The planets have aligned and I get to share with you an overview of some fresh-from-the-oven releases!
Things that came together for me to be able to write this up:
1) Aeroclassics release set for April 2023 included many subjects that fit my criteria and some that could be pushed into the collection with little effort – I had not purchased any new Aeroclassics since last year, though there is a quasi-constant drip of their long sold-out, sought after releases finding their way to the YV400 home. Aeroclassics is also the most prominent model brand in my collection by far, so I’m glad to give them my business once more!
2) I happened to be at home and ready to receive my order – This is a rare opportunity that I must capitalize on, as I spend about 50% of the time miles away, so I have a 50% chance of missing out when new models arrive. Then of course I must earn the right to unbox them after I come back by first taking care of (or pretending that I am taking care of) the honey-do list.
3) The models are within my standards and expectations, hence no need to send any of them back! Though I had to take one or two deep breaths. It's all good!
One of the things I love about Aeroclassics is that they announce their releases only after the models have arrived at (most of) their retailers, so there is no need to deal with pre-ordering (we can talk about pre-orders vs. in-stock later). The downside though, is that the popular releases tend to sell out very quickly, and once they are gone, they are gone! While this practice creates a lot of excitement and fun (only when you don’t miss out) around "that time of the month," and it is a decades-long tradition of the Aeroclassics experience, it is this very practice that instigates a lot of the second-hand market shenanigans so prevalent in the world of 1:400 scale (we can also go deeper into this topic later - but I am happy to report that the seconds market seems to be in a valley right now - Yes!).
Aeroclassics usually announces their releases on the Friday of the first full week of the month, but for April 2023, the announcement was pushed back to the last Friday of the month due to a factory move that seemingly created some distribution delays.
To avoid licensing issues, over the years Aeroclassics have adopted an operational scheme that consists in them essentially outsourcing their molds to a number of different, largely untraceable, company names in China. Out of the eleven 1:400 models announced on April 2023 I got three.
If you have read anything put out by me, you likely already know my collecting criteria. If so, feel free to skip this paragraph. But if this is the first time that you come across one of my writings, allow me to fill you in. For me collecting 1:400 scale aircraft models is first and foremost about nostalgia and honoring the joyful past. Therefore, many of the aircraft models I collect are of subjects commonly seen in my home country of Venezuela in the 1980-2000 time frame. I also collect many aircraft that I used to see /fly on during childhood travels between Venezuela and the U.S. during the 1990s. To me, the memories associated with an aircraft/livery combination tend to be more important than the level of perfection of the model, up to a point. With this out of the way, let’s jump into the model talk!
My Aeroclassics (and brand names that also use their molds) acquisitions for April 2023:
1) Delta Air Lines Boeing 727-232 Adv. N476DA in the Widget Livery:
This one was released alongside a Delta Shuttle example in the same livery registered N414DA, and they were explicitly advertised as Blue Box releases. It should come as no surprise that out of the three major passenger airlines in the U.S. DAL is the one that safeguards their brand and trademarks the most, and model manufacturers seem to be very familiar with this.
Delta is an airline that was absent from my 1:400 collection until recently. While Delta had a long history of operations in Venezuela (Delta’s first international destination in South America, and one of their first ones overall, was Caracas in 1953), for some reason I don’t remember much about them from what to me were the “glory days” of commercial aviation in the country.
The model that started the Delta branch of my collection was NG’s L1011-1 N725DA in the widget c/s. It is an aircraft that I have no particular association with, but it is a true masterpiece of precision, and probably the most accurate model in 1:400 scale that I own. That model appeals entirely to the rivet counter inside of me (yes, I can count rivets sometimes). Then I found a GeminiJets MD-80 in the widget livery also, and that is an aircraft of which I have fond childhood memories. So when Aeroclassics, I mean Blue Box, announced N476DA the way had been paved already for it to enter my collection switfly. While there were some things that one could certainly point out about the livery execution, by and large, the model was looking really nice, and very quickly it became apparent that it was going to be a hot seller; it was. The Delta widget is an iconic contemporary classic livery, and it looks so good on the 727-200 (by the way, Delta was the larger operator of the type). I can also draw a link between some pleasant memories and that aircraft/livery combo. But what really made this release special was that feeling of managing to get a copy of an Aeroclassics, I mean Blue Box, hot seller right before it sold out in the first 24 hours. That is something that I had not gotten to experience in a while!
