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Airport Float
October 24, 2009 8:49 AM   Subscribe

The 3 million people of the San Diego metro area are served not just by a single airport but by a single runway, making it the 2nd busiest single-runway airport in the world (behind London's Gatwick). But where to put a new one? How about 10 miles out to sea?
posted by FfejL (40 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Related:
Floating Dutch airport plan is 'amazing'.

Rotating Floating Airport concept.

Kansai International Airport in Japan.

Chek Lap Kok Airport in Hong Kong.
posted by ericb at 8:57 AM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can't find the post about the guy who designs secret mountaintop supervillain lairs, but this seems about as likely to be built.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:02 AM on October 24, 2009


Why not use only sea planes, those planes with floats instead of wheels, and tehen passengers get a nice view of Calif, as if taking a cruise ship!
posted by Postroad at 9:16 AM on October 24, 2009


It is a very creative solution to what appears to be a big problem.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:18 AM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


That looks like a pretty cool idea. It would be great if all those thing mentioned could be accomplished, but I doubt $20 billion would be able to cover it all.
posted by scrutiny at 9:20 AM on October 24, 2009


As a citizen of SD, the airport 'problem' is as seasonal as the fight over the cross on Mount Soledad or the seals in the Children's Pool in La Jolla. I think they've pretty much abandoned the sea airport idea- at last discussion, they wanted to move the terminals to the opposite side of the airport and put a tunnel/train under the runway. Talk of moving the airport to Imperial County has also been discussed- with a high-speed rail- adding almost an hour's journey to the usual 10 minute drive down to the airport.

SD is a vacation destination mostly- not really an international airport. Flights from LAX to SAN are relatively cheap and the train is cheaper. I don't mind flying to a larger airport to fly overseas- it's just the price we pay to have a very convenient airport so close to where we live. We don't need larger planes to fly into town. I also live in a neighborhood that's slightly off the landing path of flights into SAN- nice to watch them come in, but I'm sure the noise would be far worse with something larger.....

Here's a link to my husband's idea of how to update the airport:
posted by cherryflute at 9:24 AM on October 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


http://www.marcfredrickson.com/airport/airportindex.html
posted by cherryflute at 9:24 AM on October 24, 2009


How stupid to contemplate this in the sunset days of cheap and abundant air travel.
posted by Rumple at 9:26 AM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, if they're going to build a rooftop airport at sea then they could more easily build it above town and make a unique vertical urban experiment out of it, especially for 20 billion. Or they might as well move it ten or more miles out into the desert for cheap and drive there.
posted by Brian B. at 9:29 AM on October 24, 2009


The interaction of the movements of the platform with the waves and the dynamic loading effects of the taking off and landing heavy planes would be an interesting problem. Possible this thing would be moving all over the place.
posted by freshundz at 9:30 AM on October 24, 2009


For transporting passengers, OceanWorks would depend ... on an underwater light rail connection–a submerged floating tunnel

Can I just say this sounds amazing? Forget airplanes, let's just connect everything with high speed rail in submerged floating tunnels.
posted by nangua at 9:33 AM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think transoceanic submerged tunnels are a bit far fetched
posted by freshundz at 9:36 AM on October 24, 2009


I think transoceanic submerged tunnels are a bit far fetched
I agree, especially with a floating terminus.

Maybe they can just use planes to get folks from the floating airstrip to the regular airport.
posted by MtDewd at 9:45 AM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Traveling ten miles buy boat to get to a floating airport sounds like a damn nightmare. The first bomb threat would show another design flaw.
posted by podwarrior at 9:45 AM on October 24, 2009


The first bomb threat would show another design flaw

Terrorism is always a factor in design now of floating or submerged structures. The airport would need some kind of protective barrier around it. If its floating, there could be a way to sink it.
posted by freshundz at 9:49 AM on October 24, 2009


The interaction of the movements of the platform with the waves and the dynamic loading effects of the taking off and landing heavy planes would be an interesting problem. Possible this thing would be moving all over the place.

I was wondering that myself, but I imagine that scale and the sort of inertial dampers that cruise ships have would take care of a lot of it. If there's hundreds of planes on the ground at any one time, then the addition or subtraction of a couple planes would make little difference. And my understanding of floating oil platforms is that they're relatively immune to normal wave action due to their size; this would be much larger.
posted by fatbird at 9:52 AM on October 24, 2009


He notes that the Sierra Club has declared “no opposition” to the project

Well now that the biggest hurdle has been cleared, nothing will stop this floating airport!
posted by Nelson at 9:58 AM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Last time I checked the city has been more or less bankrupt for years. Given that, the current airport works fine.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:00 AM on October 24, 2009


There's no available land within an hour's drive of San Diego?
posted by geoff. at 10:40 AM on October 24, 2009


Postroad: Why not use only sea planes, those planes with floats instead of wheels...

