A consortium of 17 Japanese steel manufacturers and shipbuilders is to start trials next year off the coast of Japan of a technology which could lead to the creation of a floating airport.

Mega Float Technology Research Association will complete and test the construction of an off-shore aircraft landing and take-off platform off the coast of Yokosuka in Tokyo Bay during the course of next year. The association completed a smaller 300m (980ft)-long platform in 1996.

Although the exact timetable is not yet confirmed, it is understood that the structure, which is being built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Sumitomo Heavy Industries and Hitachi, among others, will be in place by mid-year, with trials using a two-engined turboprop aircraft taking place later in the year. The structure will be 1,000m long and 60-120m wide.

Also tested will be an instrument landing system that will automatically provide input into an approaching aircraft's computer data on movement of the structure.

"Although we have found that the standard instrument landing system copes adequately with expected motions of the structure, we also want to test a system that can cope with unexpected movement," says an executive involved in the project. The development of the project into a full-scale floating airport, complete with passenger terminal, hangars and maintenance facilities, is technologically feasible, but much will depend on the attitude of the Japanese Government to the project.

Source: Flight International