Aircraft taxiway bridges and runway bridges are designed to carry taxiways and runways over major roads, railways and even waterways.
They are ubiquitous nowadays but in the 20th century they were a rarity only to be found at a handful of major airports.
Designed to carry the heaviest aircraft of the day, as well as those of the future, they were--and still are--amazing feats of engineering.
Let's have a look at some great images of early aircraft bridges around the world!
1. New York's "Idlewild" Airport (later Kennedy Airport)
A Pan American Boeing Stratocruiser taxies on the aircraft bridge over the Van Wyck Expressway at New York's Idlewild Airport--later Kennedy Airport--in 1950.
Completed the year prior, the bridge was the first aircraft bridge in the world. Read more about the early years of Idlewild/Kennedy Airport. Or see an overview of all JFK Airport articles.
2. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
A 1953 view of the newly-completed Sepulveda Boulevard Tunnel, which runs underneath the southern parallel runways of LAX. The tunnel was the first in the United States to run under an airport runway.
For more vintage LAX, have a look at our LAX 1960s photo special.
3. Heathrow Airport
Also completed in 1953 was the road tunnel underneath London Heathrow Airport's runway 09L/27R, which provided access to the newly-built Central Terminal Area.
This view looks south towards the northern tunnel entrance. The four-lane tunnel included two separate lanes for bicycles and pedestrians. Only in Europe!
London Heathrow's Central Terminal Area became operational in April 1955.
Read about Heathrow's original runway layout.
4. Paris Orly Airport
A view of the motorway passing underneath Paris Orly Airport, taken ca. 1960. Not to be outdone by the Brits or the Americans, the Orly tunnel not only passed underneath the runway but also the main apron and the terminal building.
In 1966, construction started on a major motorway tunnel underneath the runway of the new Paris de Gaulle Airport. Read more about the design and construction of "CDG".
5. Denver Stapleton Airport
In 1962, Denver Stapleton Airport became the first US airport with an aircraft bridge over a major Interstate Highway (I-70). The bridge carried Stapleton's runway 17/35 (later 17R/35L).
6. Toronto Pearson Airport
Toronto Pearson's circular "Aeroquay 1" (1964) was built as an island in the middle of the apron to optimize aircraft circulation. Passengers reached the terminal via a tunnel underneath the apron.
Read more about Pearson and the early plan to replace the Aeroquay.
7. Chicago O'Hare Airport
In 1966, Chicago O'Hare Airport--then the busiest airport in the world--got its first aircraft bridge.
Crossing the Kennedy Expressway connecting O'Hare with downtown Chicago, the bridge provided a direct connection between the terminal area and the thresholds of runways 27 and 32R.
8. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
A KLM 747-206B is taxiing over the Amsterdam-The Hague-Rotterdam Motorway on her way to runway 01L/19R (now 18C/36C), in the summer of 1972.
The bridge was completed in 1967. A bit further to the north is an aircraft tunnel that carries Schiphol's runway 09/27. If you look carefully you can see the tunnel entrance in the image.
See more great vintage images of KLM 747s at Schiphol. Ever wondered about the Schiphol's runway in the middle of nowhere? Read all about it.
9. Sydney Airport
The tunnel underneath Sydney Mascot's runway 16/34 (now 16R/34L) was built to accommodate the runway's extension into Botany Bay. Opened in 1967, it was the first aircraft bridge outside Europe and North America.
10. Dallas/Fort Worth Airport
"Everything is bigger in Texas," as the saying goes. When the massive Dallas/Fort Worth Airport opened in 1974, it boasted four taxiway bridges. The bridges cross International Parkway, the access road that bisects the airport.
Read about a never-built plan to demolish DFW's semi-circular terminals, replacing them with mile-long linear concourses.
BONUS: Singapore Changi Airport
Singapore Changi Airport opened in 1981. It boasted an aircraft bridge over the airport approach road, making it the third aircraft bridge in the Asia-Pacific region after Sydney, and Taipei.
The fourth one would be opened the year after, when the long-delayed Kai Tak Tunnel opened underneath Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport's apron and runway.
BONUS: Another photo from Denver Stapleton
For our last photo, we revisit Denver Stapleton's I-70 bridge a few decades later, ca. 1990, carrying a majestic United Airlines 747.
We hope you enjoyed our little tour of early aircraft bridges! Do you know any other great early aircraft bridges? Let us know in the comments below.
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With a title inspired by the setting of the iconic 70s film "Airport", this blog is the ultimate destination for airport history fans.
Marnix (Max) Groot Founder of AirportHistory.org. Max is an airport development expert and historian.