On Collecting Criteria: Inside One Collector's Mind

Aircraft models are not cheap, and there is an ever-increasing inventory to choose from. Therefore, it is important for airplane lovers to define a focus for their collection in order to avoid succumbing to every single new release and subsequently running out of space and money in a hurry.

Collecting criteria is a topic often discussed among collectors, and it ranges widely from people that focus on aircraft they have flown on, to those that collect only one aircraft type or one particular model brand.

I personally have a number of criteria, but the overarching theme is that I need to have some sort of meaningful connection with the model, other than it being an airplane model and me liking airplanes. Although I have to admit that there are a handful of models that have found their way into my collection just by virtue of being nice and me not having anything better to do that particular day.

Recently I got a set of new arrivals that included some airplanes that I chose to add to my collection for rather unusual reasons. So, I thought it would be fun to take a look at them and see some of the weird stuff that goes on in the mind of some collectors before deciding to drop cash on models.

Number 1

Air France Cargo 777-F28 F-GUOB by Phoenix Models:

I have always seen freighter aircraft as exotic subjects since they usually are aircraft from a previous generation and wear not-so-common liveries. This is not exactly the case for an Air France Cargo 777-200, but it is the case for many of the other freighters in my collection, many of which were common visitors of IAH during the 2010s. Air France Cargo 777s were also common at IAH during that time, so based on that I could start tying this 777 to an existing criterion in my collection: The IAH Exotic Freighters. Additionally, Air France happens to be the European airline that has brought the most variety of aircraft types to Venezuela, the country in which I was born and raised, and because of that I also have a significant fleet of their passenger aircraft in my collection. So that’s another section of my collection in which this model could fit right in. But there is a third reason that pushed this aircraft over the edge and into my collection.

While flying light aircraft in the Houston area in the 2009-2013 period, I used to practice instrument procedures using a navigational aid called the Trinity VOR located to the east of Houston. During my time as a student and instructor pilot in the area, the Trinity VOR was not used by airline traffic arriving or departing Houston, and I remember jokingly saying to colleagues that the VOR was put there exclusively for training.

One night in what I think was the fall of 2017, I was at home without much going on, while a massive thunderstorm was unfolding outside. I went to check Flight Aware.com to see how the air traffic over Houston was being affected, and to my surprise, an Air France Cargo 777 coming in from MEX was on approach to runway 27 at IAH. The airport was covered by red radar returns and my night suddenly turned a bit more exciting as I kept following the flight wondering how things were going to pan out. Watching on FlightAware I saw the flight discontinue the approach - thankfully - and proceed to, you guessed it, the Trinity VOR to enter a holding pattern. I took a picture of my laptop monitor as I had never seen the VOR being used for anything other than training. Over the years I have shared that picture with colleagues from the flight training days any time the situation calls for it. When I saw this model of an Air France Cargo 777-F28 available in stores it immediately reminded me of that night and that picture of my monitor, which I still keep.

Number 2

Aerocaribbean Ilyushin IL-18 CU-C1515 by Aeroclassics

When Aeroclassics released two Aerocaribbean IL-18s in September 2022 this picture immediately came to my mind:

As it turns out, the aircraft in the photo was CU-C1515, one of the two IL-18s released by Aeroclassics.

The photo was taken at CCS airport in 2009. The largest category of my collection is composed of aircraft that have visited Venezuela. However, this criterion generally focuses on international carriers that visited the country during the eighties and nineties. I become a lot more selective with anything that falls outside of that time period, such as this IL-18. In this case, however, the decision to add it to my collection was easy because the subject is very unique. So much so, that I still remembered seeing that particular picture of it at CCS after many years. Another thing that prompted me to get this model is the lack of propeller-driven and soviet aircraft in my collection.

This wouldn’t be the first time that I add a model to my collection because it reminds me of a picture that left a lasting impression on me. One of my first models in 1:400 scale was Ecuatoriana DC-10-30 HC-BKO by GeminiJets, and I got it because it immediately reminded me of a photo taken by Girmay Tesfay that I had seen on Airliners.net years before.

Number 3

Mesa Airlines CRJ-900 N924LR by GeminiJets

This one becomes the first CRJ to join my collection of 280+ aircraft models, so that should tell you how I feel about this aircraft type. I can also tell you that I don't think Mesa’s current logo (it’s not much of a livery) is attractive at all, which is a shame because I really liked their previous classic sun logo. Finally, while current U.S. carriers do have a place in my collection, they are pretty low on the priority list.

So, why did I get it? Well, I got to wear wings with that ugly logo on the left side of my chest for almost six years. So needless to say, I was very moved when I saw this CRJ released in the colors of a company that will forever be an important part of my life. I should point out that I didn’t fly the CRJ, I only flew the E-175 with them. However, since the only aircraft that wore the company's own logo were three CRJ-900s, I knew this was, for the time being, my only opportunity to have a true Mesa Airlines model in 1:400 scale, instead of one wearing the livery of one of the major airline partners with the “Operated by Mesa Airlines” titles.

And that is how three scale models representing aircraft from very different walks of life find their way into the same collection due to reasons as different as the aircraft themselves. Or this could also be an example of how collectors rationalize their aircraft model problem :). Happy collecting!

Jorge A. Zajia