Airport Design

The Denver International Airport was based upon a "Home-on-the-Range" design. The city wanted a wide open entry point for visitors. In spring of 1991, the city began soliciting bids.

To maintain a distinctive look that would be easily identified by travelers, a translucent tent-like roof was selected. The roof was made of two thicknesses of translucent, Teflon-coated glass fiber material suspended from steel cables hanging from the structural supports. The original plans for the roof called for a conventional design using 800,000 tons of structural steel. The glass fiber roof would require only 30,000 tons of structural steel, thus providing substantial savings on construction costs. The entire roof would permit about 10% of the sunlight to shine through, thus providing an open, outdoors-like atmosphere.

The master plan for the airport called for four concourses, each with a maximum of 60 gates. However, only three concourses would be built initially, and none would be full size. The first, Concourse A, would have 32 airline gates and six commuter gates. This concourse would be shared by Continental and any future international carriers. Continental had agreed to give up certain gate positions if requested to do so in order to accommodate future international operations. Continental was the only long-haul international carrier with one daily flight to London. Shorter international flights were to Canada and Mexico.

Concourses B and C would each have 20 gates initially for airline use plus six commuter gates. Concourse B would be the United Concourse. Concourse C would be for all carriers other than Continental or United.

All three concourses would provide a total of 72 airline gates and 18 commuter gates. This would be substantially less than what the original master plan called for.

Although the master plan identified 60 departure gates for each concourse, cost became an issue. The first set of plans identified 106 departure gates (not counting commuter gates) and was then scaled down to 72 gates. United Airlines originally wanted 45 departure gates, but settled for 20. The recession was having its effect.

The original plans called for a train running through a tunnel beneath the terminal building and the concourses. The train would carry 6000 passengers per hour. Road construction on and adjacent to the airport was planned to take one year. Runway construction was planned to take one year but was deliberately scheduled for two years in order to save on construction costs.

The principal benefits of the new airport compared to Stapleton were:

• A significantly improved airfield configuration that allowed for triple simultaneous instrument landings in all weather conditions, improved the efficiency and safety of airfield operations, and reduced taxiway congestion

• Improved efficiency in the operation of the regional airspace, which, coupled with the increased capacity of the airfield, was supposed to significantly reduce aircraft delays and airline operating costs both at Denver and system-wide

• Reduced noise impacts resulting from a large site that was situated in a relatively unpopulated area

• A more efficient terminal/concourse/apron layout that minimized passenger walking distance, maximized the exposure of concessions to passenger flows, provided significantly greater curbside capacity, and allowed for the efficient maneuvering of aircraft in and out of gates

• Improved international facilities including longer runway lengths for improved stage length capability for international flights and larger Federal Inspection Services (FIS) facilities for greater passenger processing capability

• Significant expansion capability of each major functional element of the airport

• Enhanced efficiency of airline operations as a result of new baggage handling, communications, de-icing, fueling, mail sorting, and other specialty systems

One of the problems with the airport design related to the high wind shears that would exist where the runways were placed. This could eventually become a serious issue.

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