As we continue our look at the A320 series at 30 years, it’s time to look at a new manufacturer. There is only one reason I have this model, which doesn’t fit even vaguely into my collection criteria; curiosity.
An entirely Chinese domestic airline, it only started operations at the very end of 2013, based in Hangzhou-Xiaoshan, it’s one of those private airlines Chinese regional governments support to ensure their districts keep in on the aviation revolution that China is undergoing at break-neck speed.
More important it’s the first of the 1:400 scale models I’ve managed to get hold of made by Panda, who were also responsible for the fire engines we saw last year.
I’m told they make very few models, rarely more than 120 of each, and their market is principally wealthy Chinese aviation enthusiasts. Indeed each aircraft is numbered – this is No.33 of 120, indicated on the label. That’s what you call a proper collectors piece!
With a desperate need for quality models, especially with JCW/Gemini having failed so badly last year to deliver accuracy, and quality, while shoving prices up in many international markets, anything new has to be worth investigating.
The packaging approach is indicative of the intended market; a high-gloss dark blue box with gold trimmed edges, and an Airbus logo in the centre. There is a well produced, but stuck on product label similar to that used by Aeroclassics.
I’m told the mould is a copy of the AC mould for the A320, and it does look remarkably similar – it’s an excellent mould the AC version, and this is no exception. It may be they have done a similar thing to the short-lived Velocity Models, but despite differing tales, the Neo version to be reviewed next week would suggest they have their own moulds, regardless of their origin.
What does come across though, is that the packaging both in and out is fairly premium, with plenty of plastic carton to protect the model, and lost of sheet plastic inside to make sure the packaging doesn’t rub.
I chose this one out of 4 that were available because of the elaborate pattern printed on the fuselage. If anything would show print and paint quality this would. I am not disappointed, the print detail at the technical level, doors, windows, markings and sensors, is outstandingly good.
The colour print and its accuracy is just as exemplary. In fact it’s possibly the best fine detail I’ve ever seen on a 1:400 model of an A320 series. Chinese characters are notoriously hard to duplicate accurately, and that has been achieved easily.
2.Wings and landing gear
The wings are superbly detailed, fully painted but not overly done. Landing gear is very Aeroclassics basic, tyre-on-a-spigot system, and the nose gear tyres are so small and delicate they don’t look like you’d want to put them under any stress (not that anyone pushes their models around a diorama or anything, do they?)
I would say the landing gear is probably the weakest part of the model, but there is good news in the next review for the Neo.
The engine mould is substantially improved in comparison to both Phoenix and Gemini versions of the CFMI CFM56-5B4/3. Nacelles and pylons are excellent. Exhaust and core-jet paint isn’t outstanding but passable. Rims are reasonably good, but the fans are criminally silver, the bright lurid type reserved more for a toy. Again, something that in the Neo has been addressed as we’ll see next week.
Superbly done and with such refined detail it’s a joy to look at. the cockpit windows are also not over-framed with heavy silver and are a reasonable mid-grey.
Outstanding, excellently put together, seamless fit and finish of the highest order (compared to the Phoenix Swiss A321 reviewed Tuesday its miles better). Print and detail is outstanding.
Never an Aeroclassics strong point, and something both Gemini and JCW have lost the plot with in recent months, these are however superb. The blue is spot on for accuracy, and so is the red.
7.Score and conclusions
- -2 for engine exhaust paint
- -2 for silver fan paint, just too silver, too bright
- -2 for slightly iffy engine rim paint
- 94% however isn’t bad at all for the first time I’ve ever seen one of these Panda’s in the metal. Pretty amazing really. What we need is greater availability in Europe without the loss in quality increased volume might mean.
I’m very pleased with this model. I may keep it simply as a curiosity, it’s not like its unattractive, and it is, overall, superbly finished.
My recommendation: Not everyone’s choice I’ll give you that, but a highly competent model, and they’re still available in the UK in small numbers from ARD, not that they were very efficient about sending it out. If you fancy something exotic, and different, well this fits the bill. However you might want to wait for Tuesday’s Neo review.
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