Are Circular Runways The Future?

A new concept has emerged from the Netherlands Aerospace Centre that could completely change the way we see airports, as well as address issues with space and safety.

Dubbed the “endless runway” the concept allows planes to take off and land from any direction. This means planes will no longer need to account for wake turbulence separation from following the paths of other planes.

Proposed by Henk Hesselink the endless runway also allows the airport to not be dependent on wind direction, and has even listed three occasions the endless runway will be a benefit to pilots.

“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”

“In strong wind conditions, the aircraft will fly in sequence towards the Endless 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.”


“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.”

It’s a trippy idea, but it isn’t the first time it has been suggested. Thor Yi Chun of Malaysia’s University of Science came up with the same idea which he named the Aero-Loop.

Facebooker Syed Ansar Hussain left a number of interesting critiques that other pilots may be interested in. At this point you’re all speaking a different language to me.

“Turning is the last thing you want to be doing when flying as slow as landing speed, which is near stall speed, because the inboard wing will stall first, so your planes will be crashing before they get to the runway.”

“You’re trying to have optimal windage at takeoff but you don’t know exactly when the plane will rotate. You’re introducing more variables trying to solve a problem that is already dealt with by procedures and techniques. ”

“You’re trying to land into the wind but you have to change wind angle as soon you lands which will make it very challenging for the pilot.”

“You’re trying to have more space for takeoffs and landings but you still effectively only have one runway, the one going into the wind, unless you build an inner and outer ring.”

“It does not save any fuel burn for planes on approach because they still have to vector to where they will land into the wind. Besides, planes aren’t burning that much extra gas flying around to downwind because they’re descending, but they’d still have to in this and it would be more challenging and dangerous because unless they touchdown right where the circular runway is pointed upwind then they’ll have a slight crosswind.”

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