Japan's Spectacular Floating Airports
As the world's population increases at a
more-than-healthy rate and the cost of travel decreases, the number of
people looking to travel by air is understandably on the rise. With
this growing demand comes the need for more airports as existing ones
struggle to cope with the millions of passengers passing through on a
So what happens when there's no suitable land to build a new
major airport or locals protest the new construction without hesitation
due to noise pollution or other environmental implications?
If you travel to Japan in the near future you may witness a
solution to these problems, in the form of floating airports. At
present there are four such constructions in Japan (there are also
examples in Hong Kong and Macau), each built on its own artificial
island offshore and each backed by the community it serves. The first
of these incredible engineering wonders to be built, and the first of
its kind in the world, was Kansai International Airport in Osaka Bay.
Just to build the 4-kilometre long island called for 21 million cubic
metres of landfill plus the assistance of 80 ships, then there was the
small matter of connecting the airport to the mainland by way of a
3-kilometre bridge. In total the project has so far cost around $20
billion but has already saved some expense by surviving both an
earthquake and a typhoon in the last 15 years, in addition to being
open 24 hours a day due to its location.
Here are Japan's four floating airports.
Kansai International Airport
New Kitakyushu Airport
Chubu Centrair International Airport
So, what does the future hold for the location of airports?
For those airports situated near the coast it makes a lot of
sense to follow the examples in Japan for a number of reasons, most
importantly environmental impact and space consumption.
However, there are also other innovations to welcome, one of the
most intriguing being a Rotating Floating Airport invented by Van Den
Noort Innovations BV in the Netherlands. As far as we know the idea
hasn't been realised yet but the concept seems like a good one. The
RFA's main circular body (arrival and departure lounges, transport
stations) would sit below sea level, its base embedded in the sea bed,
whilst the runway platform would float on the water, rotating according
to wind direction. In essence the entire structure would resemble a
gigantic propeller lodged in the ground, air traffic landing and
taking-off on its blades.