The year is 1750 and the steam train is impossible.  Scientists of the time believe that trains moving at 40mph would constrict people’s breathing due to the intense velocity of the locomotive.   

The year is 1918. The steam train is the most effective mass transit system bar none, moving millions of people worldwide.  Whilst planes are in existence, the idea of them being used as a mass transit system is laughable, a steam engine would never fit into a plane, it would simply be too heavy.

The year is 2018.  3.6 billion passengers made trips via plane in the year just passed, with that figure expected to rise this year.  The Aviation industry is worth trillions to the global economy.  Runways however are straight, there’s no need to change that, no further efficiencies can possibly be found.   If we want more planes to take off, we’ll just have to build more runways. Circular runways?! Impossible, how could that possibly work?

The year is not yet 2118, but if we continue to see the rise in passengers that just the last decade has provided, the straight line runway will limit the aviation industry, simply because there will not be enough space and it is difficult to improve the performance of these runways much further.  Whilst circular runways may seem ridiculous, there is in fact some pretty serious research being conducted into the possibility.

With the impending limitations fast approaching, Engineer Henk Hesselink is looking into the potentials of a circular runway, conducting his work from the Netherlands Aerospace Centre.  He has currently secured funding from the European Commission for his research and is leading a consortium of five European research institutes.

Mr Hesslink believes the concept of his ‘Endless Runway’ will be revolutionary to the aviation industry as he believes it will be possible for up to three flights to take off/or land simultaneously through shifting the lift-off and touchdown points of individual aircraft.  Furthermore the very nature of the circular runway means that aircraft will, for the first time, be able to operate independently of the wind.

With the runway having a diameter of 3 kilometres, there will be more than enough room for a hub airport to sit neatly in the centre, compacting the airport enormously in comparison to current models.  The design also means that current-day aircraft will be able to use the runway without significant modifications.

So what do you think of the idea?  Does it have any potential? What issues could it encounter?  We’d love to hear your comments! 

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