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Reshaping the future of air travel


A pioneering new circular airport design concept could prove to be a major game-changer for the aviation industry.

Developed through a collaboration between top European researcher centres, and led by the Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR), the project lays out a vision for the future of airport design.

At 3.5 kilometers in diameter, the ‘endless runway’ is a departure from the typical ‘fixed’ layout, which means it has a number of key advantages.

In a recent BBC report NLR’s Henk Hesselink revealed the ‘big idea’ is to ensure aircraft can take off and land with no crosswinds, only headwind. Henk said he was inspired to find another way after watching videos of planes landing dramatically in crosswinds. With this new design that challenge is eliminated, as aircraft – able to land anywhere on the circle – will always find a point where there is only a headwind.

The project team also said passengers needn’t worry that it might feel like being on a rollercoaster. The size of the circle means “a typical landing only requires a part of the runway with a limited curve,” a statement said. While the banked border will ensure planes can easily take the bend.

And thanks to the smarter design, it is able to replicate the capacity of a conventional airport with four runways, using the length of just three, making it greener and more efficient.

Finding innovative, more sustainable solutions – like the ‘endless runway’ – is crucial from an environmental perspective. With passenger numbers predicted to nearly double – to 7.2 billion passengers by 2035, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), huge additional pressures will be placed on it.

The ‘endless runway’ is also great news for those living in the vicinity. Not only does it offer a reduction in flight times around the airport, as planes are able to fly straight in and out, it allows for a new approach to be taken from the start.

“We will be able to design routes that avoid the areas where most people live. Or we can design routes such that everyone around the airfield will experience a similar level of noise,” NLR said.

NLR was joined in this project – which received funding through the EU FP7 initiative – by DLR (Germany), ONERA (France), INTA (Spain) and ILOT (Poland).

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Written By

Iain is a creative writer, journalist and lecturer, and formerly an editor of two international business publications. Iain is now editor of Innovators Magazine, as well as the strategic content director for OnePoint5Media.


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