engineering careers  Are circular runways going to take off?
engineering careers  Are circular runways going to take off?

Modern airports face a major constraint to growth – capacity! Current technology projects only optimise the use of the available airport capacity but aviation expert Henk Hesselink – of the Netherlands Aerospace Centre – believes in a new structural approach is the answer

Henk proposes the “Endless Runway” as a radical and novel airport solution to the problem of “vortex separation minima”, and “tailwind limits” that make it hard to improve performance at conventional airports.


A circular runway from Popular Science Monthly 1919.

The idea is is simple – aircraft take-off and land on a large circular structure.

This radical new airport concept is based on the construction of a circular runway with a diameter of approx. 3.5 km around an airport terminal. Such an airport would take up only a third of the space of a conventional airport. Another advantage is that aircraft would always be able to take off and land independently of the wind direction, since there is always a point without crosswind on the circular runway. Landing aircraft can also be routed away from residential areas because they are not dependent on a standard approach path. Finally, the ‘Endless Runway’ concept will enable multiple aircraft to take off and land simultaneously, resulting in increased airport capacity.NLR

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This means the runway can be used in any wind direction (making it independent of the direction of the wind) by shifting the lift-off and touchdown points of individual aircraft.

With a proposed diameter of 3km, Henks proposed structure is large enough to provide sufficient room for infrastructure preferably inside the circle, even for a hub airport.

This means the airport is compact while allowing current-day aircraft to use the circle without any significant structural modifications.