I have heard rumbling from China for sometime about some form of disagreement between Panda Models and NG Models. Certainly Panda Models do seem to have had a nack of annoying various people since they appeared in 2016 leading to various fallings out. Details are very limited but I do know there have been accusations of theft from Panda directed towards NG, which the latter has refuted.
Above: Panda Models ARJ-21
Below: NG Models ARJ-21
The first sign of any relationship between the two came in 2019. 2018 had definitely seen major production issues at Panda and they stopped releasing as many models and appear to have broken their previously strong relationship with Skywings (a major Chinese retailer who they made a lot of models for). Then in 2019 out of the blue NG Models started releasing new Comac ARJ-21s and C919s, which were definitely using the Panda moulds. They even had rebadged ex-Panda stock Xian Y-20s for sale briefly (since then a new Y-20 mould has been made).
Fast forward to 2022 and Panda have released a fraction of the models they made during 2016-2018 and NG Models have gone from strength to strength. The story of the movement of the moulds was that they were never owned by Panda and after a falling out with their real owners Panda lost access to them. NG simply stepped in and negotiated usage of them.
Then in early 2021 there was more talk on Chinese social media from Panda accusing NG of 'stealing' further moulds. Some of this seems to be related to both NG and Panda developing a Tupolev Tu-204 around the same time. They clearly aren't the same as each other but nonetheless the timing of both making such an obscure type is surprising.
Panda also accused NG of 'stealing' its A330 and 737-MAX moulds, by which they probably mean a repeat of the situation that occurred with the Chinese type moulds i.e. Panda lost access to moulds it never actually owned outright. Until yesterday, when I saw photos of the new NG models Hungarian Cargo / Wizz Air A330-200F, there was nothing to add any veracity to this change of usage (although the NG A330 is very similar to the Panda I think that is due to them both being so accurate not a case of them being the same, especially since there were proven samples of the NG A330 passenger versions).
Above: The Panda Models A330F
Below: The NG Models A330F
Seeing the photos it appears clear that the A330-200F mould being used by NG Models is the same as that, which was used by Panda Models but not since June 2019. The tell-tale features are the form of the nosegear blister, which is a separate part added on to the mould, rather than being part of the mould, as on the JC Wings version. The only difference I can see is the form of the leg on the nosegear, which could easily just be a case of NG adding their own existing A330 gearleg in place of the original.
Above: The NG Models A330F
Below: The Panda Models A330F
I have reviewed the A330-200F moulds in 400 scale at the below page. Personally I prefer the Panda mould as the base A330 it is on is superior and the landing gear height is better. The slightly imperfect seam of the Panda mould around the blister doesn't bother me.
Nonetheless, the movement of moulds between brands is something I find very interesting and hints at a much more complex pattern of production than simply brands owning moulds in their own factories. Mould sharing has been a long established part of 400 scale and the transition of moulds from defunct brands to new ones (the purchase of all Witty Wings / Apollo moulds by JC Wings stands out for example) is not uncommon, however the ownership of moulds by unknown third parties and them being effectively leased out to brands is a little more unusual, or at least harder to identify.
Of course the other implication here is around the Boeing 737-MAX 8 mould used by Panda 23 times between 2017 and 2019. In my opinion it is slightly superior to the very good JC Wings / Gemini Jets mould. Will it now also reappear under NG Models control? It wouldn't surprise me if it did!
Lastly does this all hint at all towards who NG Models are? They appeared on the market out of nowhere and appear to have impressive resources. Although I have been in contact with them for 4 years now I still know next to nothing about them. Could the break between Panda and Skywings in 2018 and the appearance of NG the same year be connected? As tantalising as that possibility is I have absolutely no evidence to support it.
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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