’the endless runway’ is a new airport concept from dutch scientist henk hesselink, consisting of a 3.5 KM diameter round runway encircling the terminal building. the circlar runway—which allows up to three planes to take off and land at the same time—would take up just a third of the space of a conventional airport. fed up with delayed flights due to wind conditions, hesselink designed a runway concept that can be used independent of changing wind speed and direction, since there is always a point without a crosswind on the circular track.

The Endless Runway animation
there is always a point without crosswind on hesselink’s circular runway

 

 

hesselink originally came up with ‘the endless runway’ after watching one too many scary crosswind plane landings on youtube, and decided to take action to improve the situation. the circular shape of the banked runway would allow it to be used in all wind conditions, by allowing planes to take off and land at any point on the circle. in strong, blowy conditions, aircrafts would land at the point where wind was at a minimum. with changing wind direction, the aircraft can move with the wind, preventing bumpy landings and costly operations for changing runway direction. the ring-shaped track also ensures that the planes always have headwind when they need to take off and land.

The Endless Runway animation
the circular shape ensures planes always have headwind when they take off and land

 

 

alongside improving the flying experience for passengers, hesselink also believes that making runways ring-shaped can have a positive environmental impact. since planes will not have to compete with strong cross winds, they will burn less fuel in the area around the airfield. planes will be able to fly in from any direction, giving the pilot greater control over where to fly, and where to avoid flying. the increased choice in take-off and landing direction would be a big step in managing air traffic conditions, which are increasing greatly as the airfield sector doubles in size every 15 years. 

the-endless-runway-concept-designboom-03-23-2017-818-002
the ‘endless runway’ project is supported by NLR, among other large aerospace companies

 

 

the circular runway is equivalent in length to three straight airstrips, but hesselink’s team have calculated that it would be able to handle the demands of four normal runways, allowing airports to occupy less land space. ‘the endless runway’ project is supported by the netherlands aerospace centre (NLR), along with DLR germany and ONERA in france.

the-endless-runway-concept-designboom-03-23-2017-818-003
hesselink imagines ‘the endless runway’ design in some of europe’s major airports

the-endless-runway-concept-designboom-03-23-2017-818-004
a diagram explains the functionality of the circular track

  • The whole concept is fundamentally ludicrous and shows a complete misunderstanding of how aircraft land. Humans and automated pilots can line up to the middle of a straight line but the big problem is getting the height correct because of changes in wind speed and direction and things called microbursts. This means that there is huge variation in the point down the runway where the plane contacts the ground. This circular concept does not allow for that.

    Chris P says:
  • early April Fool joke? I think we have some physics issues here…. he he

    Dave says:
  • It would be interesting to see if landing gear could take the side-load of constantly turning? Would have been nice if the Wright Brothers had thought of it….

    Jim

    Jim

    JimCan says:
  • April 01 is coming. This one is too early.

    Tung Cab says:
  • This idea is dead on arrival (literally).
    Relative wind direction would be changing during approach and takeoff, this means lift will change while you are low and slow (dangerous). How do you line up for landing? What would be the traffic pattern? What is the procedure for missed approach? Etc. etc. etc.

    Carlos says:
  • There would also be an issue with take off into a pattern because lift off would be required at a particular point on the runway. A delayed takeoff point would mean you would be pointing in the wrong direction.

    Chris P says:
  • I wonder if a strong electromagnetic towing system could tether the airplanes to the track while they gain speed and have the inner engine at higher power to account for differences in lift.

