Panda are unusual and their recent behaviour has been odd. In the past six months they have released only a handful of models - I make it only 11. They have also lost access to the Comac ARJ-21 and Harbin Y-20 moulds, both of which now reside with NG Models. Then in January they announced they'd be making a new mould - that of the Kriegsmarine Battleship SMS Bismarck!
All of this is despite the fact that Panda has a selection of moulds they could be using and making good money off of. I'm not talking just Airbuses here but also more importantly their lovely 737-300 and 737-600 both of which have effectively no competition in 1:400 scale. Yet they have not been used regularly.
Add to this that they have at least two other moulds under development, a Boeing 737-400 and a new Boeing 737-800. Their seemingly odd behaviour had me concerned for their future as they went silent after the weird Bismarck post and had not come back online. They didn't even make a Chinese New Year model, which they have always done before.
That is they hadn't until yesterday when they announced that they had not been affected by the Coronavirus outbreak and their factory was operating again as normal. On top of this came the announcement that they are making a Tupolev Tu-134 'Crusty' in 1:400 scale. This is something of a surprise since I had assumed they'd make a Russian type that had served in China, which the 134 has not.
The Tu-134 has been one of those types crying out for a 1:400 scale version and yet at the same time seeming like it would never get one. Phoenix have a good 1:200 scale version but have never shown any inclination to downsize it to 1:400. Aeroclassics meanwhile has repeatedly said that sales for Soviet types are poor and it won't be making any. NG Models was a possibility but has understandably had its hands full with other moulds.
Presumably Panda will be making the Tu-134A version rather than the original Tu-134, which is 2.1 metres shorter? What will be especially interesting is whether they make both glass and solid nose variants of the mould, or whether they just print the glass nose on a solid nosecone.
The first model announced is the original Aeroflot standard scheme for the Tu-134, prior to the livery standardisation of the mid-70s. This is an interesting choice as it suggests an interest in producing a decent range of models. Otherwise they could have just made the standard Aeroflot scheme first.
Panda say they will release the first model within the next month, which I have some trouble believing. Either way it is great news to have a Tu-134 in this scale. I just hope it gets a better treatment than their 737-300 and 600 moulds have received.
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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