This story originally appeared in the article “Mighty Models” from The Entertainment Issue of APEX Experience.
Stephen Koulouthros is the super-collector who’s ordered the 39-foot-long model of the Embraer 190 for the atrium of his new home in Panama. He’s designed the atrium as a “Museum of Air,” showcasing the 2,200 models he’s collected over 38 years, and recently insured for $1 million. “I love airplanes,” says Koulouthros, not surprisingly. “I’m a pilot, and I’ve worked in the airlines.”
On the other side of the Atlantic, super-collector Gökhan Sarigöl figures he’s invested “around $2 million” in his astounding collection of more than 5,000 models. He started collecting in 1980 as a hobby, while living close to the Istanbul airport, and now operates an airlines services company in Turkey. Even with such a mammoth collection, Sarigöl has his favorites. “I love them all, but especially the metal Vickers Viscounts, made in the 1950s by Walker’s Westway Models in the UK.”
“I love them all, but especially the metal Vickers Viscounts, made in the 1950s by Walker’s Westway Models in the UK.” – Gökhan Sarigöl
While collectors like Sarigöl and Koulouthros cast a wide net, others specialize in one area of interest. Seattle-based aviation writer Bernie Leighton travels all over the world chasing Cold War-era, Soviet-built aircraft, oftentimes having arranged to be a passenger in an incredibly loud and questionably safe airplane. About a third of Leighton’s 300-model collection features “Iron Curtain” aircraft with unpronounceable names of obscure types unknown even to enthusiasts. “My favorite is my Myasishchev 3MD Soviet Air Force cruise missile bomber. Only nine of the actual airplane were built in 1960,” says Leighton.
In Montreal, visitors to the offices of travel industry executive Joel Ostrov are greeted by a wall of almost 50 large desktop aircraft models. Beautifully lit, the display could be at home in a museum, and is equally well curated. Showpieces include a BOAC-Cunard Vickers VC-10 and an American Airlines Convair CV-990. Ostrov got the airplane bug as a kid, after taking a flight from Montreal to Miami with his parents. A model of that Eastern Air Lines Boeing 727-100 sits proudly on his desk.