    Will C says:
  • great utopia, but not consequent enough, seams that the scientist is collaborating with the airplane manufacturing and supplying industry…in order to have lots of aircrashes. despite the ethical and impious question…
    it is visible that the idea is coming from the sphere of a small VFR pilot or a rc control pilot. not from the commercial IFR pilot sphere. CDG Paris is more efficient with 4 RWYs, cause 2 planes can start and 2 can land at the same time, same in FRA. despite the question of airway corridor together aicraft noise.
    for consideration of the commercial heavy take-off weight and landing weight the centrifugal inclination and radius shall be adapted from the necessity for a B737/A320 to a B747/A380/An225. hopefully the scientist is not coming with a superbowl circular airport with several concentric runways.
    would be great to have a 3-d model for the x-plane flightsimulator. cause there lots of flightsim- and faa/license approved pilots could test windshear, fog, heavy rain, wake of heavy airplanes, programming STAR and SID approaches. please mister henk hesselink, provide the x-plane.org community with a model. great fun to test. my comment might be critical in thinking, but there is no place like hope!

    bumbus says:
  • This is a joke, surely? The list of things that are ludicrously wrong with this beggars belief; is the ‘dutch scientist’ noted for any other major breakthroughs? Square wheels perhaps?

    Well, let’s start with a few basics – as noted above, side-ways loads on the u/c would be probably higher than designed for on current planes, so everyone will need to upgrade their aircraft.
    On landing the aircraft will be facing into the wind for a BRIEF moment, then it will be lurching sideways as it turns into the crosswind.
    How many sets of ILS systems are they planning on building – 10? 20? 360? 720?
    Departing aircraft – what to they do if they need to abort takeoff? Suddenly you’re trying to control / land a possibly damaged aircraft in a nasty crosswind.
    Passenger comfort – the turn radius looks a bit tight, even for a HST let alone an aircraft. Even with the banking there will still be significant sideways acceleration. Better load more sick bags!
    There’s effectively only ONE runway – or are they actually landing / t.o. side-by side? (good god, I think they ARE!)
    What happens if a plane lands short/long due to microgust?
    Assuming there is a way of marking the aim/touchdown points (those funny paintmarks on runways? They aren’t just for looks you know!) they would appear to be maybe 100-150m long. So suddenly every airline / cargo pilot needs to perform naval aircraft carrier night ops precision landings -every time? (Note that not even the top navy pilots can’t consistently land perfectly!)
    Last I looked – most airports were reasonably flat. They don’t have 25m high embankments surrounding them; surface winds over features like that produce nasty little ridge vortices on the lee side. (you do know what ‘lee’ means, right?). Just what you want when landing, a nice fat rolling vortex spilling off the ridge right in front of you.
    Like 3 out of 5 articles on this site – just fantasy (and not even good fantasy at that!) from someone with 3DS Max and too much time on their hands!

    Adrian Esdaile says:
  • Looks just like a Bruce McCall illustration (and idea) !

    The aerial view seems to show a flat runway, while a closer view has the runway banked like a racecourse. Maybe there’s a reason this hasn’t been projected before now ?

    Stephen Ritchings says:
  • EU already made a masterplan for future airport, and the layout is circular like this. Not April Fool joke Chris, it’s next days airport. It’s solves many problems of today’s airport, the first concept was from early 1900.

    Eko says:
  • There would be no side load, nor would it feel circular since the runway is banked to compensate for those issues. When coasting to park station, the runway gradually levels to horizontal grade. So, not ludicrous.

    VT says:
  • Oh. Comments here from people who haven’t bothered with the research papers and simulation studies. There has been a huge amount of work on this already. The runway is banked and curved in two planes, so to speak.

    SteveT says:
  • Well, with the huge success of roundabouts popping up all over the US why not with jumbo jets too. What could POSSIBLY go wrong? It would get very “interesting” when some Brits come on the opposite way as the US pilots.

    Bri Co says:
  • The passengers would love the centrifugal forces. How full could a drink before before spilling? Enjoy your April 1.
    If this is for real, please keep it in Europe for prototyping.

    Yehudi BaMidbar says:
  • It’s very obvious that the person who came up with this concept has no knowledge of aviation! As mentioned earlier by Dave, landing is not something as accurate as landing at a given point. It’s landing on a given path and that path is not a circle! There are so many reasons that this is practical it’s ridiculous.

