Does Denver need a new airport

In 1974, even prior to deregulation, Denver's Stapleton Airport was experiencing such rapid growth that Denver's Regional Council of Governments concluded that Stapleton would not be able to handle the necessary traffic expected by the year 2000. Modernization of Stapleton could have extended the inevitable problemto 2005. But were the headaches with Stapleton better cured through modernization or by building a new airport? There was no question that insufficient airport capacity would cause Denver to lose valuable business. Being 500 miles from other major cities placed enormous pressure upon the need for air travel in and out of Denver.

In 1988, Denver's Stapleton International Airport ranked as the fifth busiest with 30 million passengers. The busiest airports were Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Dallas-Ft. Worth. By the year 2000, Denver anticipated 66 million passengers, just below Dallas-Ft. Worth's 70 million and Chicago's 83 million estimates.

Delays at Denver's Stapleton Airport caused major delays at all other airports. By one estimate, bad weather in Denver caused up to $100 million in lost income to the airlines each year because of delays, rerouting, canceled flights, putting travelers into hotels overnight, employee overtime pay, and passengers switching to other airlines. Denver's United Airlines and Continental comprise 80% of all flights in and out of Denver. Exhibit 11-1 shows the current service characteristics of United and Continental between December, 1993 and April, 1994. Exhibit 11-2 shows all of the airlines serving Denver as of June, 1994. Exhibit 11-3 shows the cities that are serviced from Denver. It should be obvious that delays in Denver could cause delays in each of these cities. Exhibit 11-4 shows the top ten domestic passenger origin-destination markets from Denver Stapleton.

Stapleton was ranked as one of the 10 worst air traffic bottlenecks in the United States. Even low clouds at Denver Stapleton could bring delays of 30 to 60 minutes.

Exhibit 11-1. Current Service Characteristics: United Airlinesand Continental Airlines, December 1993 and April 1994

Enplaned

December 1993 United Airlines United Express Continental Airlines Continental Express Other Total

April 1994 United Airlines United Express Continental Airlines Continental Express Other Total passengers

641,209 57,867 355,667 52,680 236,751 1,344,174

717,093 44,451 275,948 24,809 234,091 1,296,392

Scheduled seats (b)

1,080,210 108,554 624,325 105,800 357,214 2,276,103

1,049,613 92,880 461,168 92,733 354,950 2,051,344

Boarding load factor

Scheduled departures (b)

21,733

Average seats per departure

140 30 143 33 125 105

136 27 147 33 125 103

(a) Airport management records.

(b) Official Airline Guides, Inc. (online data base); for periods noted.

Stapleton has two parallel north-south runways that are close together. During bad weather where instrument landing conditions exist, the two runways are considered as only one. This drastically reduces the takeoffs and landings each hour.

The new airport would have three north-south runways initially with a master plan calling for eight eventually. This would triple or quadruple instrument flights occurring at the same time to 104 aircraft per hour. Currently, Stapleton can handle only 30 landings per hour under instrument conditions with a maximum of 80 aircraft per hour during clear weather.

The runway master plan called for ten 12,000 foot and two 16,000 foot runways. By opening day, three north-south and one east-west 12,000 foot runways would be in operation and one of the 16,000 foot north-south runways would be operational shortly thereafter.

The airfield facilities also included a 327 foot FAA air traffic control tower (the nation's tallest) and base building structures. The tower's height allowed controllers to visually monitor runway thresholds as much as three miles away. The runway/taxiway lighting system, with lights imbedded in the concrete pavement to form centerlines and stopbars at intersections, would allow air traffic controllers to signal pilots to wait on taxiways and cross active runways, and to lead them through the airfield in poor visibility.

Due to shifting winds, runway operations were shifted from one direction to another. At the new airport, the changeover would require four minutes as opposed to the 45 minutes at Stapleton.

Sufficient spacing was provided for in the concourse design such that two FAA Class 6 aircraft (i.e. 747-XX) could operate back-to-back without impeding each other.

Exhibit 11-2. Airlines Serving Denver June 1994

Major/national airlines

Regional/commuter airlines

America West Airlines American Airlines Continental Airlines Delta Air Lines Markair

Midway Airlines Morris Air (a) Northwest Airlines Trans World Airlines United Airlines USAir

Charter airlines

Aero Mexico American Trans Air Casino Express Express One Great American Private Jet Sun Country Airlines

Foreign flag airlines (scheduled)

Martinair Holland Mexicana de Aviacion

Air Wisconsin (United Express) (b) Continental Express GP Express Airlines Great Lakes Aviation (United Express) Mesa Airlines (United Express) Midwest Express (b)

Cargo airlines

Airborne Express Air Vantage Alpine Air

American International Airways Ameriflight

Bighorn Airways Burlington Air Express Casper Air Corporate Air DHL Worldwide Express Emery Worldwide Evergreen International Airlines EWW Airline/Air Train Federal Express Kitty Hawk Majestic Airlines Reliant Airlines United Parcel Service Western Aviators

(a) Morris Air was purchased by Southwest Airlines in December 1993. The airline has announced that it will no longer serve Denver as of October 3, 1994.

(b) Air Wisconsin and Midwest Express have both achieved the level of operating revenues needed to qualify as a national airline as defined by the FAA. However, for purposes of this report, these airlines are referred to as regional airlines.

Source: Airport management, June 1994.

Even when two aircraft (one from each concourse) have pushed back at the same time, there could still exist room for a third FAA Class 6 aircraft to pass between them.

City officials believed that Denver's location, being equidistant from Japan and Germany, would allow twin-engine, extended range transports to reach both countries nonstop. The international opportunities were there. Between late 1990 and early 1991, Denver was entertaining four groups of leaders per month from Pacific Rim countries to look at DIA's planned capabilities.

In the long term, Denver saw the new airport as a potential hub for Northwest or USAir. This would certainly bring more business to Denver. Very few airports in the world can boast of multiple hubs.

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