Researchers are planning for a circular airport
An airport with a round runway is to reduce noise pollution in the future. In addition, it should occupy significantly less space. The developers hope that the first circle airport will open in 20 years.
More and more people prefer the aircraft as a means of transport, even for medium distances. The number of passengers is growing year by year and is expected to rise from world-wide 3.8 billion to then 7.2 billion by 2035. This requires more and more capacity at airports, whose expansion is costly and affects the population. A concept of European aviation researchers could provide a remedy. They have developed an airport with a round runway using EU funding.
The Dutch Aerospace Center (NLR) has several advantages. The concept, called ”The Endless Runway” (The Endless Runway), uses less space than conventional airports, reduces the emission of climate-damaging exhaust fumes And reduces noise pollution.
The main highlight of the round runway is that there are no specifications for the aircraft at which point they have to start or land. They can take off in all directions and land from all directions. The research and development manager at NLR, Henk Hesselink, the ”Magazine International Airport Revue”, explains the aircraft on the one hand, always finding a place where there is only a headwind and no side winds. Thus, regardless of the weather situation, the operation should remain stable. This is different in the case of conventional airports, where strong winds limited capacity.
On the other hand, airplanes can immediately take off in the direction of their target and do not have to fly any subsequent corners after the start. This can reduce the number of airplanes in the airspace around the airport. At the same time, there is no longer any fixed landing gear, which can lead to increased noise pollution. In addition, fuel is also saved, which prevents the emission of air-polluting gases.
The Endless Runway should have a relatively large diameter of 3.5 kilometers, which corresponds to a length of ten kilometers. ”This means that the passengers do not feel like on a roller coaster during take-offs and landings,” said Hesselink. Rather, they would experience forces of a maximum of 1.2 g – this would be comparable to a train in a curve.
The runway is, however, 140 meters wide and inclined to the center. At start-up, the centrifugal force forces an aircraft outwards from the inner edge, during landing it is deflected from outside to inside during deceleration. Experiments with military machines from the 1960s had shown that such an inclined runway was easy to use for pilots – but after initial difficulties.
The capacity of the concept with a round runway is similar to that of a conventional airport with four runways, according to Hesselink. The length of the slope is the same as that of just three conventional ones. This is possible because the round orbit of several aircraft can be used simultaneously. The circular shape allows all necessary buildings to be built in the middle, which in turn saves space: only a third of the area of a comparable conventional airport would be needed.
However, there are also a few obstacles, admitted Hesselink. On the one hand there would be the construction costs. These are about 1.5 times higher than conventional airports. This is due to the wider runway for which more concrete is needed and the slope of the track, which requires a more complex construction. ”One of the biggest challenges is security,” said the chief developer. In future experiments, the main focus will be on the possibility of safe operation.
So far, the airport is only a simulation. Originally the concept for solutions after 2050 had been thought, according to Hesselink. ”But with the attention we receive, I hope the theme will be implemented more quickly.” Optimistically estimated it could already in 20 years already the first circular airport give.