Panda Models only started production in April 2015 but have grown tremendously and had a stonking 2016, producing a range of excellent Boeing and Airbus narrowbodies plus some kickass GSE. In fact in 2016 they have produced only slightly less models than Gemini Jets and begun to both expand their range and look outside of China for subject matter. Are they the best manufacturer in 2016? Let's see...
Panda Models Pt1: The Story So Far
Panda Models Pt2: The Models
During 2016 Panda has released (or announced 82) models, which is only 15 or so short of Gemini Jets. Obviously the volumes produced are a lot lower (in the 90-150 range), however that enables a diverse range of airlines (albeit 99% Chinese) to be made. 30 of the models have been produced for Skywings.
Panda started the year with a limited stock of moulds but they were the best of their types available. The ex-Aeroclassics cloned A320 is still the best in 1/400, whilst the 737-700 and 800 in my opinion are better than anything used by Gemini / JC or Phoenix. Similarly the 737-300 is the same as the excellent mould used by Aeroclassics.
They have continued this with most recently a new set dedicated to AirAsia. The best thing about the GSE from Panda is that it is available at a perfectly decent price - unlike Gemini's bus releases.
Here's a summary of Panda's releases for 2016. There has been a good range of airlines from the big three Chinese majors, the next tier of airlines (Shenzhen Airlines, Shandong Airlines, Xiamen Airlines etc), new startups (Fuzhou Airlines, Urumqi Air, GX Airlines etc) and older 1990s carriers (China Yunnan, China Xinhua and Wuhan Airlines). I'm really pleased with the selection of releases myself but then again I'm perhaps in the minority with my interest in China!
I'm excited to see what 2017 brings for Panda models. In 2016 I bought a whopping 43 of their models and y'know what not one came with tabs on the tyres, bent undercarriage, ill fitting wings, fingerprints on the fuselage etc etc. They did occassionally get the colours wrong but in general the models had excellent detailing and where well put together. For such a strong effort that makes them for me the manufacturer of 2017. I bought far fewer JC Wings and Phoenix and had a lot more issues.
If you haven't tried out Panda models yet I really recommend you give them a try. So far they have made excellent models, sold at decent prices, which are well finished and quick to the market. The only drawback are the small volumes and hassle in getting hold of them. The rest of the manufacturers need to step up their game to compete.