My airport designs tend to focus strongly on the airside terminal and gate area. Primarily this is because it is the aircraft that interest me so building carparks and such is not a top priority. Indeed, I design the airport layout to maximise usage of space and avoid ‘wasted’ non-airside areas. I also usually ignore runways since they take up a lot of real estate and can only feature a few aircraft on them at any one time.
My existing Xin Long model shows these features and there is little space that isn’t airside. Control towers kind of fall between the cracks of my method since they often sit in the limbo position beyond the terminal itself. They have therefore until now rarely featured and I’ve viewed them as disposable additions.
The background is one of the most difficult areas of any airport to get correct. Creating a view that looks plausible from different angles and is at the right scale or fitting with the foreground is really hard. I have been lucky to be able to engineer something that looks ok, but I have always struggled at the corners of the diorama where the backboards meet with the side boards of the display. Removing the join line is something I have tended to try in post-production.
Below you can see how the corner looked before. The electrical wire didn't help matters:
The corner of my terminal 2 board has been a bit of a wasted space anyway. It had had a single widebody gate in it on the end of the I pier but the aircraft didn’t fit well and I had run out of airbridges for it also. I decided that I would try and kill two birds with one stone and refresh the gate space while adding a control tower, which could assist in hiding the backboard corner join.
My only problem was how to build a control tower. Most of my airports are built from unwanted household items and offcuts. Not only do these things provide a unique look, but they often mimic well the curves and shapes of buildings. I have never been a fan of the plastic terminals made by the likes of Gemini.
With the base area of the tower now known I could redesign the gate space around it. This involved repainting the apron, removing the old widebody gate and replacing it with a single narrowbody gate, not served by an airbridge. Around the base block I added some roads and parking.
Above: Ramp re-painting begins
Below: The updated ramp layout
The next step was to cut the foil innertube to the right length and paint all the tower components grey. Once this was done it was just a matter of attaching the elements and sticking windows on the tower to make it look like a building rather than some kind of bizarre sculpture.
As an additional way to hide the board join, I also taped that area, hiding the electrical wire behind the tape, and repainted it to match the existing sky and clouds. Altogether I’m quite happy with the outcome. The tower provides a nice focal point for the corner of the airfield and hides the corner join area well. Meanwhile the apron beneath it makes more sense and looks nicer than the rather messy space that was there before.
Hopefully this proves once again that you don’t need to spend money on expensive pre-built, and unrealistic, airport sets or need great modelling skills to build a decent airport model. You just need some interesting household objects, a plan and some very basic paint ability.
I'm Richard Stretton, an aviation enthusiast and major collector of 400 scale model aircraft. This blog discusses ongoing events in the world of 400 scale.
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