The Future of Airports: Circular and Endless Runways

circular airports

Entebbe International Airport is currently undergoing expansion, upgrade and automation. But even when the upgrade is done, like most airports in the world, travelers will still have put up with congestion and flight delay issues. What if we could build airports that can accommodate more planes in less space.

Henk Hesselink, an aviation expert with the Netherlands Airspace Center, came up with a brilliant concept that will basically envelope most of the common airport crises. Dubbed “The Endless Runway”, Hesselink’s idea is a circular runway that would enable aircrafts to take off and land at points on this circle to ensure they have no crosswind but only headwind.

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The circle of the runway, with its sides banked, is expected to have an approximated diameter of 3.5 kilometers and 400 meters of width. This would be equal in length to 3 straight runways and be in position to operate the workload of 4. In this, the researchers say, three planes would be able to takeoff or land at the airport simultaneously, with each using a section of the circle.

Circular Runways have always been proposed, with numerous tests made and successful landings registered correspondingly, but the idea has never taken off and no commercial circular runway is in existence. The Endless Runway project, funded by the European Commission, currently uses simulations to test the concept and its applicability.

Some of the benefits linked to circular runways include; Occupation of less space than the long airstrips currently used for landing and takeoff of planes; Planes can choose the appropriate spot on the loop regardless of what the wind direction is; Being endless, this runway can manage four times of the present traffic of aircrafts.

However though, a number of questions are unanswered as regards this concept. From the final report submitted by Hesselink, it is clear that noise levels may rise without proportion if planes are to takeoff or land from all directions. This implies troubling residents in the neighboring areas with noise pollution. The other issue is how best the landing plane would identify its aiming point. Note that minor mistakes can cause mishaps since there can be multiple routes for flights to touch down or takeoff.

Only time will tell, whether this idea is the future of Air-travel, or its far-fetched for the industry to adopt.