If you've read any of my other stories, you're aware that Denver's Stapleton International Airport was like a second home to me during my teen years (late 70s-early 80s). Stapleton airport finally closed late in the evening of Feb 27, 1995. I was fortunate enough to be on-site for the occasion and below is a transcript of the final moments of transmissions between the tower, a Piper Malibu and Continental's DC-10-30 N12061 operating flight 34 to London Gatwick. Both aircraft apparently wanted to be the last one out. The Piper eventually gave in and departed, followed by the DC-10. Following CO's final transmission on tower, a ground ops vehicle came on the air for a moment. TOWER - Malibu four five delta contact departure you all take care. 45D - Four five delta and uh after the last one leaves be sure and turn off the lights. TOWER - We'll do that. 45D - Take care. TOWER - Continental thirty four heavy you ready? CO 34 - Uh yeah, we might need about thirty seconds on the hold out there. TOWER - Continental thirty four heavy runway three five left taxi into position and hold. CO 34 - Position and hold Continental thirty four heavy. And uh Continental thirty four heavy we're ready. TOWER - Continental thirty four heavy roger and uh...(unintelligible) Runway three five left cleared for take off wind zero-seven-zero at one-zero. CO 34 - Cleared to go Continental thirty four heavy we will miss this place - lot of memories. TOWER - I think we all will. Thank you. TOWER - Continental thirty four heavy turn right heading zero-one-zero, contact departure. You all take care and we'll see you at the new place. CO 34 - Okay, zero-one-zero...going to departure...we'll see you later now Continental thirty four heavy. OPS 7 - Tower ops seven. TOWER - Ops seven tower. OPS 7 - Well this grand old airport is now officially closed. You can shut the runway lights off and we'll issue the Notams. TOWER - Thank you Ron and it's been fun. OPS 7 - Same here...
Stapleton Airport finally closed up shop, allowing the opening of the very controversial Denver International Airport (DIA). With the
transition of operations to DIA (even the very first arrival, a United 737 from Colorado Springs, suffered a technical delay on the ground at DIA because a jetway was frozen) air travellers across the continental United States have reaped numerous benefits. During times of inclement weather, Denver (specifically Stapleton Airport) was the place to avoid. Denver used to cause major air-transportation headaches across the country, mainly because of the runway arrangement at Stapleton. These runways were too closely spaced to accomodate simultaneous instrument approaches and departures, so flights were oftentimes held at the point of origin, or put in an airborne holding pattern, causing major delays. Once on the ground in Denver, flights usually had to wait in a "penalty box" while the assigned gates became available. All too often mass chaos ensued. With the advent of Denver International, these problems have been resolved. With five widely-spaced runways operational on opening day, and an effecient terminal and taxiway design, the new airport immediately started paying off. Airport and weather related delays soon became a thing of the past. According to the recently published "Denver International Airport - First Year Report", the following facts have been reported: 1) Average weather attritable delays - 3.1 per 1,000 flights vs. Stapleton's 14.9 per 1,000 2) December 1995 airport-related delays - Zero for DIA vs. previous Stapleton average of 1,100 3) DIA achieved a 120-plane-per-hour arrival rate - 35% higher than Stapleton's good-weather rate, and 275% better than it's previous bad weather rate! 4) March 1996 (even with a snowfall of 16.4 inches) - DIA ranked #1 in the U.S. for on-time arrivals 5) 1996 first-quarter FAA-reported delays dropped to 0.8 per 1,000 flights, which is significantly less than every other major U.S. airport. How has the new airport affected me and my hobby? Let me tell ya one thing. I wasn't sure if DIA was going to offer any photographic opportunites. I was at DIA opening-day (though I did not witness the arrival of the first flight - a United 737 from Colorado Springs). The weather situation for the next couple days was poor - and it was damn cold! Not the kind of weather in which I like to go explore the perimeter of an airport. Was there going to be a photo-spot similar to the one near Stapleton's runways 08/26? Well, I found a spot near the rental car area adjacent to runway 07/25. It's a bit further from the runway than the spot was at Stapleton, but larger jets (wide bodies) are easily within reach of a 200mm lens. Smaller jets require a longer lens. At the north end of the field, approaches to 18 can be seen and photographed, but the aircraft are a bit high for many peoples tastes. A spot at the south end of the field, east of the employee parking lot offers a spot to relax and watch the arrivals on runways 35L & R. Bigger jets on approach to 35L are easily photographed with a 200mm lens. Arrivals on 35R are almost a mile further to the east! The best spot to photograph the colorful aircraft of Frontier is right in the terminal. Just over the passenger airbridge at Concourse A is a nice view of the Frontier gates. Morning is best, with most aircraft nicely positioned as they turn to the gates. Similarly, when the aircraft are pushed back for departure, they are positioned well. This works well for the first morning departures and the arrivals later in the morning. In the afternoon, I have success by standing near the roadway to the south of Concourse A. The arrivals and departures to/from the gate area are very nice to get while on the move. The mid-day summer sun is a bit high at this spot; most other times of the year either side of the summer months the sun is nicely positioned - lower to the horizon. My photos on my Frontier Page reflect this. How do I rate DIA? Well, from a spotters point of view, the ease of spotting all movements is a '1' on a scale of 1-10. It just can't compare to the view of Stapleton from the spot near the runways 08/26. At Stapleton, you had to be asleep to miss anything. At DIA, the runways are aligned to all four cardinal compass directions, so the planes take off in all directions (but not usually at the same time - gotta get the arrivals in too!!) The concourses offer a nice view of the other concourses, but thats about it. How do I rate photography? A '3'. All I have to say is - thank you for putting Frontier on Concourse A! :) The top decks of the parking garages on either side of the beautiful main terminal building offer some view of the runway action, but it is too far away for photography.
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