Indeed that isn't the only issue as the model runs continue to be small (typically 120-150 units) and sold mainly within China. That isn't a problem if you can navigate engtaobao however and Panda's partnership with Skywings models continues to go from strength to strength.
Since my last update in April 2015 Panda have released an impressive 88 models including their sub-brands Black Box and Skywings. The latter are I believe made exclusively for the Skywings shop and there have been 23 releases made for them so far. Panda often make 2 or 3 versions of the same aircraft. This decreases the number of truly unique aircraft released but at the same time gives them a chance to release similar versions - Airbus A320s of the same airline with both CFM and IAE engines for example or A319s with and without Sharklets. I like this thorough approach and taken together this pushes their production run for a wider type, like the Tianjin A320 for example to, nearer 300.
Since April Panda have continued to churn out the models and I try and get them added to the DiMA database as fast as I can. The models cover an interesting range of Chinese classics and more modern liveries often of new startups or of Chinese majors that have been largely ignored in this scale until now.
The quality of the models has been excellent. I haven't received any models with broken or underglued parts and no fingerprints or smudging. Panda do seem like a boutique company in that respect and I guess the lower volumes help them on the QC front. I have also noticed that they have excellent detailing in areas like the passenger doors.
Looking at the releases on the 737 front almost 'classic' early Chinese 737 operators have pleasingly featured large. I never expected to be able to get China Xinhua 737-300s, China Yunnan 73Gs or China Southwest 73Hs. Hopefully there'll be a China Xinjiang 73G soon to go with the 737-300s.
Of the newer 737 operators the Hainan Airlines (HNA Group) related Fuzhou Airlines and Urumqi Air are highlights, whilst the very recently announced Shandong Airlines is well ovedue considering the massive size of the Air China subsidiary.
Below: A selection of Panda's recent 737s:
The A320 mould continues to see good usage as well with Panda beating Aeroclassics and Phoenix to the Cathay Dragon, China Eastern 'Disney' and Juneyao 10th anniversary schemes and doing a good job with all of them. Qingdao Airlines was a nice selection especially as they released two different liveries whilst Tianjin Airlines is another major Chinese airline which had until now been ignored in 1/400.
Below: A selection of Panda's recent A320s:
In May Panda debuted a new mould for them - the almost certainly copied from Aeroclassics A319. They have started using it well with an interesting Evergrande release (see upcoming blog post) as well as long sought after releases for Shenzhen Airlines in their old colours (another airline underserved considering its massive size).
Below: A selection of Panda's recent A319s:
So what will Panda get up to for the rest of the year? I'd expect more of the same with a mix of classic and modern Chinese narrowbodies and perhaps the ARJ-21 too/ It'll be interesting to see whether they have a version of the A321 in reserve somewhere as there are increasing numbers of A321s that would fit their release criteria (Yunnan Hongtu, Capital Airlines for example - see my review of Chinese Airbuses to be made) that have been ignored by the other manufacturers. Phoenix have recently released some West Air, China Eastern 'Disney' and Juneyao A320s and as I understand it Aeroclassics is likely to follow suite with some of those too however for now Panda is producing a wider range on better moulds than the Phoenix and faster than Aeroclassics. Plus their models are retailing for about 169-189 Yuan rather than the 250 that Aeroclassics are going for. For me they have introduced some competition and made airlines nobody else seems keen on. As a Sinophile airline collector that is a good thing.
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.
This site is free. Please donate to keep it going.