The constantly growing air travel sector may soon be facing the limits of its infrastructure: Within the next 20 years the world’s 100 most important airports will not be able to grow any further according to the Bauhaus Luftfahrt organization. This internationally oriented, non-profit think tank was officially founded in November 2005 by the German Freestate of Bavaria, EADS, Liebherr Aerospace, and MTU Aero Engines. Named Bauhaus Luftfahrt after Walter Gropius’ famous craft and design university located at Dresden, the 40-person team is looking into future challenges to air traffic and seeks to come up with answers on three different levels.
“Our first core project is to develop new air-traffic concepts that are tailored to the situation in 20 to 30 years from now. New technologies are an important part of this as we foresee the need to redefine aircraft for tomorrow’s requirements. Finding economic solutions that facilitate a profitable air-traffic operation are our second core project. Finally, we evaluate the corresponding system cybernetics,” said Corin Gologan of Bauhaus Luftfahrt’s Technology Section.
Once airports cannot grow any further, aviation will require concepts to increase air travelling capacities without the need to build new runways. Keeping that in mind, a Bauhaus Luftfahrt solution study is based on a new type of hybrid airliner that facilitates a more efficient use of existing runways. Named HyLiner-Wing, this concept with fan-in-wing lift-device (combining uplift and propulsion) is currently being developed to allow greater airport passenger capacities by combining the use of existing long runways for long-distance travel with very short runways or double use of existing runways with HyLiner airplanes capable of extremely short takeoff and landing (ESTOL). The concept is still in the early concept phase as it targets the year 2020 and beyond but could be of relevance to U.S. airports in particular as they are more rapidly getting congested than European airports—perhaps except Heathrow.
According to Gologan, flow simulations confirm that the ESTOL capability that facilitates takeoff within half or even a third of the conventional runway length will allow an efficient twin usage of existing infrastructure.
Despite being future-oriented the HyLiner concept has historic roots, said Bauhaus Director Klaus Broichhausen. “New airplanes with fan-in-wing technology would be able to start from runways with only a few hundred meters length. This kind of short takeoff or vertical takeoff and landing continues a long German technology tradition.”
As befits a think tank’s holistic approach, some of the organization’s studies go beyond pure air travel and seek to link rail, water, road, and air traffic. The intermodal Airtrain study suggests a new, networked transport system: A helicopter version of the Hy-Liner, called HyLiner-Prop, is suggested to pick up either passenger wagons or freight cars from a rail track and transport them to the optimal next terminal, be that road-bound, water-bound, or rail. The prop motor mock-up for the vertical takeoff and landing concept was shown for the first time at the Aerospace Testing, Design, and Manufacturing show. Looking even further into the future the Bauhaus “As-light-as-Air” concept combines airship and airplane technology to achieve an environmentally friendly solution with efficient propulsion.
At a two-third share, the bulk of the organization’s cost is still financed by the Bavarian Ministry of Economics, which seeks to strengthen the region’s economic focus on aerospace technology. Currently the think tank organization does most of its development and evaluation work for the partner companies. However, the long-term road map is that of a neutral organization that is open for new members.