DFW is the third busiest Airport in the world, and the 10th busiest when measured by passenger traffic. They had more than 64 million passengers go through their facilities in 2015.
Having landed and taken off from there myself, I find it to be a terrific airport. It has seven (14 in both directions, of course) active runways, five (10) of which are mostly parallel north to south, and two (4) more that are parallel NW/SE. To give you an idea of the scale of this airport, the central blue and red runways in this image are over 4 kilometres (2½ miles) long.
The Airport itself sits on 7,000 hectares (17,500 acres or 27 square miles) of land, which is bigger than Manhattan Island in New York City. It is truly large! In fact they had to create an automated transit system to connect all the distant points of this massive facility. It moves 9,000 people and 6,000 bags per hour, while simultaneously shunting 31 metric tons (70,000 lbs) of mail in the same period of time.
For your convenience I have coloured the runways so you can pick them out of the duplicate picture below since it is extraordinarily complicated. Future plans include up to 13 terminals and 11 (22) runways.
Just for a change of pace, instead of selecting a huge commercial airliner for our video landing at DFW, I found a fun video of a Cessna Citation (a small passenger jet) performing an approach from the north, to land on 17 Centre. There is a lot of ATC chatter to enjoy on the approach, but if you just want to see the landing itself, you can click here instead (which starts the video at about 8:46).
Runway 35 Right is the shortest of all the runways, at only 2600 metres (8,500 feet), yet is still longer than the 2,100 metre (7,000 foot) runways at LaGuardia Airport in New York City! Four (8) of the rest of the runways (exceeding 4000 m/13,000 ft.) are for the convenience of American Airlines which headquarters itself here, since it is their largest hub and they want to land some of the fastest, heaviest, and biggest jets in the industry.
As usual we had an interesting web cam for you to watch. DFW is in the middle of some major reconstruction and so it’s fun to click on the Terminal A camera and watch the time-lapse of the deconstruction of the old parking structure and access ramps, and the building of the brand new roadway along with the replacement parking structure. You can watch it at any speed you like from 0.25 to 4x, and the various cranes that appear and disappear over the months of work, looks like George Lucas is practicing the choreography for a lightsabre battle!
To add that extra layer of reality, don’t forget to check out the Flight Radar. If you’re a fan of Air Traffic Control you can watch the skies around Dallas-Fort Worth Airport here. Clicking on any plane will identify it for you, where green is outbound, blue is inbound, and gray is just passing by, through the airspace.
Before Dallas or Fort Worth even had an Airport, way back in 1927, the two towns were in discussions about cooperating build a single airport. Apparently stubbornness prevailed and as a consequence there were two airports relatively close to each other named Love Field in Dallas and Meacham Field in Ft Worth.
In 1940 the CAA (Civil Aeronautics Administration) decided they needed a regional Airport and put aside two million dollars for the purpose of constructing it. Dallas and Fort Worth were at odds over its construction, and by 1942 the idea had been abandoned.
Fort Worth persisted with their airfield attempting to compete with the Dallas Airport, but by the 1960s Fort Worth was only managing to hang onto 1% of the Texas Air traffic. Dallas on the other had garnered about 50%.
About that time the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) had had just about enough and they were completely unwilling to spend more money to support two airports in such close proximity. In 1964 they warned that if the two cities could not come to an agreement the FAA was going to unilaterally choose a site for the new airport.
This forced them to finally get their acts together, and the two cities located a site, purchased the land, and the Airport was finally built between 1967 in 1973. To inaugurate the Airport the first supersonic Concorde to touch down on U.S. soil landed there in September of 1973.
It officially opened on January 13, 1974, and the total bill came to $700,000,000.
The aviation safety data base reveals that there have been 11 significant incidents at DFW, two of which had injuries or fatalities. The first, and most severe, was on August 2nd, 1985. It was the result of bad weather, wind shear, downdraft, and consequent loss of control with only 26 passengers and three crew members surviving from a total of 163 occupants.
The second and serious incident occurred on August 31, 1988, with fatalities including two of the seven crew members and 12 of the 101 passengers. It was caused by improperly setting the flaps to the takeoff configuration, with blame going to the pilot and co-pilot for this misconfiguration; to Delta Airlines for the faulty Takeoff Configuration Warning System (TCWS) not alerting them to the problem; and to the FAA because it was aware of these deficiencies and was insufficiently aggressive in pursuing their repair.
The other incidents were comparatively minor, such as maintenance mishaps or steering off the edge of the runway after landing.
Dallas Fort Worth Airport is a very busy place, conducting almost 700,000 aircraft operations per year and playing a role in moving $16.8 billion through the regional economy annually, and across the North Texas area that increases to $37 billion attributable to the Airport.
There are 26 different passenger airlines working out of DFW, both foreign and domestic. The combined total of fulltime jobs is now approaching a quarter of a million, with a payroll of $12.5 billion per year.
By just about every measure this is an elite airport. There is free AT&T Wi‑Fi; they have good cellular broadband, along with free power stations to recharge your portable devices, and services such as massage therapy, manicures, shoe shines, pedicures, and even a hair salon.
The Airport is so vast that they even have their own post office. There’s a pet hotel right in the airport, more restaurants than you can throw a stick at, and stores-galore.
And if you are in too big a hurry to get to your flight, you’re going to miss eight million dollars’ worth of art work on display throughout the airport, including a giant wishbone that I swear must be 25 feet tall! If you have some time, slow down and look around. You’ll be really surprised at what you’ll see.