Mostly not compatible with other airports nor designed for intercontinental transit.

That said, travel from runway to shore doesn't have to be a bottleneck. You just need an fast and efficient, scheduled transit system.

freshundz: Terrorism is always a factor in design now of floating or submerged structures. The airport would need some kind of protective barrier around it. If its floating, there could be a way to sink it.

Naval defense of something that off our isolated coast isn't much of a concern, unless we're at war with a superpower. The real terrorist threat to a structure like that is a 9/11 type of hijacking. No sleeping on the job, guys.
posted by clarknova at 10:46 AM on October 24, 2009


I've only been to San Diego once. (I'm a huge geek. One guess why I was there.) The main thing I remember transportation wise is that the railroad seemed to completely bisect the city. We were on a bus from the airport to the convention center area and it was blocked by a non-moving train for at least half an hour. Finally we got out to try to find a way around it but that took almost an hour itself.
posted by kmz at 11:20 AM on October 24, 2009


As a citizen of SD, the airport 'problem' is as seasonal as the fight over the cross on Mount Soledad or the seals in the Children's Pool in La Jolla. I think they've pretty much abandoned the sea airport idea- at last discussion, they wanted to move the terminals to the opposite side of the airport and put a tunnel/train under the runway. Talk of moving the airport to Imperial County has also been discussed- with a high-speed rail- adding almost an hour's journey to the usual 10 minute drive down to the airport.

This. The airport discussion has been going on for twenty years. I'll never understand why replacing the military airbase at Miramar doesn't just happen (assuming the local politicians are actually serious about a better airport and not just making noise about it to make citizens think they're doing something). Also worth noting that the existing railroad to Imperial County was called the "Impossible Railroad" when it was constructed, and has been abandoned for the last 30 years because it's too difficult to maintain and tunnels and bridges have collapsed. Plus, it goes through Mexico for part of its route, and has the longest/highest curved wooden rail trestle in the world, and something like 20 tunnels in a stretch of about 10 miles, and is way too windy to ever be suitable for high-speed rail.
posted by LionIndex at 11:22 AM on October 24, 2009


There's no available land within an hour's drive of San Diego?

Where an airplane could land? Not really. Look at Google Maps with the terrain feature turned on - there's no unoccupied flat land within the county (far enough away from a mountain that it's not a crash hazard) until you get to a military base or the desert. To the west we've got ocean, and to the south we've got Mexico. One of the proposals floating around years ago was a trans-border airport built to connect to the Tijuana airport, but there are some obvious logistical hurdles to that idea.
posted by LionIndex at 11:30 AM on October 24, 2009


What I want to know, is if the water is pushing the runway back at the same speed that the plane needs to go to take off, will it fly?!?!?
posted by ish__ at 11:34 AM on October 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


What I see is someone trying to build about, oh, a 8000 foot by 8000 foot slab that floats on the ocean and stays flat without breaking. A quick check shows that, today, wave heights are running between 5 and 8 feet, which seems about average.

This thing will need to be high enough to keep waves from breaking onto the runways, stiff enough to stay flat, etc. Oh, there's this problem with the runway moving up and down -- which is that big wall at the end of I don't see it working -- I don't see how they can keep a useful, stable airport surface given the seas in the area. Given the amount of work they put into building a runway, to make sure it stays stable and can handle the loads, I don't see building something that big that can handle the local loading of a widebody plane landing -- esp if they land hard, esp if they land hard just as a wave crest is under the touchdown zone, trying to push the runway up.
posted by eriko at 11:49 AM on October 24, 2009


One of the proposals floating around years ago

(I see what you did there)

was a trans-border airport built to connect to the Tijuana airport...

Pssh. "Hey guys, let's build a high speed rail connecting CA directly to Mexico. No stops." Oh my god that's like, can you imagine the shit fit people would have if that showed up on the ballot? lol
posted by water bear at 12:03 PM on October 24, 2009


the 2nd busiest single-runway airport in the world (behind London's Gatwick)

Is it the busiest single-runway airport in the world, given that Gatwick has two runways?
posted by oaf at 12:04 PM on October 24, 2009


"Hey guys, let's build a high speed rail connecting CA directly to Mexico. No stops."