2) Pan Am Boeing 727-235 N4738 in the Billboard plus Cheatline Livery Marketed as a Pan Am Model Company (PAMC) release.
Pan Am was a very prominent airline in Venezuela and its image remained alive in the country for several years after its bankruptcy in 1991, as Avensa - which had been partly owned by Pan Am between its foundation in 1943 until 1976 - and its subsidiary Servivensa continued to use Pan Am liveries and logos until their own demise in 2003. There was also Pan Am memorabilia always laying around in our house and I got to see their 727s at my home airport just before their bankruptcy, and afterward – along with other types of their fleet – parked at MIA. I already had two Pan Am 727s in my 1:400 collection, and it took me a while to find both of them, so I just couldn’t let a newly released Pan Am 727 go by, even though the livery is rather obscure. This actually is the first Pan Am 727-200 that gets released in 1:400 scale while I am actively collecting.
The model has received some criticism, particularly because the blue looks too dark. Indeed, it is a bit too dark, but to me, it is within standards. It fits the image of a Pan Am 727 – in that c/s – that I have in my head.
The model, or at least my example, has a couple of minor printing issues. My example also came with a slightly deformed engine #2 exhaust, which is what bothers me the most, but trust me when I tell you that I have my reasons to let this go. In the past, I have returned models because of similar shortcomings. However, this model gets away with its deformity on the tail cone largely because of its location (easy to overlook).
This one was a popular one, a lot of people were talking about it, and seems like many have bought it. However, it is still available. I personally think it would have performed a lot better if was wearing one of the more popular, less-niche, Pan Am liveries, even if the livery execution was not perfect (look at the Deltas).
3) Aerolíneas Argentinas Airbus A340-313 LV-CSD.
This one was announced as an Aeroclassics release, but you won’t find the Aeroclassics name anywhere in the box. Instead, any unsuspecting individual will be led to think that a company called “Big Bus Models” is behind it.
In contrast with the previous two models, this one does not really fit my normal collecting criteria. Also, the livery is anything but sloppy. This one is sharp! I’ll mention a couple of QC observations later.
So, Aerolíneas Argentinas has an important place in my collection (though I don’t have a lot of their models), but their current-liveried fleet is just too modern to remind me of the “good old days,” and I did not get to fly in any of their A340s, nor did I photograph them, etc. so that's why this particular model wouldn't normally fit in my collection so easily. However, I had recently gotten the Aerolíneas A332 LV-FVH in the Qatar World Champions livery by Phoenix Models. The Phoenix A332 technically does not fit my criteria either, but it got away due to the historical importance of its livery, and the event it commemorated. But didn’t really have any other model to display it with. I know the Aeroclassics A340-300 mold is superb, so this new release from them came in handy at the right time to give my Phoenix A332 some needed company!
So, while the model doesn’t really fit in my current criteria like a glove, meaning that it scores low on sentimental value, it fits the bill pretty well in terms of being a nice work of art. As far as I can tell, the livery is spot on and the printing is solid. Therefore, I am thankful that from that standpoint it is a winner! It will go nicely next to the Phoenix A332, which is also pretty sharp. In fact, I think the Aeroclassics A340 is better than the Phoenix in terms of livery application.
Now, it is understood among the collectorate that some brands have been sliding in terms of quality control for a few years now, and for some reason seem to be struggling to bring things back to what they once were. Aeroclassics is one of them. Now let me be clear, contrary to what it might seem initially, the criticism Aeroclassics gets in this (and other) area (s) is actually a good thing. It means that a lot of collectors care about the brand, and seeing it slipping pains them. As sharp as this Aerolíneas A343 is, it is not immune to the QC issues I am talking about. My example has a pretty bad paint smudge but luckily is on one of the wings leading edges, so it really has no effect on the livery, and it is extremely easy to overlook.
In the end, I am pleased with my April 2023 Aeroclassics (and associated brands) acquisitions. I reckon that I had to lower my expectations to avoid disappointment (not too much though) and count on luck to some extent. But that is easy to do when the main driver is passion and not the search for the ultimate 1:400 airliner replica. And, of course, there is a lot of brand loyalty involved here. At the end of the day, Aeroclassics is the reason I collect 1:400 scale.
Jorge A. Zajia