Are Circular Runways the Dizzying Answer to Our Travel Problems?

Saturday April 08, 2017 Written by Garry

International airports aren’t always easy on the eye. Which is fine; it’s not the job of transport infrastructure to beautify a place. But it turns out modern airports aren’t especially well-designed from a technical standpoint, either. The efficiency of their cross-hatched linear runaways is at the behest of the weather and incoming and outgoing aircraft. Worse still: due to their finite length, their runways pose a danger if they are accidentally overshot.

Dutch designer Henk Hesselink of the Netherlands Aerospace Centre believes The Endless Runway Project – a circular landing strip that would have a three-kilometre diameter – could bring an end to those dangers, and make runways more aesthetically pleasing in the process.

Hesselink argues his design would increase safety, as planes could choose their approach angle to avoid dangerous crosswinds. And with no actual end to the runway, running out of space to land on wouldn’t pose a problem. He also reckons efficiency would increase, as incoming flights would be more direct, and outgoing planes wouldn’t have to wait long to take off.

As a concept, circular airports aren’t new. Designs such as this one from the Illustrated London News in 1919, and the Lehigh Wheel Design from 1929, pop up from time to time, without ever – ahem – taking off. (Possibly because they look terrifying.) But with Hesselink sounding the horn, perhaps there’s life in the old design yet. 

You can watch a flight simulator test of the runway to your left.