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You're obviously not alone in wanting an airport, though. The aftermarket prices on #3182 indicates strong demand.
Sorry this is a mere rant on the state of the building system ive come to realize in the year since coming back into the hobby.
While the large fuselage does look a bit hokey, it serves a purpose, which is to keep the prices, and box weight, down. It is the same reason why the 'terminal' for the airport is not that big, it is too try to keep it under 99.99 USD.
Same reason for the train. You do not want a heavy train model that would take two motors to get it up to speed would you? (it would also add cost and likely cause the motors to burn out quicker)
As for the boat pieces, if I am not mistaken they float. At least that would make sense why they are one big piece. The Pirate ship is not floatable I think as it is made of pieces still, but then again look at the rest of it, pretty spartan IMO
Lego definitely have to bring out more modular sets.
Small sets that work on their own, but also fit together to make a greater construction.
1. Plane with passengers and runway,( 3 or 4 runway plates).
2. Baggage cart with taxi-ing lane (1 or 2 plates) and cargo building.
3. Airport Terminal with coach depot and taxi rank (1 or 2 plates).
each set priced at £40-60.
I can then decide if my airport needs more Runways or more Airport terminals.
This also allows relatives to work together to buy all the sets for a special child. :)
They have done this before so why not now?
Other than that change, the main difference is in the streamlined nose pieces we have nowadays, and I think this is what tends to bother a lot of people most. And I'll admit it sometimes seems "Duplo-ish" to a degree. But while it does limit the potential uses of those nose pieces, I think the sets still offer plenty of building value, and feel less "old-fashioned" than they would have with angular slope bricks.
Maybe one day LEGO might introduce new nose pieces that return to coming in three sections (Roof, windscreen, and nose) instead of just one. Certainly they don't think kids today are too dumb to handle that level of building — after all, sets like #60046 have even more complex builds than ANY aircraft sets I remember from my childhood, despite the same 5–12 age range of any other LEGO City set! So I'd wager the large, streamlined design of current plane nose pieces is more for appearance's sake than anything else.
As for trains, I'm not sure quite what can be done. Real-life trains today are different than trains I grew up with. Sleek, high-speed trains are the order of the day (especially in Europe), and it's hard to build a high-speed train like that without either using a specialized nose like #60051 or considerably more advanced building techniques like #10233. A train like #4558 (which used some fairly specialized nose pieces in its own right, but again, in three sections instead of just one) would seem rather dated to many kids today, despite looking cutting-edge when it was originally released in 1991.
I agree it would be neat if that happened, but it is a lot like when LEGO tried to do train cars and the Build you own loco. Some cars sold well, some locos sold well, but many did not and LEGO had to clearance them to get rid of them.