Floating Airports of the Sea (Aug, 1929)

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Floating Airports of the Sea

Ocean stepping-stones in the form of floating seadromes bid fair to cut down the hazards of trans-Atlantic flights.

Regular airplane service across the Atlantic is brought a step nearer reality by the projection of plans for a series of floating landing fields which can be anchored at intervals of a thousand miles between America and Europe, affording a safe place for passenger carrying planes to come down for refueling and mechanical attention.

Three different types of floating airports have been designed. The one shown in the photograph below is the work of Edward H. Armstrong of Wilmington, Del. Stability of the airport, even in the roughest seas, is assured by the fact that the supporting floats extend for 50 feet beneath the ocean’s surface, a depth at which the motion of the largest waves is not felt. The picture shows the method of arranging the buoyancy chambers and ballast tanks. Through a system of winches and drums for paying out and dragging in the cables, the airdrome will move with the wind so that pilots can always land into the breeze.

A steel cable weighing 128,600 pounds will be used for anchoring the drome. The cable will taper from 2-1/2 inches where it is attached to the drome, to 1-1/2 inches where it touches the ocean floor. Engineering details are being worked out.

A second type of seadrome, varying from Mr. Armstrong’s design in that it is constructed in units on shore and assembled at sea in any desired combinations, has recently been patented by Gustave M. Sachs, of Minneapolis, Minn. A drawing of his seadrome appears on page 75. Each unit will be 48 feet square. The platform will be supported by a series of cylindrical tanks, with the largest tank at the bottom filled with ballast to maintain stability. In assembling the landing field, the units are secured to one another by means of couplings and steel, cables.

A third type of airport, pictured in the photo below, and also shown on the cover of this month’s Modern Mechanics, is of French design. It resembles a huge floating lighthouse, as the model shows, and is equipped with propellers and driving machinery to move it about as may be required.

  1. Mitch says: March 2, 201110:04 am

    …or you could just make planes that can travel the entire distance in a single trip. Just saying.

  2. John says: March 2, 201110:56 am

    Mitch: Try suggesting that in 1929 and see what happens. It was still a challenge in 1931.
    It’s pretty dumb to look back 82 years and think that the only piece of the puzzle missing to solve a problem is you standing there saying someone should design an airplane to fly non-stop. Just saying is all.

  3. Hirudinea says: March 2, 20111:43 pm

    Have these people never heard of Zepplins?

  4. JMyint says: March 2, 20112:20 pm

    Even in 1939 a commercial flight from New York to London left flew New York to Botwood Newfoundland, then to Foynes Ireland, then to London. It took 2 days to complete.

  5. John says: March 2, 20113:16 pm

    Hirudinea: Yeah they had but with the Graf Zeppelin having a capacity of 20 passengers and a trip time of 111 hours on the October 1928 first crossing, that idea was a non-starter.

  6. DouglasUrantia says: March 2, 20114:31 pm

    John: It seems that all you do here is name-call and attack the people who comment. Why not come up with some ideas of your own.

  7. John says: March 2, 20114:41 pm

    DouglasUrantia: Why don’t you mind your own business? I actually have plenty of contributions to this forum.
    Hiru made a suggestion. I responded with relevant facts. If you think that’s name calling you need to get your medication changed. Unless maybe you thought that I was calling him a Graf Zeppelin? Granted I called him Hirudinea but that is his screen name.

  8. Daniel Rutter says: March 2, 20118:48 pm

    I think one big problem for these, at the time, was that direction- and location-finding technology wasn’t good enough for a plane to have a hope of FINDING a floating airstrip in the middle of the ocean, even if you put a big radio beacon on every one.

    (Exactly how you’d keep your airstrips “anchored” on one spot, with 1930s technology, is also uncertain. Numerous monstrous concrete anchors on two-mile chains might perhaps be adequate, but now you’re talking efforts on the scale of transatlantic telephone cables, and your airstrip might well still go wherever the wind wanted to push it. And you’d have to be able to turn the runway INTO the wind somehow, so your little boxkite airplanes didn’t have to try to land with a 30-knot crosswind.)

    You’d probably also need the runway to be rather longer than depicted, especially as depicted on the second page. And then you’d have a fun, fun time keeping it flat against the swell, so planes didn’t bounce off into the drink.

    Planes of that era didn’t need anything like the runway length or smoothness that modern jet airliners demand, but landing one on a football field in the middle of the Atlantic would still be… challenging. Taking off again could be a whole other adventure.

  9. GaryM says: March 3, 201110:24 am

    There was a 1932 German movie, “FP1 Antwortet Nicht,” on the idea of floating airports.

  10. Hip2b2 says: March 3, 20116:59 pm

    The French design “floating seadrome” concept would on the surface have a lot to recommend it. Rather than acting as a flattop landing strip it would appear that seaplanes like the China Clipper class would ocean land, berth, refuel, then take-off to continue their flight.

    This would seem to be the simplest concept of amongst those pose in this article.


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