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In a famous sequence from the TV show 24, a Boeing 727 is forced to land on the 405 in Los Angeles. It is a well-known myth that the interstate highway system was set up as a series of airstrips. But would it be feasible to land a commercial airliner on the 405 highway from an aviation perspective, given that there were few if any cars on the road? (Of course, anyone who lives in LA will tell you that there is never a time of the day or night when the 405 is not busy - so this is purely theoretical.)

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It's possible, assuming the section chosen has no streetlamps, signs, overpasses etc. The police can block the traffic easy enough.

However, there would be zero reason to do so. If a plane has enough control to reach the highway, and enough advance notice to find a suitable part and block the traffic then it has enough control and time to reach one of the many airports in the region. Much less fuss for all concerned, and a much better equipped crash service.

In the prairies one could set up a fighter or bomber base on a random road, but again there's no need to - there's nothing nearby that would require it, heavy bombers or commercial planes would quickly destroy a normal highway and fighters could use the many civil airstrips in the area.

In Europe the math is different - opponents are a short flight away and destroying the airbases on both sides would be a top priority in any European conflict. See "Highway strip" in the usual reference for more details.

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    $\begingroup$ what would the usual reference be? $\endgroup$ – Federico Jul 24 '14 at 7:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Federico wikipedia I guess $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak Jul 24 '14 at 10:29
  • $\begingroup$ You aren't accounting for the weight of the craft and the impact of it landing on the ground. I don't have any numbers on it, but I'm pretty sure most roads are not designed to withstand the force of a 727 touching down. The surface could crack in cases of concrete or, in cases of asphalt, the planes gear could possible even punch through. $\endgroup$ – Jay Carr Jul 24 '14 at 20:55
  • $\begingroup$ Notice I said "heavy bombers or commercial planes would quickly destroy a normal highway". And a 727 isn't all that heavy. $\endgroup$ – paul Jul 25 '14 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ @paul the USAF had extensive plans for basing SAC bombers on the US interstate system, using overpasses as parking areas for SAM batteries, fuel bowsers, crew quarters, etc. and the highways themselves as landing strips, taxi ways, parking spots... Whether those plans were ever tested I don't know, I do know SAC detachments tested forward deployment to unprepared salt lakes several times before stopping the tests so as to not give away their dispersal locations to Soviet satellites. $\endgroup$ – jwenting Jul 28 '14 at 8:50
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Maybe not the 405, but some roads in other countries where designed with usage by aircraft in mind. IFIRC the autobahn was originally designed with that in mind, and NATO has conducted exercises using the autobahn as a runway. There are some videos on YouTube showing this. Also, there are videos of other countries using roadways for runways. Parts of some roadways in Canada and Alaska have turnouts to allow aircraft to be parked after an off-airport landing.

But, back to landing an airliners on the 405. The 405 has too many light poles and other obstructions that would get in the way. The strips of roadway used in the videos are devoid of these obstacles.

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  • $\begingroup$ Here's a Hercules taxiing on the autobahn. As the answer says, there are roads designed for this. Sweden is another typical example of this; the Saab Gripen (as well as its predecessors) are built to operate on 800m long straight sections of road — no expectation of being able withstand a Soviet attack, so why not have guerilla warfare with aircraft from improvised bases? $\endgroup$ – gsnedders Aug 1 '14 at 20:35

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