Miami’s newest (and tiniest) airport is a dream come true
MIA employee’s pandemic past-time is now a $10,000, 60-square-foot scale model
National Aviation Day is celebrated annually on August 19 but for Dennys Emilio Gonzalez, a Senior Aviation Property Manager at Miami International Airport, every day is Aviation Day. That’s because, for the last year and a half Dennys has managed MIA’s real estate properties by day, and by night he has built his own mini-airport property – in his spare bedroom at his North Miami Beach townhome.
Since March 2020, Dennys has spent long evening hours working on a childhood dream of building a 1:200 scale model airport, complete with two main terminals, a passenger tram system, commuter terminal, hangar building, cargo hub, and a fully functional two-train system within a surrounding city that features roads, traffic lights, wayfinding signs, bus stations, and vehicles.
Eighteen months of pandemic-induced social distancing and about $10,000 later, Dennys Gonzalez (DG’s) International Airport is almost complete.
I’ve easily put about 1,200 hours of work and dedication altogether with great attention to details, although I do not necessarily work every day in the project. The base of the model is made from insulation boards. LEDs and fiber optics is used as lighting. Apron’s tire marks were created with sanded graffiti from pencils. The accessories are mixed, with some of it of my own craftmanship and others bought at hobby stores or similar sources. If I had more space, I would definitely create something even larger, and my runway and taxiways would then be more proportionate. But hey, I can’t complain.
As a kid, I always had a passion for the airline industry. At age four my dad would stop for hours by the airport perimeter roads for me to watch airplanes land and takeoff. My dream job was to become a pilot or to manage an airport. At age 18, in Havana, I worked at the Jose Martí Airport pushing bags into aircraft bellies, and at the end of my shift, I would volunteer to work with the aircraft cleaning crews just to have a chance to go around the airport ramps and to sneak inside the airplanes!
My first job in the U.S. was at MIA as a passenger service agent for Carnival Airlines. It was hard to fulfill my dream of becoming a pilot. Instead, I completed my master’s degree in public administration, which afforded me a job with the Miami-Dade County government over 15 years ago. My goal was to one day work for the Aviation Department, which became a reality in 2016. The opportunity to be up close to MIA’s airfield over these past few years reignited my old dream of building my own scale airport model at home.
While Dennys has stayed humble about his own mini airport, he hopes that the attention it gets will help to inspire young aviation enthusiasts to follow their passion.
Aviation is a vast world. We touch so many modes of transportation, and we influence so many other types of industries. So, I think that every kid exploring his or her future should be exposed to what we do here at MIA and realize the many opportunities that our industry fosters and supports in terms of jobs and career creation. Quite frankly, I have kept my scale model low-profile. Only friends and family know about it. But hey, like any other hobby-master, who doesn’t like to be recognized for this type of inspiring work?