HAMBURG — Last Monday, a day before the delivery of American Airlines’ first Airbus A319 and all of the associated events, I had a couple of free hours to explore Hamburg before a press dinner that night. Being a humongous #avgeek – I was naturally drawn to visit the Knuffingen Airport exhibit at Hamburg’s Miniatur Wunderland (Miniature Wonderland) – also the world’s largest model airport, with more than 150 square meters in floor space.  Opening in May 2011, the airport exhibit reportedly took 6 years to build at a cost of more than $5 million and is loosely based on the real life Hamburg Airport. Miniatur Wunderland is one of Hamburg’s most famous tourist attractions, and features 9 other dioramas including ones themed after Switzerland, Hamburg city, and America.

I was staying at the Park Hyatt in Central Hamburg, and Miniatur Wunderland was in the so-called docklands – roughly 2 kilometers to the Southwest. My walking route took me through a beautiful commercial district of Hamburg, and past the old city hall or Rathaus.

The commercial district of Hamburg that I walked through. (Credits: Author)
The commercial district of Hamburg that I walked through. (Credits: Author)
The old Hamburg City Hall or Rathaus. (Credits: Author)
The old Hamburg City Hall or Rathaus. (Credits: Author)
A canal in the "docklands" of Hamburg - Hamburg has some beautiful and picturesque canals/waterways. (Credits: Author)
A canal in the “docklands” of Hamburg – Hamburg has some beautiful and picturesque canals/waterways. (Credits: Author)
The building containing Miniatur Wunderland – the area had plenty of tourist attractions including something called Hamburg Dungeon. (Credits: Author)
The building containing Miniatur Wunderland – the area had plenty of tourist attractions including something called Hamburg Dungeon. (Credits: Author)

At 15 Euros, my pre-reserved ticket was reasonably priced and I immediately made a bee-line for the model airport. And it was mind-blowing… I’ve seen model airports before, both in person, and on online forums such as Wings900. I’ve even seen pictures and video taken at the model Amsterdam Airport diorama at Madurodam – another working model airport. But all of them pale in comparison to the behemoth Knuffingen Airport –
which features such incredible detailing that it left me speechless. I started on the far left end; where there is a working cargo and maintenance apron along with a general aviation area featuring some historical aircraft.

The cargo ramp at Knuffingen Airport. (Credits: Author)
The cargo ramp at Knuffingen Airport. (Credits: Author)
General Aviation section of the cargo ramp. (Credits: Author)
General Aviation section of the cargo ramp. (Credits: Author)
Lufthansa Technik hangar at Knuffingen Airport. Lufthansa Technik is a major employer in the Hamburg area. (Credits: Author)
Lufthansa Technik hangar at Knuffingen Airport. Lufthansa Technik is a major employer in the Hamburg area. (Credits: Author)
A quad-jet Boeing 707 with collapsed landing gear in a corner of the cargo ramp seems eerily apropos given recent events. (Credits: Author)
A quad-jet Boeing 707 with collapsed landing gear in a corner of the cargo ramp seems eerily apropos given recent events. (Credits: Author)

I then moved along to look at the runway and the assorted buildings on the air-field. There are more than 300 buildings on the diorama. The working runway is the crown jewel of Knuffingen Airport – taking up close to half of total production costs – and a take-off is depicted in the following video:

Antonov AN-225 model lining up to take off on the working runway. (Credits: Author)
Antonov AN-225 model lining up to take off on the working runway. (Credits: Author)
The monitors that control take offs and landings. (Credits: Author)
The monitors that control take offs and landings. (Credits: Author)

Cargo and Logistics building. (Credits: Author)
Cargo and Logistics building. (Credits: Author)
Baggage Handling. (Credits: Author)
Baggage Handling. (Credits: Author)
Control Tower. (Credits: Author)
Control Tower. (Credits: Author)

Then I turned around to look at the main apron and ramp for passenger aircraft, though there were a few cargo aircraft sprinkled in.

Passenger aircraft scattered across the apron at Knuffingen Airport. (Credits: Author)
Passenger aircraft scattered across the apron at Knuffingen Airport. (Credits: Author)
Main ramp and terminal building at Knuffingen Airport. (Credits: Author)
Main ramp and terminal building at Knuffingen Airport. (Credits: Author)

The aircraft models were top-notch; and the variety and quantity of them could only be described as “airplane porn.” The diorama started with 40 model airplanes, but has easily crossed the 50 models mark; including a couple on static display.

