Article as it appears in the December 24th The Columbian newspaper.

Any aviation enthusiast would be delighted to find this model of an F-16 fighter under the Christmas tree. But there wouldn’t be room for much of anything else.

It’s 8 feet long, and that’s just part of the exhibit; the display also has a hands-on component. A person can sit in a full-size replica of the pilot’s seat and use cockpit controls to move the plane around on its display base.

The “pilot” can hit the afterburner switch to trigger a ring of glowing LEDs.

The F-16 also has working landing gear, complete with shock absorbers, even though the wheels will never hit the runway.

The F-16 is headed for the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology, in Syracuse, N.Y.

Taking shape nearby is a replica of an Atlas rocket, but you can cross that one off your shopping list, too. At 36 feet long and 5 feet in diameter, you couldn’t afford the gift wrap.

The replica of the NASA launch vehicle is the biggest project ever undertaken at J&S Technologies, owner John Geigle said.

The Atlas rocket also is headed for the museum in New York.

The Vancouver fabrication shop has been turning out museum-quality replicas for displays and exhibits for several years. The products keep getting more sophisticated, as illustrated by the second-generation replicas of a pair of Mars rovers.

After building Mars rovers about three years ago, Geigle’s craftsmen are putting the finishing touches on a new-and-improved version of the Red Planet explorers.

“We have a lot more information now,” said Geigle.

Three years ago, resources for his design team were pretty much limited to photos on the NASA Web site. Now the model shop has a relationship with the California Institute of Technology, home of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In addition to thousands of additional images, “We got one blueprint, for a rover arm,” Geigle said.

“JPL sent up a representative and he asked if he needed a clean-room suit. He said it looked that real,” Geigle said. “We laughed.”

One of the new Mars rovers will spend a few months at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland before heading for its permanent home at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Ore.

Geigle said he will keep the other rover as part of his own space-inspired exhibit. “We’re trying to break into the traveling exhibit field,” he said.

Some of J&S Technologies’ museum replicas are for sale to the public, by the way. The shop has created a 1/12th-scale model of the “Little Boy” atomic bomb for the gift shop of the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History in New Mexico.