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A History of Model Airplanes
The first plastic airplane models were manufactured in the 1950s by the British firms Frog and Airfix. American manufacturers such as Revell, AMT, and Monogram gained ascendancy in the 1960s as French Heller SA in Europe. Since the 1970s, Japanese firms such as Hasegawa and Tamiya have dominated the field and represent the highest level of technology. Brands from Russia, Central Europe, China, and Korea have also become prominent recently. Many smaller companies have also produced plastic models, both in the past and currently.
Demographics of Plastic Modeling
The demographics of plastic modeling have changed in its half-century of existence, from young boys buying them as toys to older adults building them to assemble large collections. In the United States, as well as some other countries, many modelers are former members of the military who like to recreate the actual aircraft they flew in, ships they sailed in, and so on.
The Sophistication of Modeling
Technological advances have made model-building more and more sophisticated, and the proliferation of expensive detailing add-ons have raised the bar for competition within modeling clubs. As a result, a kit built "out of the box" on a weekend can not compare with a kit built over months where a tiny add-on part such as an aircraft seat can cost more than the entire kit itself.
Luftwaffe Aircraft Decals
The Nazi swastika, which appears on World War 2 Luftwaffe aircraft, is illegal to display in Germany, and disappeared from almost all manufacturers' box illustrations in the 1990s. Some makers still include the emblem on the decal sheet, others have "broken" it into two elements which must be reassembled by the builder, while others have omitted it altogether. After market decal sheets exist that consist entirely of Luftwaffe swastikas.
The Issue of Royalties
Manufacturers of aircraft have sought royalties from model makers for using their designs and intellectual property in their kits. Hobbyists argue that model kits provide free advertising for the makers of the real vehicles and that any royalties collected would be insignificant compared to the profits made from aircraft construction contracts. They also argue that forcing manufacturers to pay royalties and licensing fees would financially ruin all but the largest model kit makers. Some proponents of the aerospace industry contest that the issue is not of financial damages, but of intellectual property and brand image. In contrast, most of the world's commercial airlines allow their fleet to be modeled, as a form of publicity. Many cottage industry manufacturers, particularly of sci-fi subjects, avoid the issue by selling their products under generic un-trademarked names (e.g. selling a figure that clearly depicts Batman as "Bat Hero Figure").