Could Circular Runways Be the Future of Airports?

The team behind this revolutionary idea is positive about it, with divided opinion among aviation experts. But what do you think?


Runways at airports do not have to be a vast, open space. It can also be circular.

This suggestion is what Henk Hesselink and his colleagues have been working on at the National Aerospace Laboratory in the Netherlands. Since they predict that by 2050 air traffic within Europe will triple, they hope that their proposal of circular runways is the solution.

“Physical constraints on runway operations, like wake-vortex separation minima and cross- and tailwind limits, make it hard to improve performance of conventional airport configurations further,” the researchers said.

In their research proposal, which is funded by the European Commission, the airport’s terminal infrastructure is located inside the circle, surrounded by the runway with a diameter of 3 to 4 kilometers.

According to the researchers, this makes the airport compact, while allowing current-day aircraft to use the circle without significant structural modifications.


Source: Endless Runway Project

The main target is save airport space. The circular runway that they suggest offers that, while being environmentally friendly because of the less ‘fuel burn’ and being less noisy.

Its designers claim that up to three planes can use the circular runways simultaneously. By theory, planes can arrive and take off in different points around the circumference.

Hesselink, through The Independent, said that in principle, the circle is so large that three aircrafts can operate without interfering with each other.

In an interview with BBC World Hacks, he said, “The passengers will experience a slight turn, similar to a turn in the air. Because of the centrifugal forces the aircraft will automatically go slower and go towards the center of the runway.”

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Source: Giphy

Described as an ‘Endless Runway,’ the revolutionary concept has been around since the 1960s. Hesselink revealed that some flight trials have been conducted, but the technology of air-traffic controllers and the systems were not ready.

Aircraft improvement and GPS technology that the aviation industry can afford now makes this possible at this time.

But because the runway is curved, there is an angle of banking to provide necessary centripetal force to the airplane while landing or taking off. For this, pilots have to adopt to the change.


Source: Endless Runway Project

Hesselink is convinced that this is “actually pretty easy to do” for the pilots, after having known that trials have been done on military airports in the US.

While the idea has gained widespread acceptance, there is divided opinion among aviation experts. Hesselink acknowledges this, and takes all the concerns to his team.

“If you talk to pilots there are some challenges. We have really considered all the nominal situations and taken into account the safety aspects,” he said.

What Hesselink and his team wish now is to prove them all wrong by doing real flight trials.

Sources: The Independent UK | Metro UK

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Could Circular Runways Be the Future of Airports?

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