DIA Research Center Aviation Facilities Aviation Facilities : Research Center


Denver International Airport has four north-south runways and two east-west runways. The concourses and Jeppesen Terminal are in the center of the airfield.

Air controllers can shift traffic quickly from one runway to another, depending on wind direction, with minimal delays or disruption of air traffic. No runway crosses another, minimizing the chance of aircraft traffic jams or collisions.

Each runway approach is equipped with Instrument Landing Systems. The southern approaches to the four parallel runways are rated Category III-b, allowing auto-landing in the lowest visibility conditions.

Three of the four parallel runways are at least 4,300 feet apart, the minimum required by the Federal Aviation Administration for simultaneous landings in instrument flight conditions (bad weather).  Dual or triple streams of aircraft can land simultaneously at DIA in such conditions, reducing system delays.

Five of DIA’s runways are 12,000 feet (3,658 meters) long and 150 feet (46 meters) wide. The airport’s sixth and newest runway, 16R/34L, is 16,000 feet (4,870 meters) long and 200 feet (60 meters) wide. The runways are nearly twice as thick as an average road. DIA’s design specifications exceed FAA certification requirements for runways.

Airfield Lighting
Lights embedded in the centerlines of DIA’s taxiways and runways help pilots navigate when visibility is poor. Lighted stop bars at taxiway/runway intersections help keep unauthorized aircraft and vehicles off active runways.

Deicing is available at four primary deicing pads located west of the concourses just off the apron perimeter taxiway.  A fifth pad is located near the cargo apron.

  • Each pad accommodates as many as five or six aircraft at one time.
  • Aircraft rarely have to queue after deicing because the pads are located close to the north-south 16/34 runways. Planes can proceed to takeoff shortly after leaving a pad.
  • Deicing fluids are collected and piped into storage tanks for recycling.

  Cargo Facilities

Around midnight, dormant airport warehouses and silent ramps come alive as air freight carriers arrive, and workers unload, sort, and reload almost every conceivable cargo shipment—from perishables to precision instruments to telecommunications equipment.

DIA’s efficient airfield and its 39-acre cargo ramp make freight handling easy. But the airfield’s prime cargo asset is the absence of operational curfews.

The airport’s dedicated cargo carriers and integrators—FedEx, UPS, DHL, and Integrated Airline Services—are in three buildings at the south side of the airfield. Nearby is the United Airlines’ cargo facility. United daily transports approximately 500,000 pounds of freight in its passenger aircraft.

 View map of Cargo Facilities

Last year, 25 percent of DIA’s air cargo flew on passenger flights. Most of DIA’s passenger airlines use a 110,200-square-foot joint-use belly-cargo building, located close to the airport’s fixed-base operator: Signature.

West of the airport’s freight operations is WorldPort at DIA. One 44,000-square-foot building offers space for freight forwarders, customs brokers, and other businesses that contribute to an efficient air cargo operation in Denver. A portion of this area is a Foreign Trade Zone. Within 20 miles of the airport are 50 freight forwarders and customs brokers.

In addition to refrigeration facilities and bonded areas, DIA has U.S. Customs and U.S. Department of Agriculture clearance services.

For information regarding cargo opportunities at DIA contact Susan E. Moore, Property Manager, Airlines, at (303) 342-2517, or by e-mail:

  General Aviation

Signature-Denver, a fixed-base operator, has a 9,200-square-foot-executive terminal at DIA and a 23,000-square-foot heated hangar. The terminal features a cafe, pilot and passenger lounges, a flight planning room, and conference rooms. Signature also provides airline fueling and deicing.

  Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Facilities

The FAA’s Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility, located about three miles south of DIA’s Terminal complex, houses air traffic controllers who coordinate aircraft flights within a 45-mile radius up to an altitude of 24,000 feet.

FAA Control Tower
The Federal Aviation Administration control tower at Denver International Airport was designed by Leo A. Daly and served as a prototype for the FAA’s control-tower design in the 1990's.

The 327-foot tower, located on the south side of Concourse C, was the tallest FAA structure in North America when it was built.  Its 33 stories give air traffic controllers a nearly unobstructed view of all aircraft activity at DIA. Building began in May 1991 and finished in November 1992.  Installation and fine-tuning of the sophisticated FAA equipment continued until DIA opened on February 28, 1995.

The first 240 feet of the tower’s walls are built of precast structural concrete 20 inches thick, reinforced with #14 rebar.  Each 12-by-11-foot panel weighs 16 tons.  The final 87 feet of the tower consist of the mushroom-shaped top, built of structural steel, and the cab.  The special distortion-free glass in the cab windows is 1.5 inches thick (two half-inch sheets with a half-inch air space between).  The 850-square-foot tower cab is one of the FAA’s largest.  A dozen controllers can work in the cab to direct air traffic at DIA.

A penthouse perched atop the cab holds air-surface detection radar equipment. The area below the cab contains mechanical and communications equipment, administrative and personnel-support offices, and a cable-access level.

At the bottom, the tower foundation extends 45 feet below ground and rests on a nine-foot pile cap.  The cap is supported by 34 caissons that extend another 38 to 40 feet underground, making the entire foundation about 94 feet deep. The tower is engineered to sway only one-half inch in an 86-mile-per-hour wind.

Five-thousand tons of concrete and 650 tons of steel went into the $8.5 million structure, which plays an important role in DIA’s goal of being the most efficient and most modern airport in the world.