A new type of circular runway is shaking our ideas about how airports can be run using much smaller spaces, reports Nicole Buckler.
The Gold Coast Airport is growing. International property and infrastructure group Lendlease has been appointed to deliver Gold Coast Airport’s southern terminal expansion. This is the next phase in the $370 million airport redevelopment.
While another runway isn’t imminent, it may soon be required, considering just how much the Gold Coast Airport is expanding.
Another Runway Needed?
A huge 6.6 million passengers pass through it every year, and this will more than double by 2037. And, the population of the Gold Coast and Northern NSW is forecast to grow significantly in the next 20 years. Queensland Airports Limited CEO Chris Mills said, “The existing terminal is currently operating beyond capacity.”
The Gold Coast Airport isn’t the only aviation hub that’s growing. All across the world right now, airports are bursting at the seams. More and more people want to fly, more often. While airports need to expand three-fold, most airports in established cities can’t get bigger due to a lack of land surrounding them. And getting permission for more runways is becoming near impossible.
But there could be a solution to that. The Endless Runway is a radical and novel airport concept, which may solve a lot of problems.
Dutch researcher Hank Hesselink came up with the idea behind the circular runway, after watching YouTube videos about scary crosswind take-offs and landings. He wanted to design an airport where the wind was not a big issue. The circle design ensures that planes take off with no crosswind, only headwind. With a circular runway, planes can take off or land regardless of what the wind is doing. And, the shape can improve the noise footprint on the local area.
Hesselink set about studying this very concept. He received funding from the European Commission via the Netherlands Aerospace Centre to work out whether it was viable. Currently, scientists are using simulators to test the circular runways. The design of the runway allows for three planes to land at the same time. When completed, it will handle the work of four runways.
The runway is 3.5kms long, and the sides are banked. As the plane lands, the passengers will experience a slight turn, much like a turn in the air. And, it won’t feel like it is a roller-coaster – pilots will only use part of the circle to land.
The runway will be large enough to provide sufficient room for infrastructure preferably inside the circle, even for an airport hub. This makes the airport compact, while allowing current-day aircraft to use the circle without significant structural modifications.
Multiple aircraft could take off from the same circular runway, and also land at the same time. This would be the end of congested air spaces – aircraft would be able to fly in to the airport from many different directions.
This idea is a just a concept at this early stage, but it is a great one. And while there are many design hurdles to overcome, we would love to see this at the Gold Coast. Mostly because it looks super cool.
Nicole Buckler is the editor-in-chief at Sunkiss Media. She has been a journalist for over 20 years, working in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, London, Dublin and Taipei. She recently returned to the Gold Coast, saying she has seen the world but the best place on earth is right here, and she’s never leaving again. You can contact her at Nicole@sunkissmedia.com.au