Chesley Sullenberger was instantly catapulted into the international spotlight when he successfully crash-landed US Airways Flight 1549 onto the Hudson. It was a truly amazing achievement, but things might have been a little bit easier for Sullenberger if New York had been equipped with floating runways.
International architectural firm Gensler wants to introduce waterborne airports to the world, but they’re not trying to help damaged planes — they want to relieve congestion at London’s overcrowded Heathrow Airport.
Their idea is to plop a floating airport down in the middle of the River Thames – not a manmade island or a structure supported by enormous pillars, but something closer to an extremely wide and flat boat. The London Britannia Airport, as Gensler calls it, would feature four floating runways anchored to the riverbed, and an underwater tunnel would connect traffic to the mainland.
The neat thing about this idea (beyond the fact that it’s a freaking floating airport) is that it has a modular design. Portions of the airport could be detached and hauled away to the mainland for maintenance or repairs. They could also add extra parts to the airport to have as many as six runways at a time during heavy travel seasons.
Another great benefit of the floating airport is that it would avoid the need to demolish any homes. It would be a genuine addition to the city, one that would create jobs and improve the existing infrastructure.
Gensler’s hope is that the airport would be able to tap into tidal energy to power the airport, but the architectural firm might be getting too far ahead of itself on that one. The Brits are only just beginning to tap into tidal power, and the slow-moving River Thames won’t generate nearly as much power as the nearby English Channel.
The idea might sound a little bit absurd, but keep in mind that the oceans are already dotted with military aircraft carriers. Making a commercial aircraft carrier would be tough and expensive, but theoretically Gensler should be able to pull it off.
I think it’s a pretty cool idea. People have been bouncing around the ideas of floating communities for decades now, so if we ever built a floating town or suburb then we would naturally need to develop floating airports to go along with it. A floating airport would be space-efficient, eco-friendly, somewhat mobile, and they could build the whole thing without needing to take a wrecking ball to whole neighborhoods. Sounds good to me. Now, all we need is for somebody to write Gensler a check for about $10 billion dollars so that they can get started. Any takers?