TDmonthly Magazine!
December 2006 | Vol. V - No. 12


Aircraft Models Corp. Invades Toy Biz

High-Quality Models of Renowned Aircraft Find Unexpected Niche

“We give the consumer a large selection from which to choose. We have great diversity.” Rafael Salonga, Aircraft Models Corp.
Aircraft Models Corp. didn’t intend to be in the toy business. But by developing a customer base through gift shows, the company’s handmade mahogany sculptures of aircraft and ships found toy buyers, too, Rafael Salonga, owner and sales manager, told TDmonthly Magazine.

It began in 1991, when Aircraft Models Corp., based in Hercules, Calif., was importing handcrafted wooden airplanes from an outside supplier. It soon became evident that the product needed to be made in-house to control quality and quantity.

Hand-training Handcrafters

“Production was our biggest problem because these were handmade, and specific steps needed to be taken to guarantee quality,” he continued. “We opened our own factory as a way to control quality. This was the answer for us.”

Bringing the wooden airplanes, and eventually ships, in-house meant training skilled craftsmen to produce the models. Each wooden model is crafted from kiln-dried Philippine mahogany and passes through about half-a-dozen hands. The planes are carved, joined and sanded by hand. In addition, all models are hand-painted.

While fine-tuning the manufacturing, the company also continued to develop its customer base and marketing program. Gift shows and advertising seemed to be the best methods, Salonga said. The one-on-one contact at trade events helped people remember the company name.

Planes Spread the Word

But the real marketing tool was the product itself.

“We give the consumer a large selection from which to choose. We have great diversity,” Salonga told TDmonthly.

The company started with just a few airplanes in the early days, but feedback from customers led to additional lines. The numerous models have all found success, although World War II warplanes and modern jets are the favorites.

 “Many people who buy them have their own stories about their history with that plane, and love to show the plane and tell the story,” Salonga shared with TDmonthly.

And it is that listening to customers that has helped the company stay in the “micro-industry” of woodworking, Salonga emphasized.

 “You have to market your product; that means to make sure you have the patience and the funding,” he summed up. “Other than that, you must believe in your product.”

Following are a couple of examples of their handcrafted aircraft:

Category: Aircraft

This popular aircraft is among the numerous offerings of the company’s handcrafted wooden aircraft.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 9868      (added 11/2/2006)

Category: Aircraft

This bright red/white aircraft is hand-painted in its original style.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 9869      (added 11/2/2006)

Terri Hughes-LazzellWriter's Bio: Terri Hughes-Lazzell is a freelance journalist based in Ossian, Ind. After spending nearly a decade as a daily newspaper reporter, she has worked as a freelance journalist for more than ten years, writing about a variety of topics. Her work appears in newspapers, magazines and specialty publications nationwide. Read more articles by this author


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