The Nonconventional Airport /          
Runway Concept
        

 

This story has two beginnings. Let's begin at the 1st beginning...                     



 Place: Westover AFB, Massachusetts, time: Summer 1959. Back in the rock and roll
 days of those 1950's many Americans worked a six day work week even if it included 
 a half day Saturday like my dad's Air Force job. My mom yelled out the door that her 
 hands were full with my baby sister & brother & she would appreciate if my dad could
 take me with him to work. My dad said for me to hop in the car. On Saturday's usually
 his offices were being cleaned and only senior personnel were there finishing up on their
 on going projects or just preparing for the up coming week work load. 

 So dad put me at an outer office desk with some color pencils, pens & paper to keep me
 occupied. I then became the model quiet well behaved son. My dad at the time was then
 assigned to the headquarters of the famous WWII  8th Air Force.
 
 What I remember was I had composed a letter on how to better aviation, more importantly
 how to make it much safer and a lot more cost efficient.  Apparently with a view out the 
 office window of the nearby base airfield my wandering eye and mind hit upon an idea.
 Why not come up with a new approach to airport & runway layout design. Not sure what
 prompted me except the ideas of youth are always seemingly trying to prove the impossible
 and break from conventional thinking, might be as good a reasoning as any.  I also really
 do remember that I had several drawings enclosed but, I wasn't able to find them & have
 since forgotten what they all may have exactly contained but I do remember what they all
 covered. There was one drawing that had as an answer what happens to an airport with a
 race track design when it reaches full capacity. Then another quadrant of the metropolitan
 complex would gain another race track airport much like NYC currently has JFK, Newark
 and La Guardia
serving it's needs. There was also a two angle view of what a Race Track
 runway configuration would look like in operation at ground level and from a high aerial
 perspective. There was another drawing that had the dual cones of the proposed arriving &
 departing air traffic corridors in a dual conical arrangement. One schematic layout of high
 speed transportation services such as trains, buses, monorails to bring and take away the
 passenger traffic from the terminal area to surrounding 24 hour malls that are well lighted,
 safe and secure 7 days a week with a constant flow of passengers coming & going. Because
 these are typical shopping malls they would be able to provide thousands of free parking
 spaces. The malls also would have the addition of hotels and motels added to their mix
 as added services and customer convenience.  

 I did go into detail on the major airport terminal structure & it's layout that practically fills
 the entire central area of the race track runway. Lower levels would have airport employee
 parking areas only, as there would no longer a need for any passenger parking at the airport
 itself. There would be lower levels dedicated to trains & people movers such as monorails, a
 level for busses, taxies and hotel transportations. Also levels for aircraft-side and baggage
 handling & sorting; with passenger arrival / customs / agriculture as well. Next level up is
 passenger departure areas along with their airline ticket counters, gates, gift shops & food
 courts. Business level with airport tenants, airport offices, security, airline lounges and etc.
 A level for airport plane-side services such as baggage vehicles, airplane food servicing, fire,
 rescue & police equipment. On this same level could be similar airport service vehicles such
 as snow removal, airport construction and temporary work vehicles. Going up the central
 control tower 15 - 18 story structure would be executive offices, sky view restaurants, ATC,
 airport control computer rooms and weather operations center. Another floor could have the
 various airline ground control operation centers.

 Also detailed was several drawings on surrounding layout of industrial parks, car rental lots
 and facilities and support industries that, rather than be co-located at the airfield can be in
 a more convenient industrial zones close to major highway arteries and interstate roads.   

 I formed my proposal in outline format and with a letter. I had passer's by explaining to me
 bits and pieces of necessary information,  I was able to get the letter correctly addressed to
 the CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board) in Washington D.C. That was the organization that later
 would become in less than a year the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).

 It appears an error had occur because although the name was mine, but somehow my dad's
 rank was inserted (Major). It was also from the office of the chief of staff who was General
 Nazzaro, the head of 8th AF and may have been the man that said to me that he would see
 to it that it would get mailed.

 So now CAB thought they had a proposal from a USAF officer who was an active duty pilot
 and had the endorsement of the 8th AF Commander. So, when the CAB received it they must
 have jumped to some conclusions as it was then given a 'Red' priority and immediately sent
 over to the NAFEC (National Aeronautics Flight Evaluation Center) facility at Pomona NAS
 located near Atlantic City N.J. to start R&D work. I saw two things were about to happen.

 First the old CAB would soon be out of business and a new FAA would be taking it's place
 due to a political shift in our national elections as the Eisenhower era would be ending. Next
 I saw that a proof of concept was planed with a state wide model airplane fly-in sponsored at
 the near-by NAFEC mobile home park that contained many ex-Navy & CAA families. More
 specifically at their softball, little league baseball diamonds and now R/C model airplane lot.
 A 1/35th scale elliptical runway concept was built to host this event. They wanted to see if it
 worked, what it's max capacity could be, any safety issues and if the aircraft separation factor
 would be maintained with this unusual runway design especially at capacity.  

 Apparently what happen next was the CAA was closing down and the model airplane invite
 was to occur just afterwards by several weeks. Rather than cancel the invite many of the CAA
 employees decided to volunteer to host the event themselves and on a holiday weekend the 3
 day fly-in literally took off without a hitch. Everyone was impressed with the astounding
 capacity and even with a better margin of safety. The Race-Track could compete with any
 airport with up to TEN runways in full operation. One military observer mentioned that the
 "politicians" would never let the Race Track concept see the light of day & put into operation
 anywhere, as it instantly could spell the end of cities, states & other government entities ripping
 it's citizens off for the airport money gravy train source of taxed revenue. Can you just imagine
 if the military discovering this radical design would be moving all it's air installation, not just
 here but perhaps world wide? Hundreds of model planes were at times all in operation flying,
 landing, taking off, descending and all with proper safe separation.

 CAA was shut down and no report was ever filed, only a local newspaper article from the near
 by Pleasantville Press by one of the attendees. There were pictures but all were of the trophy
 winners and their aircraft but none amazingly enough about what they described as the most
 unusual runway ever seen before by anyone.  There's not much left today as the trailer park
 has fallen on hard times, the old timers have mostly passed or moved away and dust just blows
 around some empty fields of weeds as a sad epitaph of an original. 
      




       Now The Second Beginning, skip ahead almost Thirty years...


 
 While assigned to the 436th Air Base Wing, Dover AFB in Delaware, I attended night classes
 at nearby Delaware Technical Institute (DelTech) where my twice weekly lab was across the
 Delaware River at Atlantic City's NAFEC (National Aeronautics Flight Test Center) at the
 old Pomona Naval air station. In the 1950's and 1960's it was part of the CAA but now was
 pretty much superseded by the newer FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). I was located
 in the computer plans and airport development branch . My Air Force job at the time was a
 very sophisticated computer room at the Base Data Automation center.

 One of my first jobs at NAFEC was to research airport development since the Korean War.
 It was then I ran across my childhood submission to the then CAA at the NAFEC library on
 the Atlantic City airport campus. It read like I just wrote it that week except all the drawings
 were now missing. Due to regulations at the time, I was prevented from photo copying any of
 the documents for my own personal use but, I was allowed to take as many notes and write as
 much as I wanted.  I did so I could show my instructors what I had once written.
   
 I then decided to approach my instructors in my aeronautic program if I could resubmit this
 concept as my new Thesis research paper rather than the one I previously had selected. They
 were amazed at all the detail and the novelty of the concept, it's possible impact on aviation
 and they both said they would enthusiastically support me in my work-in-progress.      
 Here then is that Thesis...   




THESIS: 
The Closed Elliptical RACE TRACK Runway Concept 

DATE: 12 February 1989                               
                                                                     
       MSGT USAF Charles Littman
                                                                                           DelTech College, Dover, Delaware
                                                                                           Aviation Sciences Class 202,
                                                                                           Airport Development, Lloyd Stoebner

 
It seems that ever since the dawn of aviation airport planners have sought a more perfect airport
layout. This was not limited to just control towers, terminal buildings and airplane hangers. But,
also included especially safer, more practical and logical runway & taxiway layout arrangements.
Both here in the United States and over seas many design proposals and experimental runways
have been put forward, tested and tried. Some have been since adopted but none never was the
answer that was sought nor reached the ultimate goal of a simplistic perfect design that could
adapt to the ever more passengers, more aircraft, more congestion without the airport finally
finished expanding.  Except for one proposal that appeared late in the decade of the 1950's from
a supposedly active duty air force pilot in the 8th Air Force Headquarters at Westover AFB called...
                                       The Closed Race Track Elliptical Concept.

Ever since World War One, when literally thousands of aircraft were created over night, has there
been a real need for maximizing airport capacity and servicing. All that was needed was an open
field free of any tall obstacles at either end of the flight line. In fact it could be argued that the
worse off the land the better it made for this airport concept. When traffic increased & aircraft had
to fly regardless of the weather, only then did it occur to surface the runways & later the taxiways.
This would be the situation at all airfields whether they be civilian or military all the way up to the
Second World War.
 
During World War II runways had to be strengthened and parking aprons had to be surfaced and
made more spacious. By the late 1940's demobilized pilots by the thousands and scraped military
aircraft by the tens of thousands were released into the civilian market both here in the states as
well as over seas. The need for air traffic control, nav aids, weather stations, safer commercial
passenger traffic and convenient airports to all major metropolitan cities brought about the single
greatest expansion of the air travel industry in history. Crash programs to construct new facilities
became a coast to coast national effort which just one off shoot was the national defense highway
system we know today as the Eisenhower Interstate Super Highway System to tie all military bases,
stations and airfields in one interconnect highway matrix without any traffic lights and stop signs.

Now, more additional runways were needed to keep up with demand, but building them so one
runway complimented another and not block or created an airfield congestion or complicated the
air traffic pattern soon became a complex problem without reasonable solutions. Many different
approaches were taken during this period from 1945 to 1955. Then came the monkey wrench into
this mix; the advent of the Boeing 707 1st commercial jet airliners quickly followed by an over night
compounding of the situation with the arrival of the first wide body jumbo jets, especially the huge
400 passenger 747's and DC-10's.

The airport provides the connection between ground based vehicles & airborne transportation.  Its
purpose is to effect this interchange of persons, cargo with air planes with the minimum amount of
delay, expense and inconvenience while all the time be consistent with safety. The design layout of
the airport can affect the time required for all operations. Since any unnecessary time spent in these
operations represents additional costs to the aircraft operator and his customers, these investments
that are required to reduce these losses can be compared to contemporary business overhead or can
they? Various runway layouts have been tested over the years from the stand point of capacity by
developing a curve of the operating rates of landings and takeoffs against the corresponding delays
to departures that will result from a particular runway layout. At this point in time (Feb 1989) the
number of parallel runways on one side of a airfield should not exceed three because the ground
control co-ordination problems & level crossing delays become too great with four or more parallel
runways interfering with each other both in the air and on the ground.

However a looming factor to complicate most of the 17,000 airports today is they were built with
the idea of piston aircraft with under 100 passengers per aircraft in mind. With the arrival of the
Boeing 707 jet aircraft & over 200 passengers per aircraft now typical, this ushered in a new reality
of under capacity of all major airports around the world almost over night. Factor in the massive
increase of passenger traffic and their accompanied baggage and we soon see dark clouds on the
horizon of our airports to just cope. The technology in the air was out pacing that on the ground in
both facilities and services. This was to say nothing about the choke point of landing and departure
corridors next to the runways.

It should be point out here, that since the Wright brothers there really has only been Two runway
designs. The straight line typical runway and the intersecting cross pair of runways. All those listed
above and in the next paragraph are just variations of that theme, only compounded with multiples
of additional parallel & diverging runways next to the original. Except for the Race-Track concept.

The Intersecting, open 'V' and even multi parallel runways were all tried. First with limited success
at relieving air traffic congestion, flight delays and going a long way in coping with the increase in
passenger usage. Then tangential configurations (See Table 1-A) began to use up all the remaining
area now surrounding today's airports. Everyone of the above mention runway layouts was just a
variation of the original theme since the dawn of aviation... straight and intersecting runways. There
was the independent approaches and departures. While ideal and theoretically possible, but it was
not known how much co-ordination be accomplished with it's operation because of converging
paths for missed approaches and failed departures since both use the same runway, just at different
times. Basically, it would take the age of the computer & air traffic modeling to work out problems.

It was soon discovered by the late 1950's and surely for the rest of the airports by the 1960's that this
was all only a delaying effort and that bigger and bigger aircraft were arriving at more and more
frequent intervals. But the worst news of all was that passenger traffic growth went beyond all
predictions and was passing through every revision almost as fast as the ink could dry!

The mathematical model and today's analog computer techniques can approximate capacity if
assumptions are made regarding the operational uncertainties. The modified tangential runway
is a theoretical configuration that is similar to the tangential with two pairs of nearly parallel
runways offset and on opposite sides of the terminal area. See Table 1-A. These adjacent runways
converge near the terminal area at an angle of 10 and 20 degrees, with their end separated by
possibly 2,000 feet of clearance. Landings are on converging paths while takeoffs are on diverging
paths. This will allow for two simultaneous approaches and two departures and all four at the
same time, resulting in a quadrupling of capacity at just one airport. However, this approach
became still born due to both pilot dissatisfaction and airport managers reluctance to change.

Also, about this same time the Race-Track concept was submitted by an active duty USAF pilot
named Major Charles Littman out of Westover AFB 8th AF Headquarters back in 1959. Only little
problem was that really was ME at only 15 years of age! The Major was my father's rank back
then who also worked at 8th AF Headquarters & was an active duty pilot. How exactly this mix
up occurred is not known for sure but I do remember quite vividly submitting a proposal for a
elliptical Race-Track design for a runway concept. This novel approach to airport design apparently
had a lot of engineer and airport designers interest and curiosity. So much so it was studied, looked
at with a jaundice eye, researched and even put to the test by having well over a hundred Radio
Controlled (R/C) model aircraft put through the paces of its workability and design. Unfortunately
it got lost in the changeover from the old WWII CAA to the cold war FAA.

One of the most important aspects of such a radical design was the safety of a never ending runway
either in emergency type landings (like without brakes) or vice versa on take offs (never running out
of runway length) & it answered the age old conundrum of airports never being finished expanding
& construction with more and more runways, taxiways, adjusting for constant increasing passenger
loads, increasing aircraft traffic and increasing congested flight and taxi patterns. There is also this
very nasty habit of airports Taking. The monopolization of prime real estate, noise pollution, vehicle
congestion, air pollution and even self pollution to the very surrounding lands themselves.

It is almost as though airports are tolerated as a necessary evil to be ignored all the while taking tax
payer money, taking tolls, taking tariffs taking fees, nickel and diming everyone who wants to park,
eat, drink, carry a bag, stay a night, board a flight and when used by the travelling public Taxed
some more. Pathetic, utterly pathetic. 

Amazingly this Race-Track goes a long way to answer many of these issues and irritants while at
the same time making the airport with an elliptical fixed planned runway layout a good neighbor.

Want a real novel answer to a perennial problem?  How about boarding and deplaning the aircraft
in a timely manner? Almost all aircraft have only one solitary jet way and on some wide body over
seas flights a measly two jet ways. With the Race-Track concept you have a choice either SIX or
even EIGHT jet ways. Amazed? Gets better, how about at deplaning you have an immediate choice
right at the airplane door (all 6 or 8) to go down escalators to baggage claim, straight out to any
connecting flights and gates or up an escalator to food courts, bathrooms/washrooms, lounges or
straight out to the mass transit people movers, busses, taxies and hotel transportation? Now even
if you are on a 300, 400 or even a 500 seat plane you now will have far fewer fellow passengers to deal
or put up with no matter how slow, old they are or how much in a hurry you need to be somewhere.

I was told back in 1989 while researching this paper a few of the NAFEC old timers could still be
found and two were eventually located. They said that everything did not stop on that R/C model
airplane fly back in 1959 but, continued for almost three more years with enthusiast occasionally
showing up from time to time with their ole R/C buddies to try out this circular runway design. He
said the hobbyist love the simplicity and the fact they never had to worry about the length of the
runway for either landing or for takeoffs. They said this place made R/C flying the easiest they ever
seen and it was always a joy to try. One other person said he was there in a car watching one time.
I asked why in the car and not in one of the nearby ball diamond bleachers? He said it was pouring
down rain and they could still fly with out ever worrying about crashing or accidents. It had to be the
safest field ever devised they told him. He also said they chalked out a terminal area in the center
grass area to represent not just airport gates but where the hobbyist could refuel, recalibrate & turn
their R/C aircraft around in an orderly fashion. He said imagine over 200 gates chalked out once
upon a time. It appears the first attempt at constructing the runway they made one end of the high
speed embankments 25
each and at the other end 35 but, eventually they made both ends 22 at
all of the four corners.

There was a level track on the inner most part of the runway going all way around for connecting
with the taxiways. The width of the main runway was to be over double in size (in scale for the
model plane prototype) with the actual runway being almost triple in width as a normal main
runway. The actual real airport would have two main straight-a-ways almost 2 miles long (10,000').
While the two end strips were about a half mile in length which included the two embankments.

The placement of high speed taxiways were numerous with choices of easy entrance to the active
& exits to quickly vacate the active runway. Heavy air traffic and congested holding patterns were
resolved by a double cone effect with descending aircraft spiraling downward on the inner steeper
cone which at its smallest diameter was directly over the immense Race-Track runway itself. Then
the outer cone radiated out from the Race-Track runway gradually climbing also in a spiraling
circular pattern with each aircraft taking its cue to breakout from the departure pattern by airfield
ATC (air traffic control) in the general direction towards its final destination along predetermined
conventional air corridors. Separation is always maintained and never compromised. Even in the
event of a catastrophic aircraft failure, quick recovery of the affected aircraft back to the field is very
possible but, with an almost instantaneous vacating the entire endless runway can be accomplished
with a central fire, rescue and crash vehicles standing by At The Station which is never more than
three minutes from any part along the entire Race-Track runway, since there are two stations facing
each side of the airfield. Even if there is an aircraft crash on the main runway, due to it's layout
3/4's of the flight line remains in tact and in service. In fact a dispensary, out patient clinic and
small surgery operating theater is to be part of the main air terminal facility on one of the levels
with an adjoining helicopter pad.
 

 
To Be Continued....
 
  


 
              



  



     
 
                                                                                     
Table 1-A

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