a bit large. These details may vary between releases but are broadly in line with what I’ve seen regularly.
NOSE GEAR: The first thing to mention is that on the JC Wings / Gemini mould the nosegear is too far back by a few millimeters so that the gear doors are after the main entry door. It isn’t dreadful but it is wrong and affects the appearance of the model. The gear, though well detailed is also too short on the JC Wings mould, the hubcaps are incorrectly grey, tyres too small and hubcaps poorly detailed.
The Phoenix has an excellently detailed gear leg and lovely tyre hubcaps but the nosegear doors are too large. It is the only one of the four to have a simple square attachment to the mould. All the others have a more complex attachment type. The attachment point on the Panda and Aeroclassics are almost the same as are the gear legs. I have noticed that the Aeroclassics do seem to be overpainted often though - losing details.
Having said that, the Aeroclassics has excellent rims whilst the Panda has incorrect light grey undetailed caps. The JC Wings has to be the worst nosegear simply because its frankly incorrect. For the others the fails are in detail – each different: gear doors for Phoenix (and often tyre tabs), sometimes overpainting for Aeroclassics and hubcaps for Panda.
CENTRE UNDERBODY: Admittedly you don’t see the underside of the models much but even so detail matters. The worst of the four is the Phoenix. It simply doesn’t have any detail at all plus the fuselage crease after the wing is missing and it is almost smooth. The Aeroclassics has this correct and also has three moulded in scoops near the front. Aside from the gear doors though there is no printed detail on the Aeroclassics and the gear itself is rather heavily outlined in black.
The Panda mould is different and doesn’t mould in the three scoops at all. They are just outlines, however these and other details are well printed. Unusually it is the JC Wings mould, which is best here. The scoops are defined in the mould better than on the Aeroclassics and the printing is superb. It is rather ironic however that this mould is finally best in an area, which you’ll rarely see!
WINGS & MAINGEAR
WINGS: The shape is fine for all the moulds, but obviously mention must be made of the inability of JC Wings / Gemini to fit them to the mould properly. My pair of A330s using this mould are actually ok but the crazy high angle often seen on releases is shocking and destroys the mould's value. That’s a shame as the wings are well detailed, as good as the Phoenix mould’s whose are excellent, if rather overpainted. Both these mould include the little bumps along the flaps on the outer wing which Panda and Aeroclassics do not. The Panda and Aeroclassics look the same. The paint is rather over applied on the Aeroclassics, which obscures details.
MAINGEAR: Like on the nosegear the Aeroclassics mould has excellent maingear. It’s really finely detailed and the correct colour too. The Panda’s has even better detail near the tyres but the tyre hubs are a weakness in both colour and detail. The Phoenix gear legs are chunky and poorly shaped, whilst the JC Wings / Gemini’s are too short, again, and a bit chunky too. In both the latter two the gear doors do not appear long enough either.
AERIALS & OVERALL
AERIALS & DOMES: Not only do Aeroclassics refuse to put aerials on their models, they also don’t do satnav domes. On smaller models this makes sense but on larger ones it is increasingly questionable as they become ever more obvious on the aircraft themselves. In fact often Aeroclassics don’t even suggest with printing that the aerials or domes exist.
A typical A330 has four aerials (three above and one below) plus a dome on the front fuselage roof. The Phoenix has them all although the aerial shape is too square. The satnav dome is moulded into the roof so has not got fit issues, but it is perhaps a bit too small. The Panda mould has them all too and the aerials are better. On this mould the dome is a separate piece and that introduces fit issues. The JC Wings / Gemini mould has only three of the aerials and only an outline (no bump) for the dome. Whether you care about aerials will have a major impact on whether you buy the Aeroclassics mould.
OVERALL LOOK & FEEL: The general shape is excellent across the board and in this respect all four of the current moulds are good. They are all modern slot in wing moulds so none have fuselage seams, however the general look of the JC Wings / Gemini mould is ruined by the wings if they are fitted poorly, plus the incorrectly placed and too short undercarriage. The other three all look great with the obvious weakness of the Panda being the hubcaps, the Phoenix being the maingear and the Aeroclassics being rounder nose and lack of aerials.
FINAL SCORES: In the final tally it's almost even stevens between the Phoenix and the Aeroclassics A330s. They are both in general very good. The new Panda mould performs excellently with improvements over the Aeroclassics. It would score more highly if they hadn't altered the Aeroclassics tyre hubs and I took into account overall print detailing. The JC Wings mould is miles behind. Each of the moulds has its strong points (even the JC Wings) but in my opinion all combined it is a toss up between Phoenix and Panda for me - mainly because for me nose shape is the most important aspect.
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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