2018 has been an excellent year for 1:400 scale, probably the best that I have seen in the decade or so that I have been collecting. There has been a diversity of manufacturers and brands restored to the market that has been sorely lacking since Witty went under back in 2014. Not only is Panda still about, but the arrival of Aviation400, NG Models and HYJLwings has stimulated the scene like never before. This year I reviewed 53 models in total and I have tried to represent the majority of the market where possible. In this end of year review I’ll dive into the trends for each manufacturer and announce my brand and model of the year.
As you hopefully know I review models in three scored categories:
- The mould of the aircraft
- The paint and livery
- Printing and quality control
Each can get a maximum score of 10 for a section giving a maximum combined total score of 30. The total score then falls somewhere in the following range:
The overall total for the year of all models averaged out is an improvement over that of 2017, however this is partly a result of the arrival of NG Models and HYJLwings. If anything my feeling is there has been a decline among the legacy manufacturers as a whole despite some attempts by them to fight back.
Take out the scores for NG / HYJLwings and the averages are less impressive but it is also the fact that in general I avoid buying knowingly bad models that means the average is higher this year than in 2017, when I had less choice over what I reviewed.
Looking at what I’ve reviewed here are the totals for each manufacturer:
There have been some changes since last year. The biggest is that I have started only reviewing models I buy for my own collection, or that are sent to me by the manufacturers. This is because it is simply too difficult to shift models on the seconds market in New Zealand to make it worthwhile. This has most heavily impacted Gemini Jets. It is symptomatic with my boredom with Gemini that I only reviewed 5 of their models this year and none of them were widebodies. This lack of interest has also impacted Phoenix although less so (down from 10 to 6).
Aeroclassics remain steady with the same number of reviews as in 2017. I love Aeroclassics release selections, if not always the finished product, and bought over 50 of their models this year. Panda stay roughly static whilst Aviation400 get a trio of reviews enabling them to feature for the first time. The single review for Bigbird Mk3 tells you that they do not produce enough models to really matter. Herpa are as bad and I haven’t acquired any of the handful of models they have made this past year.
The big change though of course is the arrival of NG Models and HYJLwings and this year I have purchased almost as many of their models as I have Aeroclassics. They would have more reviews if they had a wider mould portfolio (it’s coming) but even so they got 10 reviews in 2018.
Here is the 2017 rundown of the 7 qualifying manufacturers from worst to best:
Phoenix = 23.3 (last year 23.8)
Phoenix continue to be the sort of boring and unoriginal manufacturer that just doesn’t interest me much, especially as the majority of their models are made by others, often on superior moulds. Only one of the six models I reviewed this year got into the top ‘High Flyer’ category and that was a Boeing 777 (a mould which has long been one of their best but which has now been eclipsed by JC Wings’ 777).
I also stooped to reviewing a Phoenix 747 this year, which predictably scored poorly. The new 737 MAX-8 mould is ordinary at best and the new Phoenix innovation, of spinning engine fanblades, is in my opinion a waste of time and introduces the opportunity for QC errors with the now multi-piece engine nacelles.
I have heard that Phoenix has suffered from poor sales recently and frankly unless they do something special the competition from superior JC Wings, Aviation400, Panda Models, NG Models and HYJLwings may well kill them off. Given their current lack of imagination and quality they wouldn’t be a great loss.
Aeroclassics = 24.3 (last year 24.8)
Aeroclassics still produce the best range of 1:400 scale models in terms of variety, however 2018 was another underperforming year. My relationship with AC has been complicated and I started the year as a kind of Judas in their eyes. Now my relationship with them has improved hugely and I know that they are working hard to improve the quality of their models and have taken major steps to work on the detailing of them.
This will hopefully bear fruit in 2019, but looking at the 2018 scores you can see it is the livery application and more worryingly the quality control (something that 5 years ago wasn’t an issue for them) that have produced the most wobbles.
Even so they are more than capable of making great models and a quarter of the reviewed models score 28 out of 30. Sadly 3 others score less than 22. The 737 MAX moulds although welcome have been disappointing and need some work to make them competitive with those from JC Wings and Panda (and even Phoenix). The new 767 is better but has also required some modifications, which have impacted the early releases.
Where Aeroclassics still knocks it out of the park is with its Douglas moulds and propliners. I know Aeroclassics have some other new material on the horizon in 2019 and I look forward to seeing where they go. They will do better in the new year I am sure.
Gemini Jets = 25.2 (last year 23.4)
Gemini actually improve their score significantly this year but to be honest that is probably more a reflection of the models I bought of theirs rather than the quality of the models themselves. Certainly I have seen plenty of complaints about Gemini releases from other collectors.