    Msradell says:
  • A circular runway is not a new idea at all. The concept was floated (and discarded) about three-quarters of a century ago.

    brotherStefan says:
  • I can’t imagine how many lawsuits there’d be over property values when the flight paths changed.

    Gary says:
  • Obviously, airport designer has never flown a plane. Let’s debunk this thing with a touch-and-go or balked landings. With a 1-mile radius and typical touchdown speeds of 140 knots (about 161 mph) for commercial aircraft, essentially this circular runway is the pattern of a standard rate turn (assuming left turns for all my illustrations here). Flying 50 feet above the runway, but tracking its centerline, the plane is in about a 25-degree bank turn. Thus, there is enough horizontal lift component to cause the turn (as coordinated by the rudder). Now bring that flight down to ground level: assuming left turns on the runway, the pilot lands the plane with the left main touching first, which quickly slows the plane down. But the plane needs to continue to track the circular pattern and maintain the horizontal lift component and, because the plane is now going slower, the bank angle must be significantly increased to compensate deceleration: the pilot adds more bank angle and clips the left wing (assuming a low wing or a mid wing), and crashes the plane.

    I also point out that at touchdown, in order to track the circular pattern and because the main wheels are non-steering wheels, the turning can only come from the horizontal lift component of increased bank angle … in other words, the right wing is flying (producing lift) but the left wing is not flying (because the left main wheels are supporting the plane) … this condition is known as a Spin, it’s very very very dangerous, and spins are never performed at low altitude (maybe 10,000 AGL). So this circular configuration is really deadly (and that’s ignoring the side loading on the higher speeds of take-off and landing).

    Now let’s pretend the pilot did not crash, but decides to abort the landing (e.g., seeing runway ice/water ahead). At that point, the airport designer is expecting the plane to be taking off in a spin condition (one wing flying, the other not, all to get enough horizontal lift to support the curved runway). First of all, no one purposely gets into spin configurations near the ground. And, second, the only maneuver we are trained on for getting out of a spin is Nose Down immediately (to get air over the wings so the plane is flying again), use the rudder to stop the spiral, and then to pull up from the dive. There are NO OTHER standard maneuvers in response to a spin condition for these categories of aircraft … you don’t just add more power and fly yourself out of it (as this airport designer would have pilots do) because spins are uncontrolled and unpredictable aircraft flying regime.

    And every aircraft would have to be re-certificated because “Spins At Ground Level” would need to be added to the Normal and Transport category of aircraft operations.

    This airport designer should take flying lessons and learn to do landings in light aircraft on runway conditions where the crosswinds are at the maximum crosswind component for his/her aircraft (the point where you’re worried about crapping your pants and thinking Can I Make This?). And when that airport designer is doing crosswind landings precisely with (say) left main touching first, right main next, and nose wheel last … well that will be the moment when he will know in his bones why circular runways make no sense. And the instructor is not going to a student pilot experiment with adding another 25 degrees of bank to see if he/she can make the plane follow the circular track … the flight instructor won’t allow it because he/she wants to go home alive that day.

    Oh, and did I mention bad weather and instrument landings? Assuming night time and fog, the airport designer is expecting the pilot to follow the track (which means looking down), while the other side of the plane is up in the air and hiding airport/obstacle/horizon visibility at night? With no visible horizontal reference for the pilot during takeoff and landing, at that point the pilot is in IMC (instrument meteorological conditions), but at ground level, not 3000 AGL … and if you’re in IMC, you need to be flying the plane via instruments, not visual references … but all this is happening at ground level when you need to use visual references for take-off and landing.

    This circular runway is a horrible and very dangerous idea.

    Frank Farance says:
  • “Comments here from people who haven’t bothered with the research papers and simulation studies. There has been a huge amount of work on this already. The runway is banked and curved in two planes, so to speak.”

    And I’d be pretty certain all the research says is ‘great use of land’, ‘very efficient public transport’, ‘great carparks’, ‘totally unworkable from an aviation aspect as commercial pilots / aircraft aren’t trained / designed with spiral decent and assymetric landing configurations in mind’

    Adrian Esdaile says:
  • “A circular runway is not a new idea at all. The concept was floated (and discarded) about three-quarters of a century ago.”

