Lake Erie Jetport, the dashed dreams of an Aeronautical Disneyland
August 5, 2019 8:06 AM   Subscribe

Dubbed an “Aeronautical Disneyland,” the billion-dollar proposal ultimately never left the ground. But 50 years later, [some people in] the city of Cleveland is still wondering what could have been. Remembering that time NASA wanted to build a floating airport on Lake Erie (Popular Mechanics). The closest any of the Great Lakes ever got to a floating airport was Meigs Field (Wikipedia), a single runway airport in Chicago that was in operation from December 1948 until March 2003, on Northerly Island, an artificial peninsula on Lake Michigan.

Cleveland faces significant population loss, even compared to others of America's "legacy cities," that is deindustrialized cities located primarily, but not exclusively, in the Midwest and in the Mid-Atlantic states (Hampton Institution). And with the Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport experiencing declining passenger traffic (Wikipedia), "Aeronautical Disneyland" won't be happening any time soon. Cleveland was home to the first air traffic control tower in the U.S., but it won't be getting the country's first floating airport. But an optimistic Wikipedia editor states "As the population increases and land becomes more expensive and scarce, very large floating structures (VLFS) such as floating airports could help solve land use, pollution and aircraft noise issues." [citation needed]

Meanwhile, dreams of a floating airport in the Thames (Wikipedia) keep bobbing up (Design Boom, 2012), only to have the expansion of Heathrow Airport (Wikipedia) seem more likely, despite then-Mayor Boris Johnson's bold statements against the expansion (The Guardian op-ed, June 2019). Hong Kong and Japan have made artificial islands for airports (Wikipedia list), why not London? After all, England was the first to test experimental two experimental floating airfields, Lily and Clover, towards the end of the Second World War (Military Wiki).
posted by filthy light thief (9 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for the article, I never knew about this and I'm a Cleveland native. I wonder what would have happened if it was built.
posted by greatalleycat at 10:08 AM on August 5, 2019

Too busy for a real response right now, but call me out for a better one. Cleveland-ish-native, here, who also grew up flying into Burke Lakefront a bunch, and whose grandparents' literal backyard was part of a proposed jetport in the late-80s/early-90s.
Which would have just been the stupidest idea ever. Thankfully this idea died with the guy who wanted it.
posted by rp at 10:26 AM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

What a great piece of local history for NE Ohio. My grandfather used to work at the bomber factory mentioned in the 3rd paragraph (he actually built tanks there). Fun story, thanks!
posted by slogger at 10:37 AM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

“It’s a lost opportunity, and in retrospect, the future might have been brighter.”
I'm a bit surprised of that quote from Norm Krumholz; I've attended several presentations by him over the years and (he was also on the city planning commission in the 2000s).
I do not accuse the author of grossly misinterpreting Norm's comments; the author of the Popular Mechanics piece used to be a respected writer of the local alt. weekly.

Norm was the city planning director in the 1970s, advocated for equity planning, and released a plan in 1975 whose policy proposals for the city planning dept. challenged a lot of status quo practices of urban economic development.

If that was ever built, that would have been a likely boondoggle since our air traffic had been sharply declining; and the deregulation happened. (I didn't realize how much control the Feds had over spillover routes until reading this article...). As an early 30 something, I can see how in the 50s and 60s, people thought such projects would be realistic yet ambitious but most importantly, trend-setting.
posted by fizzix at 10:54 AM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Cleveland's population, according to Wikipedia:
1950 914,808 4.2%
1960 876,050 −4.2%
1970 750,903 −14.3%
1980 573,822 −23.6%
1990 505,616 −11.9%
2000 478,403 −5.4%
2010 396,815 −17.1%
posted by doctornemo at 1:17 PM on August 5, 2019

on Northerly Island, an artificial peninsula on Lake Michigan.

Now, it is an *island* or a *peninsula*? Those aren't the same thing!
posted by Chrysostom at 1:36 PM on August 5, 2019

Meigs Field was just an ugly wireframe in the beginning, but it gradually filled in with color and texture as the years went on. /verydadflightsimjoke
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:51 PM on August 5, 2019 [8 favorites]

Now, it is an *island* or a *peninsula*? Those aren't the same thing!

Bridge + island = artificial peninsula.
posted by condour75 at 2:51 PM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Does this mean that peninsula + canal = island?

And is canal the additive inverse of bridge?

Does geography form a ring?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:04 PM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

« Older Phillie Phanatic Phree Agency Phuror   |   A Bright, Blinding Dream Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments