Dinky Aircraft – Early Days

Pre-War Beginnings

The First Set

Prior to the Second World War, Dinky produced a range of about 40 aircraft, including both civilian and warplanes. During this period, the early hollow composite models evolved into the more robust solid diecast models that typified their post-war production.

The first aircraft were released as boxed presentation sets of 6 models, though the components were soon also available to retailers in trade boxes for individual sale. The very first set released was set 60, in 1934. Let’s take a look at the largest aircraft in this set.

Meccano Magazine of June 1934 shows, bottom left, the new aircraft set.

The Dinky Atalanta

Dinky 60a Imperial Airways (AW.15 Atalanta)

Year first produced:1934

L102xW127xH19, Metal 33g, Scale 1:215, Features: 2

Dinky titled this model simply as “60a Imperial Airways Liner”, meaning a passenger aircraft operated by Imperial Airways (see below), forgetting to mention the actual aircraft it represents. Luckily, the subject matter is obvious – the Armstrong Whitworth AW.15, known more generally as the Atalanta.

The fuselage and tail on this model is cast metal, presumably mazak, while the main wing is fashioned from tinplate. Four cast engines are attached to the wing, each fitted with a tin plate propeller that can spin on its fixing pin. At the bottom of the fuselage an axle is fitted through the undercarriage legs, and crimped at each end to secure the two rotating wheels.

The underside of the model shows that it is hollow.

As can be seen, the fuselage is an open casting without a lower surface. This, with the use of tinplate for the main wing, is typical of the early models in the range, and results in a somewhat delicate and very light model. On my example, the wing is slightly loose.

The identifying marks are inside the fuselage.

Cast into the roof of the fuselage are the markings


Note the absence of a model number or name.

The cockpit and passenger compartment windows are voids, and the only marks on the otherwise smooth surfaces delineate the ailerons, elevators and rudder. There is a prominent mould line along the centre of the fuselage, though the ejector pin marks (left by the ejection of the casting from the mould) are hidden within the fuselage.

The model is finished overall in gold paint, and carries the registration marks G-ABTI. This is the registration given to the very first AW.15 delivered to Imperial Airways. The gold colour is not historical, but then Dinky produced the model in a variety of fictional colour schemes, including some very eye-catching sunburst patterns.

Dinky did not state a scale for their aircraft, and the early aircraft were certainly created to different scales. In the case of the Atalanta, at 102mm long and with a wingspan of 127mm the model scales out at roughly 1:215.

There’s something apt about a somewhat naïve model representing an early airliner like the Atalanta. If the model is occasionally slightly rickety, well I suspect the actual aircraft wasn’t faultless. In fact, I think the model is rather attractive and exudes some of the charm and glamour of 1930s travel. But let’s take a closer look at the aircraft it represents.

AW.15 Atalanta

The history of the AW.15 is bound up with that of Imperial Airways. Established in 1924, Imperial Airways were tasked by the British government with developing long-distance air services from the UK to the further reaches of the British Empire, establishing routes to South Africa, India, the Far East and Australia. In 1939, Imperial Airways were merged into BOAC (the British Overseas Airways Corporation).

The main routes operated by Imperial Airways, 1934.

Such long routes were challenging owing to the long-distances involved and the sparsity of local infrastructure to service the aircraft, and cater for the passengers. What Imperial Airways needed in their aircraft was long range, comfort and reliability.

Astraea, an AW.15, on the tarmac. Note the large passenger cabin windows under the wing.

The Armstrong Whitworth 15 was ordered directly off the drawing board by Imperial Airways, entering service in 1932 just a few months after its maiden flight. The aircraft was a striking departure from the complex biplanes that had served as airliners to that date, being a very modern-looking 4-engined monoplane of a streamlined design. Having four engines increased the safety of the aircraft, while the streamlining reduced drag, thus improving fuel consumption. The AW.15 had a range of 640 miles, and could cruise at 118mph. It carried 3-4 crew and in the cabin in the middle of the aircraft below the wing, could typically accommodate 9-11 passengers and luggage.

The rough-and-ready romance of 1930s air travel is captured well in this Imperial Airways advertisement featuring the Atalanta. After all, who needs airport infrastructure?

The small number of 8 aircraft were built and supplied to Imperial Airways, and through the 1930s they flew routes from Nairobi to Capetown, and Karachi to Singapore. In those romantic days, it was normal practice to name the individual aircraft, much as ships were named. The first aircraft was named Atalanta (from the classical Greek heroine), and thus it was this name that became associated with the AW.15 class thereafter.


The Atalanta model was produced in a variety of colour schemes, and when war broke out it was even painted in camouflage and impressed into RAF service as 66a Heavy Bomber. The real AW.15 was of course never used as a bomber, although it did serve with the Indian Air Force for a period during the war as a transport and coastal reconnaissance aircraft.

The Atalanta was mainly sold as part of set 60, which also included the following models:

  • 60b Leopard Moth
  • 60c Percival Gull Monoplane
  • 60d Low Wing Monoplane
  • 60e Monospar Monoplane
  • 60f Cierva Autogiro

Author: hexeres

Amateur photographer, military toy enthusiast, footslogger, dog lover, history buff and ebay trader to mention just a few...

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