Should Airport Runways Be Circular?
In 2012, engineer Hank Hesselink came up with an interesting solution to the ever-growing demand for runway space.
With the increase in population and amount of people travelling, more and more flights are needed every day. This is not only putting stress on the airport but also on the runways themselves, causing a need for more takeoff space. Over 3.8 billion people flew in 2016, contributing to an average of a 5.3% increase every year.
This is a need that is only going to increase, and become more and more prominent, which is why Hesselink believes that his 'endless runway' is crucial in maintaining an efficiently working airport.
The circular runway, which is currently being researched at the Netherlands Aerospace Centre, was inspired by videos showing planes attempting to land in dangerous cross-wind conditions. Hank decided that he would design a runway that ensured no crosswinds - only headwind, as well as contributing to the environment and helping airports manage high numbers of passenger flights.
It significantly reduces airport congestion, as up to 3 planes can take off and land at different parts of the runway at the same time, as the runway itself is 3.5km in diameter - or equivalent to the length of 3 straight runways. Furthermore, It has been calculated that the circular runway can handle the work of 4 normal runways.
The runway has been designed to include banked sides. This not only stops crosswinds from affecting takeoff and landing but the centrifugal force will make the aircraft go slower and automatically head towards the centre of the runway, using less fuel for taxiing and therefore aiding the environment.
Hesselink believes that his design will not only have an environmental impact, but also a strong positive social impact. In a video made for BBC News, Hank says "This offers the possibility for less fuel burn in the area around the airfield", meaning it will have a positive impact on those who live near the runway. it will also benefit those living nearby as noise from planes landing and taking off can be controlled, as there is the possibility to fly in and out from any direction.
Hesselink's work has been funded by the European Commission, however, apart from military tests in the 1960's, A commercial circular runway is yet to be built.