Aircraft modeling is a hobby that has been popular since the 1930s.
Static model aircraft, those not intended to fly, can be built using plastic detail parts, photo etched brass and wire. Some static models are scaled for use in wind tunnels, where the data acquired is used to aid the design of full scale aircraft.
Models can be bought already built and painted as well as models that require construction, painting and glueing, or snap fit models, most of which come with decals or paint already applied.
The collector can choose from plastic and diecast military and commercial helicopters and planes, and, for the less skilled collector, snap together military and commercial planes. Snap models are becoming increasingly popular because of their ease of construction.
Plastic model plane manufacturers include Revell who are generally recognized as the most popular manufacturer of plane models in the US, Airfix, whose name is synonymous with the hobby in the UK, Hobbycraft, DML, Frog, Matchbox, Minicraft and Hasegawa, Tamiya and Testors. The peak of the plastic modelling hobby was most probably the 1970s, and while it is still very popular today, at that time the hobby could support a considerable number of competing, large companies. During the 1980s, many of them were forced to radically downsize, restructure, merge or go out of business. Some attribute this to the rise of computer games over the more traditional type of hobbies. Another consideration is that kits have generally required considerable skill and patience to achieve good results, and that ready-made or more quickly constructed models have taken over the market for those simply looking for a toy to play with.
Plastic scale model aircraft kits usually come in standard scales such 1/144, 1/72, 1/48 (also known as quarter-scale), and 1/32. This scale indicates the relationship between the size of the model and the size of the actual aircraft. For example, in 1/48 scale, 1 inch on the model represents 48 inches on the actual aircraft.
Die-Cast model plane manufacturers include Dyna-Flytes (recognized as the first manufacturer of that type of model), Schabak, Gemini Jets and Herpa Wings.
Snap Fit plastic plane models include Wooster, Long Prosper(In South Africa, Long & Prosper), and Flight Miniatures of Cottonwood, Arizona.
Vacuum formed kits are generally for the more skilled collector and are manufactured by small companies such as Koster Aero Enterprises.
Another category are scale plane models made from heavy paper or card stock. Several card model kit companies exist, smaller even than Vacuum formed manufacturers, among them being ModelArt, Halinski, Modelik, JSC and FlyModel. Many card models are also distributed through the internet, and several are offered this way free of charge. Card model kits are also not limited to just airplanes. Such kits are available for all types of vehicles, buildings, computers, firearms, even animals.
Most of the world's airlines allow their fleet aircraft to be modelled as a form of publicity,, some of the most notable being Delta Airlines, Air France, British Airways, Aerolineas Argentinas, Avianca, Aeromexico, Fed Ex, Polar Air Cargo, Air New Zealand, Qantas, China Airlines, South African Airways, Finnair, and Royal Jordanian.
Most flying model aircraft can be placed in one of three main groups: