I came across an interesting video showing research and simulations that are taking place that suggest that a circular, banked runway (Think race track style) is better, safer, and more environmentally sound.
The research is being conduct at The Netherlands Aerospace Center and several advantages are being discovered with a 360 degree runway. One being the idea that you can micro-tune approaches and departures to account for wind conditions; eliminating all those enjoyable cross-wind landings we like to watch on Youtube. The research suggests that you can have 3 aircraft departing and or arriving at the same time which would reduce congestion at major airports. Also with a circular runway, aircraft would spend less time in the air holding patterns over airports which in turn would reduce air and noise pollution near the airports.
Here is the video (Courtesy of BBC) explaining the concept along with simulator work showing the effectiveness of the idea. (PS, if any of you use X-Plane 10 or 11, there’s a circular airport that is available….and it’s a blast!).
After well over a million miles of flying, a recent ‘Airports International’ article brought something to my attention that I had never realized before. For those of you who travel in the USA and Canada, stop and think, have you seen many Glass Jetways at the airport? Thats because only a handful of airports have them, and the last ones were installed over 20 years ago and those needed special variances in order to be built because otherwise, they were forbidden. They’re prevalent everywhere else in the world, but for weird and outdated reasons, they were never allowed to be built here.
Now, thanks to a new directive from the National Fire Protection Association, building safety codes for airports have been updated to allow for the installation of Glass Jetways at any airport that chooses to have them. The previous building code forbid glass Jetways due to the fear that ‘passengers would not egress from a glass Jetway in the event of a fire’. Not sure if that makes sense, but the code was the code. Another reason that comes into mind is that there has not been any new, major or semi-major airport opened in the USA for the last few decades, which may have added to why we didn’t see Glass Jetways sooner.
The article goes on to compare the pros and cons of Glass vs. Steel or otherwise window-less Jetways and the comparison far and away favored the glass Jetways primarily due to the aesthetics and cost. We passengers apparently enjoy having a nice view as we board or deplane, and airports actually want you to see the area immediately surrounding the airport, especially if mountains, lakes, or oceans are near the airport. Cost wise, the glass Jetways are approximately 2-5% more expensive than their steel equivalent, making it a moot comparison when looking at cost.
So the next time you’re at a North American airport, stop and look around. You may be looking at the beginning of the end of the old, dark tubes they use to funnel us onto our flights.
H/T: Airports International / July 2015