While taking off and landing on straight runways is the only way we currently know, it’s certainly not the only possible way out there.
The Endless Runway is a project researching a new concept for airports, by creating a circular runway. The Endless Runway concept could generate a breakthrough in airport sustainability and capacity, by avoiding the physical constraints of conventional runways. The Dutch scientist Henk Hesselink has been working on the project at the The Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR). The project research focuses on various aspects of the concept, including sizing of the circle, passenger comfort, airport infrastructure, current aircraft behaviour and Air Traffic Management considerations.
Advantages of a circular runway
The main advantage of a circular runway is that the threat of possibly dangerous crosswinds is eliminated. Whatever the strength and direction of crosswinds, the design of the Endless Runway means the wind is not a limiting factor to planes. It creates the possibility of always letting the aircraft land or take-off with headwind. In addition, through optimised departure and arrival routes, the route of the airplane can be shortened on the ground and in the air. So there’s no need for a long taxi route to the runway or circling above the airport to land correctly on the runway anymore with this design. This also means less fuel is used up. It might also have a positive social impact by limiting noise pollution above certain urban areas by spreading out flight paths.
“There is a huge demand for more airports. People really want to fly. The circular runway is a more efficient way to handle all this traffic.” – Henk Hesselink, project coordinator
So far, there are no official plans to build such a runway. The project team are currently testing the concept with simulations. There is still a lot of research needed before we can be sure circular runways can become reality.
This video, published by BBC News, explains more about the concept:
Website: The Endless Runway