Thursday, July 31, 2008

Day 13, July 29, 2008

Day 13, July 29, 2008 - Morning
Las Vegas is not my kind of town, but it is where GeminiJets is located. I picked up my son, Wynter, after his hiking trip in the mountains of Utah and we spent a day at the Grand Canyon before continuing west. I had never been to the Grand Canyon before and it is as spectacular as they say it is. I hope come back some day to spend more time. Las Vegas on the other hand is not a place I need to go again. Wynter and I walked the strip in the evening and checked out the famous Casinos. They were fascinating to see and I enjoyed the people watching, but I had no desire to gamble. This morning, the 29th, I’m happy to leave the hotel and head south of town to visit GeminiJets. This is more to my liking. The location of this business is ideal with a great view of the Las Vegas airport and the constant traffic of Southwest, Continental and more flights, along with a regular stream of corporate jets.

To all my customers who are collectors of 1:400 airline models, the rise of GeminiJets (see all Gemini models) in the last ten years to being the number one producer of scale airliner models comes as no surprise. The owner, Eliot, is a man who lives and breathes airliners and all models have to meet his stringent standards before they go to production. One of the reasons they have been so successful is the steadiness of their production and ability to stick to the delivery schedules they announce. With that in mind Eliot would not let me know what models were coming up in the future. Both because he doesn’t want the competition to find out what he is doing and because he doesn’t want to promise a model and then have it not come to production. Fair enough, holding the cards close is good business sense and works both to the benefit of me as a retailed and my customers as collectors.

We did discuss the spectacular success of the new 1:200 lines. These models have been selling fast and the early releases are sure to be desirable collectors models in the near future. Check out the new 1:200 models that just arrived a couple of weeks ago and the next round coming up in August.

For the warbird collector, the GeminiAces 1:72 series is also one of the best new lines. The release schedule is not as steady with these models, but more are coming, so stay tuned.

Day 13, July 29, 2008 – Afternoon
In the same day that I visited GeminiJets, I finally made it to California and stopped to visit with Dragon Models in LA. (It wasn’t until the next day that I got to stick my feet in the Pacific Ocean after having driving over 5500 miles). The two newest model variations that Dragon has done are the models with mini-dioramas. In the warbird lines models come with bunkers, compass platforms, etc These dioramas were a bit slow to sell at first, but are gaining in popularity as collectors become familiar with these well down landscapes (see all 1:72 Dragon Wings models).

In the airliner line there are now airport terminal sets with the models. The variations of the airport sets fit together to make a terminal building and ramp layout. The quality of the ramp pieces and terminal buildings is not equal to the mat set and terminal building available from GeminiJets. On the other hand the GeminiJets sets are quite expensive and take up a lot of space, so for the collector wanting to place airline models on a book shelf or small case the pieces for Dragon Wings work very well.

In my discussions with my rep, John Dizak, at Dragon it is clear to me that I am missing the boat on a lot of other lines offered by Dragon, not in diecast, but in model building. So look for a new website coming in the next few months supplying model kits from Dragon, Hasegawa, etc, and also books from Concorde and Signal Publications.

Friday, July 25, 2008

2008 Vendor Road Trip - Day 9, July 25, 2008

Finally made it to Phoenix. It got to 109 degrees today, so I’m glad I’m heading North toward Flagstaff to spent the night. Then I’ll head on to Salt Lake City to pick up my son, Wynter, who has been backpacking with his friends. Wynter and I will come back to Flagstaff for a couple of days recuperation from all the driving I’ve been doing and to see the Grand Canyon, which I have never been to before.

I had two vendor visits today, Pacific Modelworks and Flight Miniatures. Pacific Models is one of our sourcing companies for Mahogany models. Models hanging from the walls, on display stands, and in cabinets, surrounded the showroom. We have been getting a growing number of requests for these beautiful models, both from the stock items available and as custom models of customer’s airplanes. It is always fun to see a model come in that is an exact replica of a real plane owned by a customer. Pacific Modelworks has recently upgraded their production facilities in the Philippines toward bringing out new designs and an ever expanding desire to improve the product. With the rapid change in technology we’ve seen improved products reaching the market on a pretty consistent basis. If one compares a modern GeminiJet diecast model, with an early one, or the same with Herpa, or Corgi, etc, it is easy to see how technology has increased the ability to do fine details in just the past 10 years. And the technology changes keep coming.

Flight Miniatures is also retooling to keep up with the competition in plastic snap-fit models. Flight Miniature models (formerly Long Prosper) have been around for nearly twenty years and were the top of the line until a few years ago, when companies like Hogan Wings and Skymarks raised the bar in weight, detail, and feel of this style of model. Not a company to stay static, Flight Miniatures has come out with some new designs, the AN-124 and 787 and will be doing even more in the coming year. In some ways Flight Miniatures is not directly in competition with Hogan Wings and Skymarks as they shoot for a better price point, but their aim is a quality product and that is what they deliver. The packaging may not be as nice, but the models are worth every penny. The view from the company’s Cottonwood, AZ office was just spectacular as well. I sure wouldn’t mind that view out my office window.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Day 5, July 21, 2008
I’m seeing vendors in as sequential manner as I can, so today I am in Dallas, Texas and got a chance to visit with Wing Aero. Tomorrow I am meeting with my web software developers. The next stops coming up later this week will be of more interest to diecast airplane collectors. Once I get to Arizona I’ll be meeting with Modelworks, the source for the Mahogany models we sell, then on to Flight Miniatures, a source for Flight Miniature (aka Long Prosper) models and inFlight 1:500 and 1:200 scale models. Then I have to side track up to Salt Lake City to pick up my son before I head back to Las Vegas to visit with GeminiJets.

