Flying Futures

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Another Pitch For Floating Runways...

The folks in San Diego need a new airport, but where's it going to go? A study group met last week and found objections for every one of the 16 sites proposed -- except military bases, not all of which were really feasible, and the ocean, the Union-Tribune reported. Building runways on the ocean may seem far-fetched, but this is far from the first time it's been suggested. In California, a company called Float Inc. worked on the concept for more than 10 years, with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Navy, but never tested a prototype. In Japan, a 3,280-foot-long floating runway was built several years ago and test flights were successful, so it seems to be possible at least on a limited basis. Float Inc. does make some interesting arguments for why the floating airport would be such a great solution: all approaches and departures are over water, eliminating noise complaints so the airport can operate 24 hours a day; it can also be a port for shipping and ferry service; the parts are modular and can be reconfigured as needed; it's pretty much unaffected by earthquakes; it can be cheaper to build than a land-based airport; and the whole contraption can be moved from place to place. But concerns include the effects of wave action during heavy weather, and whether it's possible to make the whole thing unsinkable (remember the Titanic?).