So, you have a collection of model airplanes, and you want to display them in a realistic manner by building a model airport. In this article I am going to give you some tips on how to build that first model airport.
Scale and Space
How much space do you have available? This is the first question you need to answer. In addition to the space, what scale are you going to be using? There are several scales available. The most popular scales are 1:200, 1:400 and 1:500 (largest to smallest respectively). The smaller the scale, the more “stuff” (such as terminals, hangars, runways, gates, etc) you can incorporate on your airport.
The first material you need to choose is the base on which you are going to build your airport. You can use plywood, particle board, or Styrofoam insulation panels. If you are going to be painting the tarmac, you want to find the smoothest surface possible.
Are you making a real or a fantasy airport? If you are considering building a real airport, you need to get the layout of the airport you want to re-create, including all the necessary measurements if possible. You can look on the internet for the specifications of the airport you want to build.
On the other hand, if you are building a fantasy airport, let your imagination guide you. Look around at airport sites on the internet, or airport magazines to get some ideas.
You are going to need as a minimum a main terminal building. The size of your terminal building will depend on how much space you have available, and the layout of the airplane pads. In addition, you may want to add a domestic terminal, an international terminal, a cargo area, a commuter terminal, hangars, fuel depot, etc. It all depends on how much room you have and on your layout.
For the runway/taxiway markings you can use colored markers, or drafter’s tape in different colors. You can find these at your local arts and crafts store.
For the landscaping you can go to your local miniature railroad store or hobby shop, and use some of the landscape material they offer. Materials such as trees, grass, gravel, etc. These will add a ton of realism to your diorama.
These are some basic tips to help you with your first airport. If you need any more information, I would suggest looking on the internet for model airport forums such as Wings 900, 400 Scale hangar, Diecast Aircraft forum. The members there are full of information and tips, not to mention a lot of photos from fellow airport enthusiast.