DENVER -- A German engineering consultant said it has taken nearly two years to test an automated baggage system at Frankfurt's airport that resembles the one Denver International Airport tried to test in two months.
"The systlem has to be tested in stages," Jorg Nahke said this week. "Each subsystem must be tested and debugged before the whole system can work."
Nahke's engineering consulting firm, Logplan, will provide a preliminary analysis of the Denver system on June 17, with a final analysis due sometime in July. Until the bag system operates efficiently, the airport will remain unopened, city officials say.
Nahke, Logplan's project manager, gave no assurances about when Denver's system could be cured. The original builder of the Denver system, BAE Automated Systems Inc. of Dallas, continues to debug and test the system, but with limited success.
Meanwhile, as soon as a new opening date is set, Denver plans to refinance $180 million of old Stapleton Airport debt and sell up to $100 million of new debt. The financing, which would pay for costs of the delay and possibly more construction items, is planned for late July.
Frankfurt International installed the world's first automated baggage system in the 1970s and is now installing a system in the terminal building similar to the one in Denver. Both airports are similar in size and traffic load. Both baggage systems use designated coded vehicles that are run by computer and transport individual bags of luggage.
Logplan, which worked on the original baggage system at Frankfurt and is installing the new one, will provide a preliminary analysis on the Denver system on June 17, with a final analysis due sometime in July.
Denver's airport is almost completely built, except for a working baggage system. City officials blame the $193 million system for three of the four delays in Denver International's planned openings. The chief problem was getting the computer software to send the correct instructions to each baggage cart.
Testing on the system didn't begin in Denver until March. In late April, there were so many problems that the city called off the May 15 opening and postponed it indefinitely.
Nahke told the Denver city council Tuesday that it took four years to get the Frankfurt system debugged and running in the 1970s. When the new terminal system there opens this October, it will have undergone two years of testing.
At Denver International, there has been some preliminary success with the baggage system. For example, a test in late May on Continental's A Concourse showed more than 90% efficiency, city officials said.
But it took 30 minutes to move 615 bags out and 23 minutes to move 599 in to the terminal. The system is supposed to make each trip in 10 minutes and handle thousands of pieces of luggage simultaneously and around the clock. Such turnaround speed is vital to maintaining Denver's status as a hub, airline officials say.
Logplan's $180,000 consulting contracting is designed to complement a $300,000 consulting contract offered to Eaton-Kenway of Salt Lake City. Eaton-Kenway, a firm that specializes in materials handling, has yet to formally accept the assignment, but Denver officials say the company has begun its assessment work anyway.