Large Scale Plastic Models – What are the scales?

There is not an official definition for Large Scale Plastic Models.  But I have come across some terms that may help you in making a distinction between different size models.  Knowing what size model you want, will guide you in your searches for what you are looking for. Knowing the differences between terms as used by a host of websites will give you understanding as to what is being offered.

According to Wikipedia: “A model aircraft is a small sized unmanned aircraft or, in the case of a scale model, a replica of an existing or imaginary aircraft”.

There are two basic categories for Model Aircraft:  Non-flying and flying. Non-Flying models are referred to as display, shelf, or static models.

Small Scale - Static Model
Small Scale – Static Model

Static models range from mass-produced toys to highly accurate and detailed models produced for museum display. Within the non-flying category, there are a number of different sizes and the terms tend to overlap both the flying and non-flying models.

Static model aircraft are primarily available commercially in a variety of scales from as large as 1:18 scale to as small as 1:1250 scale. The scales are based upon simple divisions of either the Imperial system, or the Metric system. For example, 1:48 scale is 1/4″ to 1-foot (or 1″ to 4 feet) and 1:72 is 1″ to 6 feet, while metric scales are simpler, such as 1:100th, which equals 1 centimeter to 1 meter.

Non-kit models are models already assembled and painted.  Large scale desk-top models are produced for travel agents, airlines and aircraft manufacturers.  These manufactured models are usually made from die-cast metal, mahogany, resin and plastic.

I discuss the various ‘scales’ that models are built in, helping the reader in determining the scope and purpose for a particular scale in my article, ‘Large Scale Airplane Models – What are they? Do you need one!‘.

Giant Scale

In the non-flying arena, Giant Scale is generally found in models displayed on floor pedestals.  These models are usually found in lobbies, conference rooms, or travel agencies. These models are huge; three feet in length and larger.

Large Scale Lobby Model
Factory Direct Model

1:18 scale is a traditional scale (ratio) for these sized models. 18 units (such as inches or centimeters) on the original is represented by one unit on the model. The scale is also called two third inch scale since 1 foot is represented by 2/3 of an inch.

Large Scale

Large Scale models are typically found on desktops, credenzas, display cases, and are of museum quality.  1:100 scale is a common scale used, but large scale models are not solely limited to this scale.

Desktop Display Model
Desktop Display Model

This scale model will usually be displayed on a custom pedestal or hanging from a ceiling. Rarely will you find a model sitting on it’s landing gear.

Small Scale

In this category, model kits are generally plastic or wood. Assembly and painting are usually required and are primarily available in 1:144, 1:72, 1:50, 1:48, 1:32, and 1:24 scale, often depending on the size of the original subject.

Different Scale Models
Different Scale Models

These models can be held in your hand for closer examination. They are displayed on smaller pedestals or they sit on their own landing gear.


Most Airlines allow their fleet aircraft to be modeled in their livery for promotional purposes. Additionally, airlines and airplane manufactures distribute their desktop model airplanes to airport, airline and government officials as a way of promoting their airline or company.

Other issues that will influence your decision are discussed in my other article, ‘Commercial Model Airplanes – Large Scale‘. Issues that I touch upon are Type, Size, Livery and Custom details which will lead you in your search for answers.

If you have any suggestions, I am most eager to read your comments that you can leave in the comment form below.  Others will learn from you as well and may engage in your conversation.

If you would like to learn more about Model Airplanes,
please look at other posts below.

Best Gift Giving Ideas – Airplane Models
Executive Airplane Models – Large, Static, and Beautiful
Commercial Airplane Models
Large Scale Commercial Airplane Models
Large Scale Airplane Models
How to Clean a Model
Model Airplane Display Cases

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