NAIA is the hub for PAL, Cebu Pacific, Air Philippines, PAL Express, Zest Air, and Air Asia. Hao has models of all in his miniature terminal. Photograph by Paulo Antonio Valenzuela
Culture Spotlight

How to collect model planes (and be smart about their upkeep)

From having a grasp of standard prices to preparing to face damages in the toy, here's what keeping a collection will entail 
Lora Lumba | Apr 24 2019

For 20 years, Mark Lester Hao has been a hobbyist, recreating Philippine aviation history in miniature models. His collection comprises nearly 1,000 models composed largely of the Philippines’s commercial airlines, with PAL aircrafts taking pride of place in the shelves in his office. Merging his love for Philippine planes and architecture led Hao to build an impressive and near-accurate diorama of Terminal 2 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. But also because he needed to house his PAL model planes. 

The diorama measures approximately 4x4 feet, big enough to house 1:400 diecast PAL planes. To estimate the terminal's size, Hao walked around the airport and measured it by counting his steps. Acrylic sheets were used for the building frame, with ceilings painted white. Tracks and tarmacs were handpainted on matte boards. Jet bridges, the control tower, and ground support equipment were handcrafted using styrene strips and other recycled materials.

Though the diorama captures the terminal, its aprons, and control tower in precise detail, Hao improvised when designing the taxiway.
Even ground service vehicles, are properly positioned and to scale.
Light-emitting diode (LED) lights from old cellphones were used to produce the spectacular lighting. Hao used transparent acrylic sheets for the windows to achieve the best illumination.
Hao’s collection. He has diecast model planes of more than 60 commercial airlines, including all Philippine carriers and at least 15 flag carriers across Asia.
FILDAC A350. The group’s signature diecast jet. It was designed by FILDAC member Cedric Niallsen Ampo and manufactured by American brand Inflight200. The plane is a charity project collaboration between FILDAC and Hobbiestock Collectibles.


If you want to get into the hobby of model planes and dioramas, here are tips and pertinent information about trading buying and selling.


Understand the Rates.

Because of the material used and limited production, diecast planes are sold at four-figure prices. Research on the rarity, age, and condition of the models you’re interested in as these factors affect price points.

Buy well-known brands and from legitimate distributors

For new collectors, it is the safest way to ensure high-quality products and a guarantee replacement if the purchase is damaged.

Sell by bulk

It’s more practical that way (e.g. buying by airline fleet, size, and model). Collectors are often iffy about selling solo pieces.

Pay attention to detail

Fake diecast models are uncommon because the metal materials alone are costly, and production is reliant on equally expensive machines. Since diecast models are always released on a limited basis, poor quality is not a concern. However, it is a possibility for overruns. While attention to detail is subjective, it doesn’t hurt to check the box and the product before purchase.

Keep it cool

Preserve your collection in airtight glass compartments or shelves to prevent dust from accumulating. Don’t expose your collectibles to direct sunlight or high temperatures to prevent paint from staining, fading, or melting.


Household items like cotton buds, water mixed with soap, and a dry cloth can do the trick. Lighter fluid is helpful as a dry cleaning solvent to remove dirt and stains. Use alcohol cautiously and sparingly, if at all, as it melts paint. Clean your collection once every two months.

If dioramas aren’t covered, a gentle sweep gets rid of dust. Make it a habit to check miniatures for wear and tear, so repairs can be done when the damage is at its early stage.

Expect inevitable damage, such as:

Zinc rot: For models made of metal, impurities in the material are built into the production process. This leads to zinc rot, resulting in cracks or models bending out of shape. Unfortunately, affected parts can’t be repaired or replaced, nor are they covered by warranty because the rot manifests years down the line. Luckily, most models hold up well.

Yellowing: This happens to most plastic models, including diecast planes using plastic for parts like wings, for example. Yellowing also occurs on stickers and paint.


Photographs by Paulo Antonio Valenzuela

This article originally appeared on Vault Magazine Issue 19 No 1 2019