London to Build Mid-City Air Port (Sep, 1931)

London to Build Mid-City Air Port

WITH the rapid growth of airplane transportation, the air port of the future may be moved up into the center of the city where it will be easily accessible. A bold step in this direction has been taken by Charles Clever, a London architect, who has constructed a model for a proposed airport to be located in the heart of London. The landing field consists of four runways arranged in the form of a giant wheel, the entire structure being supported by the buildings over which it is erected, as illustrated.

22 comments
  1. John M. Hanna says: February 18, 20101:40 pm

    Not very ‘clever’ Mr Clever. That had major disaster written all over it.

  2. Tim says: February 18, 20102:21 pm

    “Airplane skids off runway – then falls 500 feet on to rush hour traffic.”

  3. jayessell says: February 18, 20103:15 pm

    I’m surprised he didn’t plan a motor to rotate the runway into the wind.
    Or a catapult.

    Did he ever talk to anyone who flew an airplane?

  4. M.S.W. says: February 18, 20103:44 pm

    Judging from the train tracks and building styles looks like this proposal was to be in the commercial/industrial section. (Far away from “rush hour traffic”) If this proposal ever reached the safety evaluation phase I’m sure they would have opted for netting to the sides of the runway to keep the plans from plummeting down the holes. But then again even if this thing was built with every possible safety precaution accounted for. Come WWII it would have been a big easy bulls-eye to hit for the Axis.

  5. Charlene says: February 18, 20104:05 pm

    jayessell, the designers of elevated airports never seemed to figure out that aircraft need to take off and land into the wind. (Then again, many people these days don’t get it either. They think “wind won’t do much to those big birds”, not quite realizing that wind affects takeoff length for all aircraft, not just tiny Cessnas.)

    M.S.W., come World War II this airport would have been long obsolete, since there’s no way to cheaply extend the runways. The mid-1930s saw the first development of heavier aircraft that needed more room to take off.

  6. Randal L. Schwartz says: February 18, 20108:27 pm

    Incredible. Just incredible. I suspect for the expense it would take to raise that amount of concrete into the air, it would have been cheaper to move the buildings down underground and have a street-level airport. :)

  7. Paul says: February 18, 20109:25 pm

    40 years later…

    Imagine you’re sitting in your office or living room one day. As in all the surrounding buildings, all the rooms are constantly dark since the huge structure overhead blocks out most of the sunlight. There’s also a constant smell of oil and jet fuel. Suddenly the entire building shakes and a few more windows smash as another 747 takes off in a 140-decibel roar from the runway fifty feet above your head.

  8. Neil Russell says: February 18, 20109:52 pm

    And just where do we park the zeppelins?

  9. Stephen says: February 19, 20109:23 am

    This immensely silly plan is discussed in Barker and Hyde’s excellent “London as it might have been”, a book on ideas for London buildings that never came off. One thing the book explains which the article above does not is that the runways could only be half a mile long, and even in 1931 that would have made take-off and landing very tricky. Incidentally, the inventor was really called Glover, not Clever.

    If you can find the book, it’s worth reading: this is not the maddest idea in it. The great engineer Richard Trevithick suggested putting up a 1000-foot tall tower – almost as tall as the Empire State Building – back in 1831. It would have been somewhat expensive to put up even if he hadn’t specified that it was to be covered in gold…

  10. jayessell says: February 19, 201010:42 am

    Stephen…
    SOLID GOLD would be too expensive,
    and not have the structural properties of steel.

  11. blokeice says: February 19, 20102:25 pm

    stephen did not say that it was to be MADE of gold but that it was to be COVERED in gold which is much cheaper given that gold can be beaten to ridiculously thin layers (if you wanted you could get a translucent layer of gold).

  12. Myles says: February 19, 20103:06 pm

    Where do you find a large group of 10 story or so buildings all of the same height to build this thing on? Why would the building owners want to destroy the value of their buildings by having this monstrosity on top of them blocking the sun and any views they may have had? Are buildings strong enough to carry double or so the weight they were designed for? I think this plan may not go ahead.

  13. Firebrand38 says: February 19, 20103:11 pm

    Myles: Seeing as how this article is from 1931 and a bond issue hasn’t been released I think that it’s safe to say that no, this plan will not “go ahead”. You know? 1931, 2010….1931, 2010. It’s that whole past, present thing.

  14. sirscott says: February 19, 201011:52 pm

    I dont know what you are all scoffing about. I mean , unless any of you forget THERE IS an airport situated directly at the heart of londons Comercial District. London City Airport serves 3 Million Passengers a year and is well within the City districts. You can get on a plane at JFK , step off at LCA and be at Canary Wharf 10 minutes later.

  15. Monty Python says: February 20, 20109:05 am

    There was that building in London held together only by positive thinking.

  16. Firebrand38 says: February 20, 201010:48 am

    sirscott: I think that it’s because the current airport isn’t built on top of buildings. When a plane skids off the runway there it doesn’t fall to the street below. So it isn’t he fact that it’s an airport in a city. That it’s an elevated airport, that’s a source for scoffing.

    Now let’s see, you’re talking about NY to London flights. Back in 1933 (two years after this proposal) the Boeing 247 airliner had a maximum take off weight of 16,805 lbs while in 1934 the Douglas DC-2 had a loaded weight of 18,560 lbs. I doubt if the designers of the elevated airstrip would take into account the 222,000-333,600 lb max take off weight of the Boeing 707 or the 833,00 lb max takeoff weight of the Boeing 747-300. But you knew that.

  17. Mike says: February 22, 201011:05 am

    Hopefully the proposed high speed rail lines will have the same fate as this mess.

  18. Firebrand38 says: February 22, 201011:17 am

    Mike: Why?

  19. sirscott says: February 25, 20109:31 pm

    Firebrand38: yeah , I see your point on that one.As it was they had to demolish half of the old Docklands area to fit it in.

    Mike: Why not HSR? I think it will make small airports like LCA obsolete , and good riddence

  20. Firebrand38 says: February 25, 20109:47 pm

    sirscott: People often forget that there was a lot of controversy when the World Trade Center went up. The area known as Radio Row was demolished in order to put up the buildings http://www.pbs.org/wgbh…

  21. Paul says: February 27, 201011:32 am

    The closest thing to this in reality is probably Madeira Airport in Portugal, which has an elevated extension. However, it has 180 huge columns to support the massive weight. Trying to put a runway across the tops of buildings like this would be insane, even for propeller aircraft.

  22. Arglebarglefarglegleep says: August 6, 201011:55 pm

    Wooley headed thinking at it’s best. It at least has a wheel and spoke arrangement to allow planes to fly somewhat into the wind.

    I think it’s possible to make new buildings that could support the weight of the runway and live loads of planes. Using existing buildings and the massive gaps between them would have been problematic at best. I’m not sure if London had the air and light access rules we’ve had in the USA for a while so the shading bit might have not been an issue at the time especially if the government passes laws giving immunity to those kinds of suits. Planes going off runways might have been the biggest issue. Raining bits of burning plains down of the public streets isn’t a good way to please even the most supportive voters. Which is why I keep wondering why people want flying cars…

    And people like seeing nice, solid ground around runways. It makes them unhappy to land on runways jutting out in the sea never mind hanging in the air.

    I think the design would have been more suited to a floating airport using buoyant caissons for the runways.

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