Denver International Airport is United States largest Airport with total land size of 140km2 and has capacity of 110 million passages annually
Denver International Airport is United States largest Airport with total land size of 140km2 and has capacity of 110 million passages annually. DIA was constructed in 1995 and was sixth busiest airport in United States and tenth in the world. DIA has a efficiency of 1750 planes take off and land daily. Denver and Counties near had a old Airport in 1970’s; Stapleton International Airport. Which was not sufficient enough during Denver’s economical growth in many sectors like oil, real estate and tourism industry. The city realised they need to expand or replace Stapleton International Airport. In July 1979, a study to assess the airport’s needs was commissioned by the City of Denver to the Denver Regional Council of Governments. Upon completion of the study in 1983, a report was issued saying that, due to its size and geographic location, and strong commitments by United and Continental Airlines, Denver would remain a significant hub for at least one major U.S. carrier. In 1989, the project started with grant of $60 million agreement for the new airport.
The new airport has 200 airport gates in 3 concourses, on which concourse A has Continental Airlines and concourse B has United Airlines and concourse C has other Airlines. The new airport was planned to have world’s most efficient integrated baggage handling system with 17 miles of track and 5 miles of conveyor belts and 3100 standard carts and 450 oversized carts. The integrated information system was supposed be connected with more than 100 PC’s to control the flow of carts. There were many stakeholders involved in this hundreds of electricians, contractors, consultancies, airport authorities, government officials, airlines and as per the proposal some local engineers, contractors from Denver were also involved in this. The main person to run the project was Denver city Mayor Wellington Webb. All the decisions were taken under Webb’s authority.
In 1989, when the master plan was prepared baggage handling system was not considered under the DIA scope. Airlines was supposed to develop their own baggage handling system in which United Airlines agreed on these terms and outsourced Boeing Airport Equipments (BAE) to install automated baggage handling system for them. But Continental Airlines was going to make such baggage handling systems. In 1991, DIA Project manager Slinger realised that they need one completely integrated baggage handling system for DIA. They opened tender of this and out of 16, 3 contractors got selected, but due to the complexity of the project it was impossible to build such a complex and integrated baggage handling system within 2 years of constrained time frame so these contractors opted out. The initial target opening date was 31 October 1993. DIA authorities passed this proposal directly to BAE to develop a completely automated baggage handling system. This discussions resulted in the preparation of a specification and the creation of a large scale prototype almost filled up a 50,000 sq. ft. warehouse which convinced Airport chief Engineer Walter Slinger. With past projects experience under BAE at San Francisco Airport and Munich Airport they considered they can complete this project in 2 years but BAE’s President Di Fonso did not considered the complexity of the DIA project was beyond comparison with previous projects. And the main reason behind the failure of the project was complexity and unrealistic decision making. Also, in 1990 Breier Neidle Patrone Associates feasibility report also stated this project will at least take 4 years to complete. Ignoring all these facts BAE accepted the proposal and started work.
During period of execution under BAE strategies changed which slowed down the process. In 1992 United Airlines requested to cutdown system transfer bags between aircrafts which resulted in major redesign in plans and Change requests were raised to add automated handling of oversized baggage and for the creation of a dedicated ski equipment handling area. After this Continental Airlines also requested for the ski equipment handling system in concourse A. Not only this, change orders also raised for altering size of ski equipment claim area and adding maintenance tracks so carts could be serviced without having to be removed from the rails and this prolonged the target opening date to 9 march 1994. As the project was proceeding complexity and difficulties of the project was increasing, some problems established in a clean electrical supply results in continual power outages that disrupt testing and development. Solution requires installation of industrial filters into the electrical system. Ordering and installing filters were going to take several months and a long wait it arrived in march 1994. And also with this, as per the contract BAE should hire some local minority-owned companies to proceed with the work. BAE outsourced some companies which jeopardised contract bring requirement conditions and increased $6 million expenses so Mayor Webb rejected Di Fonso’s request. Over a BAE’s contract negotiation with Denver about the maintenance of the system resulted in the Two-days strike of 300 millwrights along with 200 electricians. As a result, BAE lost the Maintenance contract.
The failure by both Slinger and BAE’s Senior Management team to heed the advice they were receiving and the failure of the airport’s Project Management team to have the BAE proposal and prototype independently reviewed is the epicentre of the disaster. Although published reports do not indicate why the expert advice was ignored, it is clear that both Slinger and BAE’s Senior Management team underestimated the complexity of the project and ignored information that may have corrected their positions. Many factors may have led them into that trap and likely issues that may have influenced the decision making include,
From BAE’s perspective
The project was a big revenue opportunity and represented a chance to grow the business
The prestige of securing the DIA contract would position BAE to secure other large contracts around the world. New airports or terminals were planned for Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, London and Kuala Lumpur and BAE would be a strong contender if they could win the DIA project.