Wing Aero is a main supplier of mine for pilot supplies. As I stated in my last blog, was started as an aviation gift retail company. One direction we moved was into diecast airplanes with our dedicated site for that,, but we also expanded into a pilot supply shop with an ongoing effort to bring make books and equipment available to pilots and from our growing list of sources. Wing Aero has been instrumental in making this part of our business a success.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Day 2, July 18

Visited Born Aviation today in Indianapolis (pictured: David Born of Born Aviation and Steve Howland, owner Pilotwear & DiecastAirplane. This is a bit nostalgic for me as they were my first supplier going back 9 years to 1999 when I started my first aviation gift supply website, This is the first time I’ve meet these folks that I’ve worked with for several years now. The idea at first was to build an aviation gift site that carried some diecast airplanes, but it turned out that there really was a need for a top quality, dedicated diecast airplane site, so in 2002 was created and has been the real core of my business ever since, but we still have the aviation gift item store at and we keep added to, and expanding this store side by side with the diecast sites.

In fact we’ve got several new items coming the website from Born Aviation: Embroider aviation hats, some new t-shirts and more, so be sure to check out the site over the next few weeks to see what’s new.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Summer Vender Road Trip

If you are new to the blog by owner Steve Howland, welcome. If you are a regular newsletter subscriber then you know that I am out on the road making a round trip of the US from my home base of Massachusetts. The purpose of this trip is to meet with many of the manufacturers we represent at It is great to meet the folks we buy from on a weekly, and sometimes, daily basis. And is also great to find out more about the product lines, upcoming products, and more that helps us to serve our customers better. So enjoy the updates that should come every couple of days through August 18. Forgive me if I sometimes wax poetic about the fun of traveling this great country.

Day 1, July 17, 2008
I got on the road early this morning (4:30 AM) for the drive to Exton, PA where Franklin Mint is headquartered and arrived about 10:30. I got a chance to meet with Ed Hoopes who is a wholesale rep and Joe, who is the lead designer. At Franklin Mint airplanes are one of our leading lines as they pretty much have a corner on the big 1:48 scale warbirds market. With some great new designs - The F-22 last year  and the PBY Catalina this year -  they are bringing customers some spectacular models. The first two versions of the PBY are now in stock and are selling well. The F-22 has also been extremely popular and we are hoping to see more versions of this model in 2009. Joe says they are working on another modern fighter for next year, but couldn’t give me the details so we’ll have to wait for the 2009 Catalog to see what comes of that.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Geneseo, NY Airshow

July 11-13

Geneseo Air Show
Theme: 70th Anniversary of the P-40 Warhawk.
1941 Historic Aircraft Group
Geneseo, NY
“The Greatest Show on Turf”
Drove out on Friday to the Geneseo Air Show. This shows takes place at the 1941 Historic Air Group Museum. What is especially cool about this location is that is is a 5000' grass runway and a big open field.
The weather was a little cloudy on Friday with some passing showers and some of the planes coming in for the show, including biplanes, landi
ng in the rain. But on Saturday the weather was perfect.

I came to the Geneseo
with my Father, Dick Howland. Dad is ex Air Force and spent many years as a corporate pilot. As a result we can’t walk down a row of aircraft with finding someone that dad has a connection with. I wish I’d brought my video camera to capture dad swapping old flying stories with his buddies. I’ve got to put that on my list of things to do.

Not only did I not have my video camera (by choice as I decided to travel light), but I didn’t have my
still camera either. We’ll I did have the camera, but when I went to grab it and head for the flight line I turned it on to check the battery and the screen said “no memory card.” Darn, I’d left the camera card in my computer at home after cleaning off images. I did have my iPhone with has a descent build in camera, but ala
s, no zoom. So I’ve got some photos posted, which you can checkout here. All the photos are flight line photos, as I had no way to capture fly-bys. But, of course you can see lots of good photos and get more information on this great air show at

Half of the fun of watching these warbirds fly is the sound. Check out this track of a Corsair doing a fly-by.

(For more fantastic aircraft sound recordings check out t
hese Cds by aircraftrecordings available at )

This year at Geneseo was a salute to the P-40 and there were five here. It’s cool to see them operate at this all grass field. There were also a few Mustangs, a hurricane, a Hawker Sea Fury, and a corsair. Best of all I was out at the flight line when they fired up the Memphis belle B-17. This is not the original Memphis Belle, but is the one used for the movie. The original was scrapped after years of service. (Read more at It takes about 10 minutes of preflight checklists before the get the engines fired up. It obviously didn’t take the WWII crews that long to get going, but the airplanes were a little newer then.

The transient fly-in parking was as interesting as the warbird end of the field. There were lots of well-love, and painstakingly maintained older planes. I love this shot of an MG parked in front of the Fleet bi-plane. What a great pair.

In addition to the warbirds and the transient aircraft there is also a WWII encampment. Tents, sandbagged machine gun nests, jeeps, and even Germans.

Check all the great warbird diecast models for sale at