Airline Expansion and Innovation (1927 - 1941)

Yesterday's Airports of Tomorrow

Today's airports are basically similar, but over the years airport designers have had some interesting ideas when planning for the future of air travel.

From underground airports to floating fields in the ocean, these are some of their most radical ideas.

Yesterday's Airports of Today
National Air and Space Museum Archives

Why Don't Airports Look Like This?

This is a 1935 model for an underground air terminal. After landing, aircraft would go underground to various levels for passengers, maintenance, and cargo loading. Connections to ground transportation are at the lowest level.

Yesterday's Airports of Today
National Air and Space Museum Archives

How Is This Similar to an Aircraft Carrier?

This 1933 design would have given landplanes a place to make emergency or refueling stops while crossing the ocean. As on an aircraft carrier, touching down during bad weather would have been challenging. As aircraft fuel efficiency, speed, and range increased, the idea became obsolete.

Treasure Island, San Francisco
National Air and Space Museum Archives

What Kinds of Airplanes Could Use This Airport?

In 1939 this airport was built on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. It was later used as a base for transcontinental flights and Pan American's trans-Pacific service.

Yesterday's Airports of Today
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Libraries, National Air and Space Museum Branch

What Challenges Would Pilots Face Trying to Land Here?

This was an entry in an airport design competition sponsored by the Lehigh Portland Cement Company in 1930. The idea was for an airport close to the city center; however, newer and heavier airplanes needed longer runways.

1929 New York City Airport Concept
National Air and Space Museum Archives

Could This Plan Work Today?

This landing platform was proposed in 1929 for the Pennsylvania Railroad station in New York City. The downtown location was convenient, but why do you think it would not have worked? Compare this design to the more recent one.

Bell Helicopter Textron
Courtesy of Bell Helicopter Textron

How Can This Runway Be So Short?

New technologies are making older designs for small inner-city airports relevant again. Can you tell why this idea from 1994 might work? (Notice the airplanes.)