Door to door in four hours – anywhere in Europe

“CentAirStation”, a concept developed by research institute Bauhaus Luftfahrt, puts airports back in city centers. Their vertical infrastructure would allow passengers to transfer directly from the central station to the departure gates and step straight into innovative aircraft called “CityBirds”.
Take the suburban railway to the central station and then transfer not to the intercity express, but straight to the plane: This is the concept put forward by non-profit research institute Bauhaus Luftfahrt. The 25 researchers at the institute, along with twelve students from the Glasgow School of Art, were guided by the EU project “Flightpath 2050”, which aims to make aviation fit for the future. The objectives of Flightpath 2050 include a significant reduction in noise and CO2, as well as meeting the requirement that 90 percent of passengers should be able to travel door to door in four hours within Europe.

Aircraft carrier principle: apron and runway on two levels

For this to become a reality, passengers would need to be able to get to their flight without being delayed by multiple transfers. To achieve this, Bauhaus Luftfahrt has developed an innovative airport concept: the airport is placed on top of the station. Instead of the long distances to the gates that are currently the norm, passengers would access them vertically via escalators and elevators. Security screening would then be carried out at each gate. “The concept envisages new technologies that make it possible to conduct security checks in motion,” Professor Mirko Hornung, Chief Scientific and Technical Officer explains. “These checks would be carried out at dedicated entry points to the security area whilst passengers are moving, with designated spaces for conducting targeted selective checks.” This would allow passengers to travel from their train to the plane in 15 minutes, and from plane to platform in only ten minutes.
The CentAirStation consists of four levels in total: the railway station right at the bottom, the airport reception building above it, from there the transfer to the gates and the apron level, and finally the departure level.

The airport concept is therefore similar to an aircraft carrier: Aircraft are lifted from the apron level to the runway level above it via an elevator system. Take-off can be carried out with the support of a catapult, and there is a safety arrestor cable for landing.

Twin engine Citybirds for 60 passengers

Consequently, this concept requires new aircraft, which are called “Citybirds” in the study. They are characterized by their ability to land and take off at particularly steep angles, meaning the runway only needs to be 640 meters long. The aircraft are designed with two rear engines and can carry around 60 passengers. Their range is about 1500 nautical miles (approx. 2700km), and fuel consumption is expected to be 1.7 liters per 100 passenger kilometers. In addition to advanced geared turbofan engines with significantly lower emissions and noise levels, they could also have (hybrid) electric engines.

The CentAirStations could be situated in any location with suitable track systems which they could be built over. This would produce building dimensions of around 650 meters in length and 90 meters in width. Bauhaus Luftfahrt has identified around 100 such potential locations worldwide.

The CentAirStations provide space for 15 aircraft on the apron level, 22 night parking spaces on the apron level taxiway, plus a total of eight reserve parking spaces – four at each end. Each CentAirStation could accommodate 10.5 million passengers a year. The concept is not intended to replace existing airports, but to create new or additional “city to city” direct connections.

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Air traffic will triple by 2050

Against a background of a predicted annual increase in air traffic of 4.7 percent worldwide, the volume of air traffic would triple by 2040 compared to today. Flightpath2050 is investigating possibilities for the sustainable development of aviation. Among other things, the project aims to save 75 % CO2, 90 % NOx and 65 % of noise emissions compared to today.

Bauhaus Luftfahrt is working on this long-term development and is considering questions such as “what new technologies are available?” and “how will we travel in 2050?”. Both new propulsion technologies for aircraft and new infrastructures are being researched, as illustrated by the “CentAirStation” and “CityBird” concepts. “Our goal is to identify new ideas that have the potential to fundamentally change aviation,” says Professor Mirko Hornung. Since the essential technologies for this concept are already available today, they could be implemented in 2035-2040. Such a long lead time is necessary to adapt air traffic management and procedures. Last but not least, other stakeholders – from railway companies to citizens – should also be involved.

Text: Corinna Panek
Photos: Bauhaus Luftfahrt

Bauhaus Luftfahrt

Flightpath 2050