Airfix is a UK manufacturer of plastic model aircraft and other kits. In Britain, the name Airfix is synonymous with the hobby, a plastic model of this type is often simply referred to as "an airfix" even if made by another manufacturer. Nowadays the Airfix brand is a subsidiary of Humbrol Ltd.
Airfix was founded in 1939 by a Hungarian businessman called Nicholas Kove, initially manufacturing rubber inflatable toys. The brand name Airfix was selected to be the first alphabetically in any toy catalogue. Due to the war the company didn't start to grow until 1948, when it was commissioned to create a model of the Ferguson tractor. This model, manufactured in kit form, was a success and led the company to produce new kit designs, starting with model ships such as Sir Francis Drake's Golden Hind. The first aircraft kit was designed in 1953, a model of the Supermarine Spitfire Mk. 1, in 1/72 scale. This kit went on to become the single biggest selling aircraft kit ever made.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the company expanded greatly as the kit modelling hobby grew enormously. The Airfix range expanded to include cars, trucks and ships as well as an ever-increasing range of aircraft. Most kits were created at the "standard" scale of 1/72 for small aircraft and military aircraft, and 1/144 scale for airliners. In the mid 1970s, larger scales were introduced, including the dramatic 1/24 scale models of the Spitfire and Hurricane and Harrier "jump-jet", which featured incredible detailing at this scale. All the kits were manufactured using injection moulding of polystyrene. The growth of the hobby launched a number of competitors in the field, such as Matchbox, as well as introducing new manufacturers from Japan and the US to the UK. During this period the company Humbrol also grew, supplying the paints, brushes, glue and other accessories for the finishing of the kits. Airfix themselves also published an annual and a monthly magazine, Airfix magazine, supporting the hobby.
In the 1980s, the plastic kit modelling hobby went into a rapid decline. Some think this was due to the rise of computer games, others that new manufacturing techniques such as precision diecasting took away the market for toys, where a person was less interested in the construction and finishing of a model, but simply wanted to play with the finished product. During this period many kit manufacturers suffered from this decline, and Airfix was no exception. At one point it looked as if they might go out of business altogether, but eventually they were bought by Humbrol in 1986. This was a logical merger, since the companies had hitherto largely depended on one another. While the hobby declined from its 70s heyday, it still has a significant following to this day.