Denver International Airport at 25: A timeline of significant events

Denver International Airport opened for business 25 years ago Friday following a Herculean, decade-spanning effort that cost $4.9 billion.

Here’s a timeline of some of the significant events that have taken place in the 9,131 days since.

Feb. 28, 1995: United Airlines Flight 1474 from Colorado Springs touches down as the first commercial airliner to land at DIA. Its arrival gate was changed because the bridge for the original gates was frozen by an overnight snowstorm.

With Denver Mayor Wellington Webb and Colorado Gov. Roy Romer waiting at the gate, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Federico Peña — the city’s former mayor — greeted the flight on the air traffic control tower radio. “Welcome to the city that dared to imagine a great airport,” he said.

March 20, 1996: BAE Automated Systems Inc., the Dallas-based company that designed United Airline’s notorious failed automated baggage-handling system at DIA, fires 170 employees at the airport days after United canceled its contract. The two companies filed lawsuits against one another earlier in the week.

That evening, BAE brought trucks onto DIA property to pack up its equipment, including laser scanners. When airport officials caught wind of the move, they sent police to shut it down.

Sept. 1, 1998: A British Airways 777 lands at DIA, the airport’s first nonstop flight from London in more than two years. In 2018, the airline celebrated 20 years of providing nonstop service between Denver and London, carrying more than 3.3 million passengers on upwards of 14,000 flights.

June 8, 2005: The Rocky Mountain News reports that United Airlines will finally mothball its automated baggage system later that year. It had been using pieces of it in a limited capacity up to that point. By 2005, the News was reporting the system’s cost at $700 million.

Feb. 11, 2008: “Mustang,” the 32-foot-tall fiberglass statue of a snarling blue horse, is assembled on a patch of grass along Peña Boulevard just south of DIA’s terminal. The sculpture, nicknamed “Blucifer” by Denverites, was commissioned 15 years earlier. Its creator, the artist Luis Jimenez, was killed in 2006 when a piece of the sculpture fell on him in his New Mexico studio.

Nov. 19, 2015: The first guests check in to the Westin Denver International Airport hotel. The $600 million project, which included the transit center located on the ground floor, put a giant, glass bow tie on the south end of the airport. The aesthetics have been subject to debate.

April 22, 2016: Commuters are welcomed aboard Denver’s train to the plane. The University of Colorado A Line’s 23-mile-long track, at last, connects downtown with the city’s distant airport. Last May, RTD marked the milestone of carrying 20 million passengers on the long-awaited line.

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