The dignitaries lined up, the limo’s blocked the thoroughfare, members of Parliament lined up for photo opportunities, airline chiefs from Virgin Atlantic to American, China Southern and Qantas, IcelandAir to Lufthansa, Royal Jordanian to Qatar and dozens more chatted and compared notes. They were here to watch the Leonard Nimoy International Terminal open at the reconstructed airport.
The principle design philosophy was to reach 35 on-display aircraft, with a key element being some means of servicing single aisle jets, regionals and turbo-props. There was also a requirement to have an aircraft serving facility for BA & Virgin Atlantic and at least a 3 bay cargo facility with a cargo servicing hangar. This would represent a 25% increase in space (a huge challenge as the base unit cannot expand). There was also a demand that a runway at full width be provided for the taxiway to feed directly to/from.
Now I fully appreciate that I have no patience anymore to build or manufacture a bespoke airport, 30 years ago maybe, but not now. Besides with two Gemini terminals and the Herpa circular satellite, (which even though it’s 1:500 works perfectly well with 1:400, along with the floodlights and armed gates), there was way too much already available to ignore.
If you’re wondering why I put the tower on the terminal, it’s simple. It’s the only place you can see the entire airport from, anywhere else and it has blind spots!
It took two sets of the First Choice foils to make this work, as well as parts left over from the last refit in October 2014. Why these, despite their drawbacks? Firstly they are easy to modify and reposition, as well as cut to requirement, the Gemini is far too rigidly set for a one terminal display and lacks flexibility despite it’s better print quality.
I did opt to have a go with a new A1 sized 1:400 layout from Airpsotters.com. This would have provided cargo and singe aisle space neatly laid out, but the paper quality was so poor compared to the First Choice, and worst still the colours were just useless. The blacks and greys were various shades of moss and olive green and looked ridiculous. Airspotters.com are the retailer for this but they come direct from the printer in Birmingham, you and I know who you are – and frankly I cannot believe you let this get sent out. Airspotters, always first class with their customer service refunded the £18 and the item’s been recycled.
So in the end the full First Choice option was all that was left. This would now have to be applied to 3 A1 5mm foam boards. For reasons I won’t bore you with, the bottom end of the layout is now A0 size (2xA1), with the narrow section being another A1 plus half an A1 board (equal to an A2 space) cut through the middle lengthwise. The AO is considerably (i.e. massively) over the size of the base unit so to support the considerable overhangs I’ve had to bolt brackets on to take the weight – not of the boards, but of the aircraft and especially the Gemini hangar that weighs a ton!
The supporting base unit is where the models live. The thing that now comes up and I hadn’t thought too hard about was that I now can’t reach easily the middle end of the A0 zone, (where the Herpa maintenance hangar is)!
Having lost the intended foil for the cargo it took some hit and miss layout attempts to make the cargo space work in an area I could easily reach. The same went for he Herpa terminal. Compromises had to be made. There is an underlying structural issue that cannot be overcome in the layout so that had to be ignored, roadways had to be put in and cut that were not originally part of the plan, lines to to be applied for parking/gate areas in several places. I’m not always keen to put these down as I often like to move things about after a few weeks.
I’ve now learnt that small amounts of white-tac is the best way for installing gates and floodlights. They move if you knock them or catch them, without breaking. They can also be moved easily if they don’t work out without wrecking the foil below if you use glue.
I chose a new ‘Universal Airport Terminal’ idea. Heathrow is using the Uniport Toast Rack System when it’s complete, probably the most efficient system there is. The idea is that the entire airport will no longer be seen as a series of terminals. Just two, effectively spilt One World at the West End, so BA who have 56% of the airports slots, plus its allies and The Queens Terminal to house everyone else in the centre.
I’ve tried to have a Oneworld & Virgin Atlantic terminal with StarAlliance and Skyteam on the other, but it just doesn’t work. Two alliances have far more than OneWorld, even with the number of aircraft models BA & Oneworld and Virgin have between them. So the merged single terminal only has one requirement; Virgin Atlantic always get the South West corner. The 748i/A380 F stands, now 2 of them are on the North East corner.
I have had to accept that some things don’t look perfect, partly it’s a lack of patience, partly it’s practicality. A lot of tinkering has yet to be done, especially tidying up the taxiway merger into the runway which had to be changed after I nearly took my eye out with the corner – my desk is now under the runway overhang! Try explaining the cut you got over your eye with, “well I was just building a runway for my model airport and…”
And of course now there’s already tiny traces of dust building. Despite the Roomba keeping dust levels down to way lower than before we had it, it still happens. Negative pressure in the room is the answer of course…..
However much to my surprise, the goal was achieved; 36 on-display aircraft, around 10% of the active collection any day of the week. And without terminal alliance concerns, it’s easier to deploy a mix at will.
Why the Leonard Nimoy International Terminal you may or may not ask? I met him a few years ago in Los Angeles, he was at a friends house for dinner and I had no idea he would be there. He’s a childhood hero of mine, and I admire his photography. He was an exceptional conversationalist, erudite and entertaining, his death this year was a very sad day. It just seemed like a personal, nice thing to do and I’m pretty sure it would have made him laugh.
So there you have it. It won’t be everyone’s taste and I can appreciate that. Really I’d just like a 2025 version of Heathrow to be honest, but in scale terms I’d need another 300 square feet to achieve that! This is the largest in this house, the airport can ever get. Until we move to San Francisco permanently, which will be years away, nothing much will change size wise. The layout might last 18 months, maybe 12!