China Eastern A330 at the gate. (Credits: Author)
China Eastern A330 at the gate. (Credits: Author)
Emirates 777 on the ramp - Emirates actually serve Hamburg Airport in real life with a 777. (Creditts: Author)
Emirates 777 on the ramp – Emirates actually serve Hamburg Airport in real life with a 777. (Creditts: Author)
TuiFly taxis out. (Credits: Author)
TuiFly taxis out. (Credits: Author)
A "Doctors Without Borders" cargo plane. (Credits: Author)
A “Doctors Without Borders” cargo plane. (Credits: Author)
Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-800 - another real life visitor to Hamburg Airport. (Credits; Author)
Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-800 – another real life visitor to Hamburg Airport. (Credits; Author)
Swiss surrounded by ground equipment just prior to departure. (Credits: Author)
Swiss surrounded by ground equipment just prior to departure. (Credits: Author)
Aeroflot TU-154 on the ramp with a UPS MD-11. (Credits: Author)
Aeroflot TU-154 on the ramp with a UPS MD-11. (Credits: Author)
Lufthansa Airbus A-321 Retrojet. (Credits: Author)
Lufthansa Airbus A-321 Retrojet. (Credits: Author)
Lufthansa Airbus A-321 Retrojet. (Credits: Author)
Lufthansa Airbus A-321 Retrojet. (Credits: Author)

The ground service equipment (GSE) is also excellently done with fine detailing.

Baggage handling equipment. The ramp looks spotless!. (Credits: Author)
Baggage handling equipment. The ramp looks spotless!. (Credits: Author)
Buses all lined up with many places to go.(Credits: Author)
Buses all lined up with many places to go.(Credits: Author)
Fuel Truck
BP fuel truck heads down perimeter road…are they a sponsor?. (Credits: Author)
A Lufthansa Regional CRJ alongside a classic passenger Douglas DC-6, definitely something you don't see everyday at a real airport. (Credits: Author)
A Lufthansa Regional CRJ alongside a classic passenger Douglas DC-6, definitely something you don’t see everyday at a real airport. (Credits: Author)

The terminal building is extremely realistic – the jetways even slowly move into place and back out when an aircraft arrives and departs respectively. The terminal building features 15,000 mini human figurines.

These jet-bridges swing into position, but where's the HSBC logo which is so commonplace these days?. (Credits: Author)
These jet-bridges swing into position, but where’s the HSBC logo which is so commonplace these days?. (Credits: Author)
Landside buildings after the nighttime lighting has come on. (Credits: Author)
Landside buildings after the nighttime lighting has come on. (Credits: Author)

Terminal Building and Parking Lot. (Credits: Author)
Terminal Building and Parking Lot. (Credits: Author)
Terminal building up close. (Credits: Author)
Terminal building up close. (Credits: Author)
Departures Level of Terminal Building. (Credits: Author)
Departures Level of Terminal Building. (Credits: Author)
Jetway up Close. (Credits: Author)
Jetway up Close. (Credits: Author)
Jetway zoomed in so you can see the human figurines. (Credits: Author)
Jetway zoomed in so you can see the human figurines. (Credits: Author)
Parking garage. (Credits: Author)
Parking garage. (Credits: Author)

One of the really cool features of the airport was the flight information display screen (FIDS) that actually showed an accurate list of the flights that would take off and land and the timings.

FIDS screen. (Credits: Author)
FIDS screen. (Credits: Author)

Another great feature was the day/night switch – which happened roughly once every 10-15 minutes. Basically, the entire room goes dark and the lights built into the model are switched on. This night/day switch was present in all of the dioramas.

Lights on the runway. (Credits: Author)
Lights on the runway. (Credits: Author)
Cargo apron at “night”. (Credits; Author)
Cargo apron at “night”. (Credits: Author)
Aircraft lined up at the terminal building at “night”. (Credits: Author)
Aircraft lined up at the terminal building at “night”. (Credits: Author)

After spending nearly 45 minutes at the model airport diorama, I decided to take a quick look at the rest of the diorama before rushing back to the hotel for a press dinner that night. I liked all of the dioramas – especially the one of Hamburg city. There is something for fans of all forms of transport – train, car, plane, or boat.

Soccer stadium from the Hamburg diorama. (Credits: Author)
Soccer stadium from the Hamburg diorama. (Credits: Author)
Bridge. (Credits: Author)
Bridge. (Credits: Author)
Part of Hamburg. (Credits: Author)
Part of Hamburg. (Credits: Author)
Train tracks and industrial diorama. (Credits: Author)
Train tracks and industrial diorama. (Credits: Author)
Port Diorama. (Credits: Author)
Port Diorama. (Credits: Author)

Overall, visiting the Miniatur Wunderland was an incredible experience. If you ever find yourself in Hamburg or Northern Germany – I highly suggest a visit. Here’s the professionally produced video of the miniature airport which will leave you gobsmacked!