As the name implies, these are scale model aircraft which do not fly, but are pleasant to look at. They are generally the models in travel shops & airlines, museums and collectors. They are made in a number of materials, including plastic, metal, wood and paper.
Ready made models (sometimes referred to as desktop models) are sometimes produced in fibreglass, collectors models can made from metal, plastic or specialist wood.
The scales in which these are made vary and are often dictated by various manufactures. The most popular being 1:48 and 1:72, closely followed by 1:32. For civil airliners 1:144 is mostly used (one presumes due to generally being a larger size). The scale size appears to be dictated by the general original size of the real machine, as well as conformity to packaging. (An obvious example would be a scale model of an aircraft carrier, due to its size; it would be impractical to manufacture this in a 1:48 scale.)
Revell made plastic models to a scale which would fit into their packaging; this became known as box scale. In other words, the larger the original life size machine was, the higher the scale would become to fit in the standard size packaging box.
The trends do seem to vary from manufacturer to manufacturer; the trend for say helicopters seems to be for 1:32 scale, which is incidentally also used for models of land vehicles.
Remember when choosing a kit to build, the larger the scale, the smaller the pieces will generally be, but of course the larger the scale, the more space your scale model aircraft will take up. The most important thing is to enjoy your model!
This is a slightly edited & updated version of an article originally published on “ScaleModelAircraft.net”