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New runway concept will have you going in circles

16 March 2017

The Endless Runway is a novel concept which applies a circular runway to airports in the attempt to tackle their growing capacity.

Endless Runway concept (Credit: The Endless Runway Project)

As identified by the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe (ACARE), the lack of capacity at airports is a major constraint to growth in air transport today. 

The Endless Runway concept operates with a circular runway that will allow take-off and landing from any direction. This principle gives the runway a unique characteristic; it can be used in any wind direction. 

On its website, the Endless Runway Project states that three different situations can be identified for aircraft landing on the circular runway:

1. In strong wind conditions, the aircraft will fly in sequence towards the runway to allow for landing at the touchdown point where dependency from the wind is at a minimum (exactly headwind). This is no difference from today, with the exception that an optimum touchdown point always exists where for a conventional runway a certain crosswind will need to be accepted; hence the Endless Runway reaches a sustainable maximum capacity under every wind condition with every wind direction.

How aircraft will take-off and land (Credit: The Endless Runway Project)

2. In low wind conditions, no meteorological restrictions exist for the aircraft to land towards any direction, enabling the possibility of shorter landing intervals. The aircraft can be sequenced such that consecutive aircraft originate from different directions and do not have to be spaced according to wake turbulence categories.

3. With changing wind, the aircraft sequence can gradually “move” with the wind direction. No break in the sequence occurs which is the case with conventional runway configurations. No costly operations for tactical runway changes or changing runway directions during operations will be necessary.

The circle of the runway will have a diameter of approximately 3km, large enough to provide enough room for a building in the centre, perhaps a central hub for passengers waiting to board. This reduces the space of the airport whilst allowing for more aircraft to travel in and out. 

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