The only models they make that really interest me are the Chinese ones and even then really only narrowbodies, which means my reviews tend to focus on the more obscure types (BAE 146s, 737-500s, Saabs) and not 787s etc. In fact my Gemini reviews are such outliers that I feel my overall Gemini score should come with a disclaimer. Nonetheless the models I bought were solid if not spectacular 1:400s.
I can’t see myself reviewing a lot more Gemini products in 2019 as they continue to produce airline/aircraft combinations that fall well outside my collection criteria and many of their moulds (757s, 777s, 787s, A320s, A330s, A350s, A380s) are out of date and surpassed by competitors.
JC Wings = 26.8 (last year 25.8)
JC Wings have improved upon their 2017 score (last year they came 2nd to Panda) and of the 8 models reviewed this year most have been very good (half have scored 28 or 29). Nonetheless as with Gemini (whose mould catalogue they share) I avoid certain models (A320s, A330s, A380s) so they don’t feature in the reviews to bring the score down. Also the updates to older moulds have been middling. The updated 757 mould is fine (although not a patch on NG’s) but the one I reviewed was poor in the non-mould categories, whilst the updated Witty Tristar was disappointing.
They do have several world class moulds (737 MAX-8, 777s and 787s) and in 2019 these should be joined by a 747-400. If they could only produce models at all close to the dates they were announced I think JC would garner more respect in the marketplace than they do. Everytime I post about them people complain about the long wait times.
They don’t show any sign of actually changing this but even so sometimes JC models are worth the wait.
Aviation400 = 26.7 (last year N/A)
AV400 are a new entrant to the 1:400 scale but as they are part of the Inflight empire they are not new to the die-cast scene. This is a plus and a minus. On the plus side their models introduce elements that are seen in 1:200 (stands and navigation beacons) but on the minus side they have a small mould catalogue and their production is JC Wings like in its stop start releases. Some announced models have never seen the light of day and simply disappeared.
They are also far from immune to the sort of lazy research that bedevils all the older manufacturers and show no interest in engaging with the collectorate. None of the three models reviewed score above 27, but then again none score less than 26 either.
On the plus side they have very good Airbus widebody moulds with their A350 bearing the brunt of the releases and being the best in 1:400 (although not perfect). Whether they will expand their footprint in this scale or continue to dabble in 2019 is one of the big questions of the year for me.
Panda Models = 27.3 (last year 28.0)
Panda have reached outside of China in 2018 or at least they have identified Northern Europe and Switzerland as worthwhile markets. They also have an interest in Easyjet, all the more so since for legal reasons few other manufacturers will touch that airline. Ironically this has meant that they are less interesting to my collecting and in 2018 I have bought only 11 of their models (compared to 37 in 2017).
Panda’s score has actually dropped from last year but even so the general quality of the Panda releases has remained high and they place well above the legacy manufacturers. If it wasn’t for the new players on the scene they would take the trophy.
NG Models / HYJLwings = 28.4 (last year N/A)
For the purposes of this review I have combined NG and HYJLwings together. They are not strictly the same as HYJLwings is run separately, but the models are all made by the same people. HYJLwings has sole use of the excellent A321 series of moulds but also uses the NG 757 mould too. NG itself has moulds for the Comac 919, Boeing 737-800, 757-200 and 787-9 with several more to come (Beluga XL, L-1011 Tristar 500 etc).
NG Models walks away with the 2018 prize for best manufacturer easily. Of the 10 models I’ve reviewed none score lower than 28. The quality is amazing across the board. This is a staggering achievement made all the more impressive by the friendliness and community spirit that Lily of NG has shown. They have been amazingly open with the collectors (mainly on the DAC forum) and asked for and taken onboard advice from many sources (including yours truly). It has been a pleasure to work with them and assist in the production of such fabulous models.
If NG can continue to build on their success in 2019 then 1:400 scale will be in a great state. I am hugely impressed with them. Their engagement and responsiveness is unmatched and the models top class. Great work NG!
NG Models are the manufacturer of the year in 1:400 Scale
For model of the year it has to be one of the ten NG Models/HYJLwings I’ve reviewed. Eight models scored 29 or above in 2018 and six of these were from NG Models (the other two were a Panda Models 737 MAX-8 and a JC Wings 77W). For many model of the year was the NG Qantas 787-9 but the version I reviewed was a sample and didn’t score as highly as the production version would have done.
Two models have scored 100% (or 30/30), which frankly I didn’t think was possible. These were the Britannia 737-800 and the Honeywell 757, and for me it is the latter that must win model of the year.
Producing a bespoke model with all that extra detailing for a single release shows everything that has made NG a success so far. It is a lovely model and considering the impetus the NG 757 has given 1:400 scale as a whole a 757 is a deserving victor.
Model of the Year: Honeywell Aviation Boeing 757-200
I look forward to continuing my reviews into 2019 and there are plenty of new and exciting models in the pipeline, especially trijets!