The 1960s were a time of innovative design in many things, including cars, buildings, clothing and, of course, signage. Today, we find so many enduring items from the mid-century for which appreciation has only grown. We cannot bring back those days, but we can carry on the styles. This is what the Syracuse Regional Airport Authority (NY) did by replacing a red scripted neon “Syracuse” sign that’s perched over the south concourse of the passenger terminal in the Syracuse Hancock International Airport with an LED-lit channel letter equivalent. Part of the rationale for the change was the weather.
Syracuse has brutal winters. Total snowfall of 60 in. is not unusual, and winds can exceed 40 mph. As Linda Ryan, aviation contracting officer of the Syracuse Regional Airport Authority explained, such conditions have taken a toll on the 1962 sign, which blacked out often in winter and cost around $15,000 annually to maintain.
The Authority brought in the Allied Sign Company (Syracuse, NY), which proposed a sign matching in size, style and color, but using LED-lit channel letters for better reliability. Fully installed cost was $24,200. “The new LED sign is brighter, requires virtually no maintenance and will produce long-term cost savings,” Ryan said.
The first project challenge involved precisely replicating the letters from the metal originals. Greg Fishel, Allied Sign’s sales director, said his team took a careful survey and head-on photos of each letter, which were imported to SAi Flexi, traced and scaled to size to create the sign pattern. Overall dimensions are 9 ft. 6 in. x 4 ft. 1.5 in.
The sign body was constructed from pre-painted aluminum coil stock. The team at Allied Sign crafted the backing of the letters and faces on an AXYZ 6010 CNC router. Then the faces were shaped using a traditional jewel trimming method. For added strength, the sign faces were adhered to the trim using two adhesives, Scigrip 3 and 16 solvent cements. The channel letters are 5 in. deep and use SloanLED VL Plus Series modules in white.
The installation required a three- person crew with two 45-ft. bucket trucks. Trying weather conditions posed a second challenge. “Safety is always our number one priority. We had to interrupt installation the first day due to high winds and resume the next,” Fishel said. The final electrical load for the LED sign that runs on a 120V, 20-amp circuit is 9 amps. The neon sign required six 120V, 20-amp circuits. Interestingly, the Syracuse airport is poised to undergo a $35 million renovation in the coming months, including a new museum that will display the 1962 neon sign.