With the seeming loss of business with Skywings Panda has in the past year or so settled down to a regular release schedule of between 8-12 releases per month. The variety is typically lessened as Panda usually make several variants of basically the same aircraft. For me this has significantly decreased the interest I have in their models as releasing models that are being made by Phoenix, JC Wings and HYJLwings doesn’t excite me massively. I may very well be in the minority though I admit.
So, what has Panda been making? The past three months have been a bit slow even with the decreased production subjects. In fact the March and April announcements brought 10 standard releases, 2 releases for the Malaysian shop MyHobbyHouse and a set of Fire Engines.
The A330 moulds have been getting the heaviest run-outs although the seven announced don’t reflect the lack of diversity on show. Two are Air China Star Alliance models, which makes an incredible 31 different Air China A330s made in 1:400 scale to date. Another pair are in the colours of AirAsia X, another Panda favourite. There have now been 4 different AirAsia X A330s from Panda and an A340.
KLM are a new subject airline for Panda and both series 200 and 300 are represented in the current livery.
The most interesting A330 for me is the only one not wearing an airline scheme. F-WWKA is in the house colours that she wore at the 1995 Paris Airshow. A great addition to the series of house colours models that Panda has made (previous models include 737-300, 737 MAX-8, A320-100 and A320NEO).
Panda seems to have dropped its new 737-600 mould, after only 10 models (and only 5 really distinct airline schemes) but the A321 mould predictably continues to get usage. Even so one of the pair of April’s announcement (not yet released as of end of May) is a rerun of January’s G-NEOR with a different rego.
The other is even more obvious in that it is Lufthansa’s first A321NEO. Nice as it is there’s nothing exciting about it.
The most interesting of the standard releases is surely the West Atlantic 737-800BCF in the colours of Federal Express. It is interesting that NG Models just made a West Atlantic 800 freighter recently albeit one in the airline’s own livery. Now the airline has doubled its representation in 1:400.
Panda have said that this will be the last model to use this mould, which is a bit of a shame as aside from the NG Models series 800 this is still the best in 1:400 I'd say. I have however heard that Panda are making a replacement mould.
Panda seems to have replaced some of its lost Skywings business by making models for model shops Airshop (from Indonesia) and MyHobbyHouse (from Malaysia). This pair are for the latter. It is also the only run-out for the 737-300 mould, which has now received 7 Indonesian models for stores alongside Tiger Mandala A320s, Indonesian government 737-800 and the AirAsia X A340. I can’t say that Lion Air 737-300s are particularly exciting but at least the mould is available.
Whereas most of the March and April announcements are now out the May offerings are still to be released. They follow Panda's trend of 2019, although they do include some new airlines alongside old favourites. They also suggest that Panda had been lurking around the DAC forum for a while and taking hints from the NG Models request threads since the production of both Avianca and the Jet2 A330 seem too close to the comments in the NG A330 thread to be a coincidence.
The Wizz A321s are a little different to the norm but the A330s replicate other manufacturers. Indeed, everyone is making the Singapore ‘Star Alliance’ A330 and along with that NG Models already announced the Jet2 A330 as well. This tit for tat release copying gets tired quickly especially when there are plenty of other models to be made on the same moulds.
As good as I'm sure there'll be not a single one of the May announcements will be making their way to my collection I’m afraid.
Clearly, I’m not overly excited by these releases and will probably only acquire the house colours A330 myself. Panda has just recently joined the forum on DAC and perhaps this means they may belatedly begin to listen to the collectorate a bit more? If so I for one would like to see them make some more unique models such as British charter 737-300s, a wider variety of 737-600s and a selection of smaller Chinese airlines. For now however, it looks like Panda is content to produce a pleasant but not particularly adventurous set of mainline airlines. NG they are clearly not but they are also substantially superior to say Phoenix.
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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