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Aviation News: DFW considers sixth terminal

Managers at Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) are considering the construction of a sixth terminal to add capacity at Texas' busiest airport. The facility handled more than 69m passengers in 2018, placing it 15th across the globe for throughput.


DFW was originally laid out for 13 terminals, but only four were completed when it opened in September 1973. The passenger facilities were arranged alongside of a central through roadway, withe two buildings and space for an additional terminal on other side. The originally known as 2W, 2E, 3E and 4E (the W and E indicating whether they were east or west of the roadway) were all semi-circular designs that offered a number of benefits and restrictions. Chief among the plus-points were the proximity of large car parks within the centres of the semicircles and the short walking distances between curb and gate.

DFW's terminals are laid out either side of International Parkway.

However, the curved but 'linear' terminals only had gates and aircraft parking on one side (the other side was roadways and car parks), leading to inefficiency in the use of floor space. The buildings were connected by a small, slow people-mover which only ran in one direction and was in the land-side zone (pre-security). That wasn't much of a problem pre-deregulation when the facility was served by American Airlines, Braniff International Airways, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Eastern Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Ozark Air Lines, Rio Airways and Texas International Airlines. As larger airline groups emerged the need for connecting travellers to transfer between buildings became greater and eventually a more sophisticated, bi-directional Skylink train system was constructed in the air-side (beyond-security) zone. Managers at the airport have admitted that the current semi-circular arrangement of the terminals is not ideal for connections, now that the operation of large carriers - especially American Airlines - are split across more than one building.

Terminal D was completed in 2005 and acts as the international facility. It differed from the original four building as it was D shaped rather than semi-circular, the straight leg of the D being alongside the through road network. There was still space for ample close-in car parking, maintaining DFW's reputation for having the shortest distances between surface transport and the aircraft.

Terminal F

The specification and layout for the new terminal, likely to be designated Terminal F, has not yet been finalised but it is thought likely international traffic will be transferred to it once it is completed.

Terminal F will be built on the current South Express Parking facility. (Sahmeditor)

This will enable the airport's biggest tenant, American Airlines, to keep its operations in adjacent or opposing buildings to ease connections. The AirTrain already runs through the site of the new facility which is currently used as an express car park.

The current international terminal, Terminal D, suffers from a shortage of capacity at peak times and the new building will alleviate these problems as well as support future growth. It is likely that its final design will eschew the semi-circular linear design of the older facilities and will instead use conventional piers.

As yet there is no start or end date for the project, which is expected to run alongside the refurbishment of Terminal C, the only building in the original cluster that has not yet been updated. Detailed cost estimates have yet to be prepared but the bill is expected to be between $3bn and $4bn. Managers at the airport are expected to commence discussions with airport users to determine their requirements in the near future. The current ten-year agreement with American Airlines, the airport's largest user, ends next year and the new facility is likely to form part of renewal negotiations.

Text © The Aviation Oracle

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