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Project Management - Denver International Airport Case

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Adams County and the Mayor of Denver decided to start a new project called the "Denver International Airport" with the purpose to replace Stapleton International Airport. In the entire case of DIA, it seems that risk management was not considered as an important issue. The project management team allowed many scope changes resulting to major design changes without considering the cost implications and delay in the completion of the project.

Frequent scope changes have a disturbing effect of the project. It is suggested in the report to avoid so many complications such project should use project based organizational structure.

One on side United Airlines was facing threats from the possibility of expansion of Front Range Airport, on the other side many project communication issues on the DIA project kept delaying the project and increasing the cost of the project. The report also identifies the four important stakeholders at DIA and their interests / objectives in DIA project.

The Single biggest risk in DIA project was starting the project without signing contracts with stakeholders and DIA also did not any contingency plan to mitigate the risk.

This team of city council, Greiner Engineering and MKE together awarded approximately 100 design contracts, 160 general contracts and more than 2000 subcontracts. The case does not show any signs if a formal bidding process was followed while awarding the contract.

There were many gaps in project management of DIA project starts right from the beginning of the project. These gaps provide the following learning:

* Involve all the stakeholders from the start of the project.

* Define limits and exclusions of project to avoid scope creeps.

* Identify the critical path for the project and to initiate various tasks in time so that the whole project does not get struck because of delay in one task.

The purpose of this report is to critically analyse the project management activities at Denver International Airport (DIA) right from its initiation to final closure of the project.


In 1985, Adams County and the Mayor of Denver decided to start a new project called the "Denver International Airport" with the purpose to replace Stapleton International Airport, with initial project estimation of $1.2 billion.

1.0 Project Concept and Strategy

1.1 Was the DIA Necessary?

The decision of building DIA was very strategically in line to cater the future growth of capacity needs at the airport. Because of the following reasons I advocate long-term solutions to the increasing air traffic and possibilities to increase airport revenues I feel this decision was strategically sound and important for Denver City:

* Due to deregulation there was an increase in number of passengers and air traffic, demanding for either expansion at Stapleton airport or construction of a new airport. An expansion at Stapleton International Airport would not solve the over capacity problem for a longer period of time. According to estimations the airport could cope with an increase in traffic till 2000 and an expansion would help the airport to survive another five years from 2000 to 2005.

* Having DIA will help in improving the efficiency of the airport by reducing the delays over the schedules of the airlines at all the airports, which will help airlines to save up to $100 million of income annually. Increased efficiency at DIA will attract international airlines to use the airport as a connection hub both nationally and internationally especially for long distance flights from Japan and Germany increasing the airport revenue.

* The changeover time at DIA would be just 4 minutes when compared to 45 minutes at Stapleton airport.

* Increased number of enplaned passengers and increase in cargo operations at the airport will increase DIA's earnings.

* Better concourse design at DIA can enable back- to- back flights with class 6 aircrafts without awaiting each other.

* DIA initially would have three runways, which can later be increased to eight runways promising better future with increasing traffic, when compared to just two runways at Stapleton airport.

1.2 Project scope for DIA using Gray and Larson's Model

Project Objective:

To construct and commission an airport at Denver by October 1993 at a cost not to exceed $1.7 billion.


An Airport with following facilities:

* Three 12,000 foot runways running north to south with expansion design for another six 12000 foot runways and two 16000 foot runways.

* Three interconnected concourse buildings with sufficient space for two class 6 aircrafts to operate back-to-back.

* Air field facilities, which include a 327 foot FAA air traffic control tower and all the base building structures.

* Runway operations change overtime not more than 4 minutes.

* With a capacity of 104 instrumental landings per hour.

* Capable baggage handling system that could cater up to 60,000 bags per hour.

* A basement railway system to carry 6000 passengers per hour.


To decide the milestones for the project, it is assumed that the project begins just after Denver voters pass the airport referendum in May 1989.

Land Selection and Approval done by - January 1990

Finish finding all the requirement of different stakeholders to incorporate the in the design - September 1989.

Approval of the final Designs - March 1990

Raising of funds through sales of Bonds - April 1990

Approval of architectural design of the buildings and other structures - September 1990

Allocation of Baggage handling system contract and all other contracts - May 1990

Construction of buildings and various structures begin - October 1990

Preliminary inspection of construction - August 1991




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