    Yep, it was. In the 1930’s, along with runways on top of buildings in the middle of cities. And clockwork autopilots (DECCA), and aircraft-carrier airships with runways on top of the envelope, and ‘parasite’ fighters, and mail-by-rocket. Just because someone thought of it 75 years ago doesn’t make it a great idea – they thought of it 75 years ago, then thought a bit more 74.9999 years ago, and that thought was ‘No, that’s a daft idea that would result in disaster’. Like all the other examples.

    Adrian Esdaile says:
  • Very interesting.
    The first thing I thought was “Did this designer ever take off or land an aircraft?”

    Seems like adding left and right to a take or landing would be adding WAY too much
    error conditions for my understanding.

    Some of the comments seem to point to some tests that were done?
    Do we have any info on these test?
    Maybe some video of it?
    With wind data so we can know how the wind currents would affect such an attempt?

    This seems so non-intuitive to me, but I only have 30 hours of flight time, so I may be missing
    something important that this designer and their contacts in the companies that they claim
    are on board with this are.

    Thanks.

    Patrick Ira DonEgan says:
  • The planning stage of the KDFW, Dallas airport was planned as a 5 mile diameter runway.
    Obviously it did not happen, but…
    All you folks think it is stupid! Of course nobody like that would have ever built an airplane with less than two wings, and no propellor.
    Indianapolis 500 cars just do not fly off the track when they reach the banked part.
    In the 60’s when the DFW project was considered, they wanted to use Microwave transmitters to control the aircraft’s position. Today Garmin GPS approaches could be built in just a few days. 5 miles plus or minus 15 feet with satellite stations, or a few millimeters with a local base station! Today crosswind landings exert more side load and thump down that would never be encountered on a round runway. There never is a crosswind. Landing Minimums and decision heights would not exist, just keep on coming and set VS for -100 fpm. Lost hydraulics, flaps and brakes and reverser…. just keep rolling along, it will stop soon enough.
    Enough said, lots of people poop on a new ideas seen here!

    bargbill says:
  • There’s a lot of criticism on this concept, and yes, the criticism is legit. This will be a difficult concept to pull off, and it’s not certain that the existing airplane fleet will be able to use it, but a lot of the problems explained should be solvable. I would also like to remind you all that a straight line is just a part of a circle with an infinite radius, given a high enough radius, all of the problems with “you can’t pinpoint exactly where you will land” goes away. If this one is big enough for the purpose however, I can’t say.

    Mechanical Engineering Student says:
  • ok ok … I’ll take a train…

    stef says:
  • The big problem is that there is no way to make a precision approach when at minimum weather condition.
    How could one perform a RNAV approach or worst, a ILS approach. Having all those procedure expecting a circling aproach would bring the minimums to a higher altitude resulting in several missed approach and alternating procedures.

    Thom says:
  • I have an idea about landing on trade mill runway. As we run on trade mill in the same place similarly plane can land on trade mill like runway but it will very small in length comparatively with the long run way. I will request Henk Hesselink to think about this also.

    Mukul Rahman says:
  • Hard to believe Hesselink has ever tried to land an airplane. While the circle looks like great fun to land on as long as the winds are light and there are no passengers on board, it would be way too sporting for routine use. Many problems have already been noted, but my initial concerns involve the constantly changing wind angle during takeoff and landing rolls, plus a real nightmare with traffic patterns. Good grief!

    JonMD says:
  • The more I think about it, the more this idea earns its rightful place alongside the circular firing squad and the nuclear hand grenade…

    JonMD says:
  • Wonderful design. Now is necessary to construct some new kind of aircraft fitting this concept. I look forward to see more.

    BohJa says:
  • I think in the future we dont need runway anymore becase the plane will evolve to drone-like shape & system. So maybe we’ll just have a fast appron.

    nind says:

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