Can floating airports be the future travel industry?

Published on : Monday, July 4, 2016

Floating AirportsOf late, airport planners are gazing towards the sea, contemplating the construction of airports over the vast expanse of the sea, owing to the scarce amount of space available for building airports. Powerful land reclamation projects have also been initiated in different parts of the world, for instance in Osaka and Hong Kong, in order to make way for an increased airport capacity.


While floating runways are a part of aircraft carriers, there exist warships that need to travel at a certain speed. Moreover, their decks are not large enough to meet the requirements of modern airliners. If an aircraft carrier is devoid of its lower deck and engines, and is made wide and long enough – it would appear like a beautiful, large, floating airport.


The British has considered building airports on top of icebergs in order to conceal the Atlantic convoys, as early as the Second World War. This undertaking was popularly known as the ‘Project Habakkuk’.


In the year 1995, the Technological Research Association of Mega-Float was formed by 17 private firms of Japan, supported by the Government of Japan. Their aim was to set up a floating airport at the Tokyo Bay. A 4000-meter long runway was proposed according to the initial plan, though a runway measuring 1000 meter was actually constructed. However, the project was not completed.


The concept of floating airports had also been proposed in San Diego by the companies Float Inc. and OceanWorks Department. However, the project was finally dismantled. The projects of San Diego bear a striking resemblance to the concept of floating airport designed by an American aeronautical engineer named Terry Drinkard.


Drinkard’s idea was that of an aerotropolis, that would be a complete energy-efficient offshore structure. This aerotropolis would be capable of dealing with medium-sized airliners as well as research activities. The structure would also provide opportunities for aquaculture and oceanographic research.


Commander Bud Slabbaert, Drinkard’s partner in the floating airport project declared that governments in the Caribbean have been evaluating a small-scale version of this project.


An airline planning executive, R.W Mann, however feels that such projects are unlikely to materialize due to the exorbitant prices involved. In fact, it is due to the massive investment required in establishing floating airports that checked its fruition.


The Heathrow Airport in London is quite a congested one, so planners have suggested it be relocated to the Thames Estuary, the point of intersection between the North Sea and River Thames.


Norman Foster, a famous architect, proposed a concept of a runway to be built on a marshy region called Isle of Grain. This project is referred to as the Boris Island since it was backed by Boris Johnson, the former Mayor of London. Unfortunately, the UK Airports Commission rejected this idea in 2014.


The firm Gensler and Thames Estuary Research and Development, however, suggested that the airport be built exactly in the central portion of the estuary. For $63 billion, the six-runway floating airport would be constructed over the Thames Estuary.


Ian Mulcahey, the managing director of this firm, however, has asserted that the final decision of relocating the London airport is yet to be finalized.

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