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Skybirds was the brand name of a series of 1:72 scale wood and metal aircraft model kits produced by A. J. Holladay & Co. in the United Kingdom during the 1930s and 40s.

Skybirdsは、1930年代と40年代に英国においてA. J. Holladay & Co.によって製作された1/72の縮尺の木や金属の航空機キットのブランド名である。

These kits were designed by James Hay Stevens and comprised shaped wooden blanks with cast metal detail parts. These were the first model aircraft kits in the world made to a constant scale of 1:72. This scale was later adopted by many other model manufacturers, such as Frog and Airfix.


Around 80 different Skybirds kits were released from 1932 onwards. Subjects ranged from First World War to Second World War military aircraft, plus a number of inter-war period civilian types. Manufacture ceased in 1942, and in 1945 the company closed but was soon relaunched under new management. However the Skybirds range did not survive the company's acquisition by Zang shortly afterwards.

From Avia Mini II - December 1996


SKYBIRD NOTES: by A G Sinclair, Published by the Author. A5, Softbound, 80pp.
Available from author: A G Sinclair, 4 Durrington Park Road, Wimbledon, London SW20 8NX at £10.00. Also available to members of HOASKA (the Skybirds Club) at special price of £7.00

Alfred James Holladay worked for London toy wholesalers from 1893 to 1914, eventually taking over his employer's company and renaming it A J Holladay. Growth in the 1920s and 1930s caused the company to consider making their own products. In 1932, the 18 year old James Hay Stevens began to design wooden aircraft kits and accessories for Holladay's new Skybirds range. Stevens is credited with inventing 1:72 scale, mainly due to a misinterpretation of the Britains lead soldier scale, which he took to be 1:36 (actually 1:32), so he halved it to create 1:72. Thus another British invention which became the world-wide standard for model aircraft up to today, turns out to have been a bit of a cock-up.
The Skybirds range grew considerably through the 1930s, about 50 different items having being made by 1936, 70 by the outbreak of war in 1939, and about 80 in total by the end of the company's existence. Many of the models were Great War fighters, others were the latest aeronautical designs. All were basically wooden block designs, to be shaped by the skill of the enthusiast. There were often cast parts, the metal alloy being supplied by Fry's Metals, still in business today. Components and transfers were strung into attractive cardboard boxes. There were accompanying accessories including figures (soldiers, airmen etc), buildings (hangars, control towers etc) and vehicles (mostly bought-in from other makers such a Johillco or Taylor and Barrett). An idea of the scope of these 1:72 models is given by the fact that the smallest was the Comper Swift, the largest the Fairey Hendon. Many older collectors first got into model aircraft by way of Skybirds, and joined the Skybird League, which ran from 1933 to 1945, culminating in 18000 members and 600 local clubs. For younger collectors, Skybirds give a fascinating insight into an earlier era of model aircraft enthusiasm. Even the simple degree of handicraft necessary to complete a Skybirds kit would be beyond today's youngsters, many of whom find even plastic kits too difficult to build. There is little doubt that the skills developed whilst working with Skybirds (and of course Meccano and other products) helped to produce a generation of people with the manual dexterity, flexibility and confidence to tackle any project. These were the folk who went on to keep Britain moving in the war years through 'make do and mend', and who led the Do It Yourself movement after the Second World War. The war had a direct effect on Skybirds, as Holladay's showroom and warehouse were bombed in 1940, necessitating a move of premises. In 1942 production of toys or models containing metal parts was forbidden, to conserve strategic materials, and production of Skybirds ceased. In 1945 Holladay retired from business, and wound up the company, though it was re-launched by his Managing Director W L J Pook, with Stevens and other ex-employees. Soon they sold out to Zang, creator of Herald figures, Timpo and other ranges but the new owner only wanted Holladay's licences for scarce raw materials, an important factor in postwar industry. He therefore did not reissue Skybirds. Thus this successful range just fizzled away.
Listed below are all the known 1:72 scale Skybirds aircraft, though there may have also been 1:36 versions, as this was how Stevens started out. All Skybirds aircraft are now rare, and rarely-seen, though luckily for enthusiasts they apparently don't fetch the high prices seen for other contemporary products. One can only assume that this is because those collectors, dealers and auction houses whose activities drive prices up don't know much about Skybirds. If you also don't know much about them, this book will tell you almost everything you need to know. A G Sinclair has done an excellent job in putting together the history of Skybirds, clearly written and well-illustrated with original factory drawings, documents, letters etc. It is great value for money, and essential for anyone interested in the history of model aircraft. RCW

Good news: David Hughes of HOASKA plans to reissue the Skybirds Lockheed Vega! A set of components is likely to cost around £10.00, and if there is sufficient demand it may have replica box and instructions for £25.00-ish. And New Cavendish may finally publish Peter Cooksley's book on Skybirds in 1997.
Does this mean a Skybirds renaissance?

DH Puss Moth
Hawker Fury
Blackburn Segrave
Sopwith Camel
Lockheed Vega
Fokker DVII
Comper Swift
Nieuport Scout
Sopwith Schneider
Fokker Dr-1
Lockheed Orion
Westland Wallace
Cierva Autogiro 24
Armstrong-Whitworth XV
DH Gipsy III Moth (or Moth Major)
Percival Gull
Macchi MC72
Handley Page Heyford
Airspeed Courier
Fairey Gordon
Fairey Seal
DH 88 Comet
DH Leopard Moth
Albatros DIII
Gloster Gauntlet
Avro Tutor
Dewoitine D500
DH 89 Rapide
Hawker Hart
Lockheed Electra
Supermarine Seagull V (Walrus)
Heston Phoenix
Percival Mew Gull (Junior Series)
BA Eagle
Fairey Hendon
Bristol Fighter
Fairey Battle
Blackburn Shark
Caudron C450 (Junior Series)
Heinkel He70A
Percival Vega Gull
Bristol 138A
Aeronca-Jap (Junior Series)
Grumman F2F
Supermarine Spitfire I
Westland Lysander
Bristol Blenheim
Hawker Hurricane
Sturdy (Flying Model No 1)
Curtiss P36A
Blackburn Skua
Gloster Gladiator
Miles Master
Speedy (Flying Model No 2)
A W Siskin IIIA
Fairey Seafox
Airspeed Oxford
DH 94 Moth Minor
Marane Saulnier MS 406C1
Messerschmitt Me109
Handley Page Hampden
Dornier Do17
Hawker Henley
Boulton Paul Defiant
Lockheed Lightning
Curtiss Tomahawk
Bristol Long-nose Blenheim
Douglas Havoc
Messerschmitt Me110
Messerschmitt Me109F
MIG-3 (1-61) (postwar)
Hawker Tempest V (postwar)
Gloster Meteor (postwar)
Supermarine Spitfire XIV (postwar)