Psst. California is already connected directly to Mexico. There's nowhere between the two for you to stop.
posted by The World Famous at 12:10 PM on October 24, 2009


Actually, you're wrong. The single busiest single runway in use in the world today is in Kandahar.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 12:19 PM on October 24, 2009


"What I see is someone trying to build about, oh, a 8000 foot by 8000 foot slab that floats on the ocean and stays flat without breaking. A quick check shows that, today, wave heights are running between 5 and 8 feet, which seems about average. "

I wonder what the frequency of rogue waves is out there. A 30m wave breaking over the runways could turn out to a a real moment for anyone landing a plane.
posted by Mitheral at 12:41 PM on October 24, 2009


San Diego already has another Runway
posted by adamvasco at 12:58 PM on October 24, 2009


Hmmm...

The airport would be located mostly on the roof of the structure though. Below it would be four stories of open real estate open to almost limitless uses. “Hotels, restaurants, conference centers, free trade zones, distribution facilities, research facilities, universities…” Englund says, pauses for a moment, and then ticks off some more possibilities. “Even after all the space required for internal infrastructure, that leaves 200 million square feet. That’s more office space than currently exists in all of San Diego county.”

I'm not up on US law, but how far do the rights of US counties extend into the sea? Would this airport be considered extraterritorial to any county, or even the individual state? And if so, why the hell would any county choose to host the landside portions? "Hey, feel unhappy that your nearest special tax jurisdiction is so far away? Why not build your own parasite to suck the blood from your taxbase?"

(I've searched and can't find much, other than something about tidelands and the Submerged Lands Act, which seems to say that states only own up to 3 miles of the undersea territory, the rest being federal. I don't know if that's even relevant, however.)
posted by Sova at 1:17 PM on October 24, 2009


The comments in the article already state the obvious problems with this idea: ridiculously expensive, somewhat dangerous, so many cheaper, easier, better options available (high speed rail, new inland/southern airport), the problem is not that bad to begin with. It's an entertaining slide show though.
posted by peppito at 1:28 PM on October 24, 2009


This sounds good, but an underwater airport will just be asking for trouble from conspiracy buffs. They're already claiming FEMA's built something awful under Denver International (which JUST SO HAPPENED to be closed when Balloon Boy was supposidly in the air).

With the ability to expand the airport in almost any direction under the surface, naturally this will lead to the logical conclusion that ACORN and the MKULTRA commission are building a breeding facility to mix reptilians and gigantic squids to form a race of behemoth aquabeings who will scuttle container ships not trading goods with the Amero or Euro.

That said, the option with the most bang for the buck is probably light rail to other airports and urban areas. Of course, if you build roads and/or rails, it's probably part of the NAFTA superhighway, and if it involves trains, FEMA's coffincars will be using it.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:45 PM on October 24, 2009


Good luck with that $20 billion airport idea. The economy will be in the toilet for the foreseeable future and the days of cheap oil are over.
posted by crapmatic at 5:04 PM on October 24, 2009


My San Diego city guide told me that the multi-story car park which lies very close to the runway offers free parking to pilots on their top floor as a means of reassuring their other customers that the whole structure is not about to be dramatically shortened by carelessly placed landing gear.

If true then that is too good a reason to move the airport from the way it is IMHO.
posted by rongorongo at 6:18 PM on October 24, 2009


Is it the busiest single-runway airport in the world, given that Gatwick has two runways?

Gatwick does, technically, have two runways, but 26R/8L is really an overgrown taxiway marked as a runway. The only time it is used is when 26L/8R is unusable for some reason, and the runways are far too close together to use simultaneously.

So, Gatwick really isn't a two runway airport, it's a one runway airport with a hot spare.

The reason they use 26L/8R as the primary, despite the fact that it's further away from the terminals, is that it's longer. During normal operations 26R/8L is used as a taxiway supporting 26L/8R operations -- and in aerial views, you can clearly see the difference in usage by looking at the rubber left on the runway.
posted by eriko at 6:48 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


20 billion wouldn't pay for the first design phase. Who are they kidding?

Ridiculous concept. Personal jet packs for everyone, amirite?
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:02 AM on October 25, 2009


How stupid to contemplate this in the sunset days of cheap and abundant air travel.
wishful thinking, buddy. it's along the lines of saying we should all be vegetarians because it lowers our carbon footprint. the masses have other priorities and cheap air travel is one of them. but don't worry, you won't die in the upcoming inferno. it's your children who will.

what I do wonder is why the marines facility right next to the airport can't be convinced to move to one of tha many, massive military properties next door?
posted by krautland at 6:46 PM on October 25, 2009


This plan is both too expensive -- the depreciation costs alone would make for huge landing fee increases -- and too ridiculous. If the California HSR network is extended to San Diego, that would immediately remove a good chunk of traffic from SAN to LAX and SFO, freeing up slots for long-haul routes. SAN will never need to be as large as LAX unless the population doubles or triples, and that isn't happening anytime soon.
posted by armage at 8:33 PM on October 25, 2009


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