As far as I can tell Panda made a set of announcements in September but then were almost silent until last week. Within that period one new mould has been released and another just announced, however the subject matter made by them continues to be restricted mainly to either mainline Chinese airlines of a select few European majors. Indeed, I preferred it when Panda made a wider range of more unusual Chinese airliners myself. Even on new moulds how many Air Chinas do you need?
MyHobbyHouse A340 Special
The only model I know of that has been released between the two main announcements is a special model for MyHobbyHouse. It is an AirAsia X Airbus A340-300 with special titles saying 'CAPA Best New Airline'.
737s: Series 600s
The smallest member of the Next Generation 737 line has got little love in 1:400 scale, much like it got little love in real life. So far Herpa have been the only company to bite but as per usual their mould was barely used, and in addition it was pretty rubbish also. Panda have turned their attention to the type in the past few months and already produced or announced 5 releases.
The SAS trio have been criticized for the incorrect colour of the engines, I doubt that the Air China pair will have any issues though. The mould looks like it fits ok into the rest of the NG series by Panda i.e. pretty decent but not NG territory.
737s: Series 700s
Panda's 73G mould hasn't seen heavy use. By my calculation it has only been utilised for 8 models previously but now there are two more. All Nippon is another of Panda's favourite non-Chinese airlines and in September two Golden 73Gs brought the total of Panda 700s to 10.
The surprise in the December announcements is of a new A321 mould. Panda have made plenty of A319s and A320s but never before have they made an A321. I am reading this as an attempt to ward off the excellent HYJLwings mould which has been encroaching on Panda’s territory. The HYJLwings effort is effectively perfect so it’ll have to be good to beat that. Nonetheless the Panda mould will clearly be good enough to cause Phoenix and JC Wings some more problems.
The initial subjects for the new NEO are mainly standard Panda airlines. A pair of Easyjets (no doubt popular for many but not for me) and a pair of Air Chinas. The latter compete directly with HYJLwings announcements but I think I’ll stick with the HYJLwings, assuming I can be bothered to pick up one at all. The Air China scheme doesn’t grab me and I already have so many Air China Airbuses anyway. In effect these are the same just with new engines. The most interesting is clearly the Air New Zealand 'All Black' scheme if only because it marks an adventure into new geographic territory for Panda.
It is good to see the Panda A330F get some more use and the three models announced in September all look good, albeit they are not in my collection criteria. The same goes for the A330s. Yet another Lufthansa and a couple of special livery Air Asia X A330s don’t really float my boat.
Are Panda Making a 757?
This would be bizarre if true but I have heard from a senior source that Panda are indeed making one, after being stung by the success of the NG Models mould. Why – who knows? It makes absolutely no sense for them given how high quality the NG Models mould is and the wide range of Chinese airliners they and HYJLwings have already made on it.
I initially dismissed this rumour as just that, a rumour, but lo and behold if when you go onto the Panda Models Taobao store if there isn’t a category in the menu for a 757-200! So, maybe it is true after all. What will it be like and what will they make on it – I just can’t say? If I had to guess I’d say maybe some Condor given their love of Lufthansa, but I really have no idea. Panda have only ever made a single US airline, so surely they are out, and has never ventured much further afield than China, Germany, Switzerland and Scandinavia. Weird.
Panda are making new moulds but no longer are they making the running in 1:400. A lot of their releases from this year are of the same airlines or bespoke for the Indonesian market. I struggle to get excited about many of them and it is a little disappointing that they appear to be getting a bit Phoenixy in terms of their production choices. Further NG Models have cast a rather harsh light on the complete secrecy and unwillingness to engage that Panda have exhibited. Who are they and why do they exist? I still couldn’t really tell you. Even so they still represent for me the third most important active manufacturer brand for new models and the quality is usually high. I also suspect I'm an outlier and that most collectors appreciate the diversification outside of China.
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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