Henk Hesselink is a man who has a very interesting idea about the future of airport design. In a recent study paid for by the European Commission, he developed a plan to create airports that revolve around a circular runway.
While not a wholly original concept, this is the first time the idea of a circular runway has ever been proposed for use in civilian aerospace. Apparently circular runways were flirted around with by the US Navy a long time ago, but they offer some great advantages that make it worth considering for development.
The use of a circle lets planes approach and take off from any angle, so their flight patterns could be modified to avoid causing disturbances for the surrounding area. They also allow noise reducing features to be built, and this would help to keep the places they were built near quiet.
Mr. Hesselink thinks that there would be fuel savings as well, and any advantage we can gain in efficiency is more than welcome.
The design he proposed is around 3.5 km in diameter, but because it is a circle, it would offer an operational length of 3X that. The high banked walls help to cut down on crosswind, so this design is potentially safer than a normal runway.
The circular design presents other pluses, and the models that were created at the Netherlands Aerospace Center show that this design could handle the work of 4 normal runways, with the planes having easier access to the terminal. Which is another way fuel savings would come into play.
Overall this is an amazing concept, and with the steady demand for more airports it is a real contender for continued research. The only real downside is that it is a new concept, so there may be some hiccups in implementation. Whatever they may be, I am certain that they will be overcome.
Here is hoping to see this great idea take off.