DENVER - The designer of the automated baggage system at Denver International Airport has admitted blame for inaccurately estimating the time it would take to build the complicated system.
Gene Di Fonso, president of BAE Automated Systems Inc., is the designer of the new system that has caused a six-month delay in opening - the airport. He said BAE did not recognize that it was "layering on" problems that would show up much later when, earlier in the project, it agreed to expand the system to the wishes of Continental Airlines and United Airlines.
"In retrospect, the answer is yes, there can be no other interpretation that we didn't anticipate what needed to be done," Di Fonso said.
For example, Continental originally did not want a completely automated system in its Concourse A. And United did not make its wishes known at all until after it signed a lease with the city in 1992, only about a year before the airport was to open.
In Denver, United has the most advanced and comprehensive automated bag system of any airport in the world. The airline has a system that will take bags from the terminal ticketing areas to the plane without the need for bag handling crews. The only manual part of the system, other than trouble shooting, involves loading bags from so-called "lizard tongue" conveyers to the plane.
Denver's chief project engineer, Ginger Evans, said the city did not know when to say no to airlines that wanted more and more changes, even as late as January.
"Our level of sophistication was not very good," Evans said.
Regarding late change requests by airlines, Evans said, "It was difficult to judge which are nice-to-haves and which are had-to-haves."
She added that the system had to be redesigned and manufactured after the airline requests. Still, the city did not change its fan of 1993 original schedule, itself an accelerated schedule by one year in a decision made by then Denver Mayor and current U.S. Transportation Secretary Federico Pena.
In early bond documents, Denver had left out $60 million needed to build basements for an automated baggage system. The basement money was added to the budget later.