DALLAS – Today in Aviation, Continental Airlines (CO) Flight 34 departed Denver’s Stapleton Airport in 1995. It was Stapleton’s last commercial flight. Cleared by Controller George Hosford, the aircraft took off bound for London Gatwick (LGW). Operating the flight was a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 (N12061).
Stapleton traces its history back to October 17, 1929, when it opened its doors as Denver Municipal Airport (DMA).
Commercial services from CO and United Airlines (UA) began in 1937. DMA was renamed Stapleton on August 25, 1944. This was in honor of Mayor Stapleton, who had foreseen the potential of aviation and helped develop the airfield.
Following the end of World War II, the airport went through a rapid period of growth. Construction of a new six-story Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower began in 1941. Passenger numbers reached the one million mark in 1955.
The original terminal building was replaced and eventually developed into its distinctive horseshoe shape. DEN’s runways were initially unable to handle the jet airliners emerging at the time.
Eventually, runways were extended, and regular jet services could operate unrestricted from 1962. To reflect its growth DEN was renamed Denver International in 1964.
However, the airport expansion proved to be its downfall. As Stapleton entered the 1980s, it could not keep up with the growing demand for air travel, especially following the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978.
There was no further room for expansion, leaving airlines such as Southwest (WN) unable to commence services. Its runways were too close together, causing countless delays. Local residents had also begun filing lawsuits over the noise.
Thus, city councilors decided that an entirely new airport should be constructed. Denver International Airport (DEN) opened the day after Stapleton’s final flights. It was 16 months behind schedule and almost US$2m over budget.