View Full Version : Denver International Airport FYI

09-28-2005, 06:30 AM
I flew from Las Vegas into Denver late one night. I had a window seat and could see the blue lights of the runway coming into view. We were a few hundred feet from the ground when the
engines loudly roared, and the wings dipped right and left, back and forth and finally the whole
plane suddenly went left and abruptly dropped down, continuing foward, and then landed on what I hoped was level ground. It was! You could have heard a pin drop, not one word from anyone, not a scream, pure silence until we reached the gate.
The pilot came over the PA system and very politely said, "this is your captain, and I feel that I owe you an apology and explantion of what just happened. Another jet was on the runway we were advised to use, and rather than aborting the flight at my discretion I used what is called a "sidestep". This is available in only 3 airports worldwide, Denver now being one of them. I used the not yet opened runway beside us to land as there was no danger in my doing so". It took a few moments to get my hands to detach from the armrests.
I just thought you all might like to know this in case this happens to you. Aborting the flight at the altitude he was at, thinking back about the risk should he have do so, the runway available to him was an excellent choice.

09-28-2005, 07:15 AM
A sidestep is the simple manoever of moving from one runway to a parallel runway. It is quite often used for the situation you describe. It is common and perfectly safe.

And there are dozens of airports around the world where it can be used including DEN, SFO, LAX, ORD, DTW, IAD, JFK, BOS, PHL, ATL, MIA, FLL (not for jetliners, though), and even North Hollywood, Florida! ...plus many others (I want to stop while I can...)

Another trivia ... the blue lights are not for runways, but rather for taxiways. Runways are lined by white and yellow.

09-28-2005, 07:41 AM
To add to Kairho's explanation, sidesteps are done at airports with parallel runways.

I'm surprised they haven't done a Circle-to-land yet :) (or at least on the flights I've been on).

I'm learning to fly, by the way.

09-28-2005, 08:03 AM
Circle-to-land procedures are rare for scheduled airlines because effectively 100% of the airports have at least one ILS (BC) system. They are so reliable these days that they are rarely inoperative (which would force a nonprecision approach and possible circle to land).

09-29-2005, 01:28 AM
Thank you for input and knowledge. I only wrote to advise exactly what the pilot said, in reference to the 3 airports, yes, a sidestep is used when a parallel runway is available. I
don't think you could have a "sidestep" without one. In referece to blue lights, you are probably
correct, however, the lights where we landed were indeed blue. I don't know what to tell you or why they were not the color you say they should have been. The runway we landed on was not
"an open active runway, it was the runway that was built to accomodate larger aircraft when DIA was built some 11 years ago., but they were most definitely blue. I remember that flight as well as the one when the pilot (why he did this, I can only guess was to check it as fast as possilble and the intercom system might have lost precious seconds) This occurred about 5 minutes after he advised we were at an altitude somewhee over 30.000 feet. over the PA System said "would one of the flight attendants please check the rear cabin door?".

Visions of Airport 75 with flying papers and oxygen masks dropping quickly overtook me. It must have been a malfunctioning light or something, because nothing further was said, and within a few minutes I kind of figured that it to be a false alarm.

09-29-2005, 08:36 AM
I trust the pilot was given permission to sidestep by the control tower, just to be sure that luggage trucks or a waiting taxiing plane were not sitting in the middle of the alternate runway.

A landing can be aborted in favor of a circle around at any time before touchdown, and occasionally with the wheels on the ground, by making the engines loudly roar.

Travel tips:

09-29-2005, 08:40 AM
Originally posted by ajaynejr@Sep 29 2005, 09:36 AM
I trust the pilot was given permission to sidestep by the control tower, just to be sure that luggage trucks or a waiting taxiing plane were not sitting in the middle of the alternate runway.
Absolutely. It is controlled airspace. All aircraft movement there requires tower permission.

09-29-2005, 08:56 AM
Originally posted by Kairho@Sep 29 2005, 06:40 AM
Absolutely.* It is controlled airspace.* All aircraft movement there requires tower permission.

ALL GROUND movement as well. Even maintenance vehicles that need to go on or near a runway must contact Ground Control with their intentions. Some airports also have Ramp Control.

09-30-2005, 12:12 AM
Ok, one more time. I wrote what the pilot did and what the pilot said. We could all second guess him, I for one, was on the aircraft, so I'm not going to second guess him. I also told you, and he told us, and I knew it after he said it, that the runway was an "Inactive Runway". It is one of the longest (of three, making it possible to circumvent the globe using 3 runways). It was not yet opened. Yes the lights were blue. My eyes don't lie. Being the longest runway he had more than enough room before he would have or could have endangered anyone, or anything on that runway. And further, we were so close to the ground, aborting it in my opinion would have been dangerous, more so than flying down that runway at a high rate of speed. With the amount of time it took to make that transition, maybe he did or maybe he didn't get permission, if he did it was real fast, quick, extremely quick communications between himself and the tower. We will never know now will we? At that point in time he did state that this airport was only one of a few where that was possible or used. Again, I'm only telling you what happened and what he said. In retrospect, I would much rather plow into something on on the inactive runway than plow into the jet that was not supposed to have been where it was. I think he made a wise choice regardless if he had permission or not, if communication was or was not made with the tower. I would still give praise to any pilot who makes a decision on what to do. It is he who makes the final choice in instance like this. He's at the controls, it's his aircraft, it is not the tower who is behind the "wheel". The choice, as the to what occured when the plane in a recent crash slid of the end of the runway and rolled over and split into three, was made by the pilot to land at it's intended airport. He could have chosen to land some 100 miles away, but took the chance even though the weather was severe enough that communications were made, and he still opted to land. Sadly it had consequences. I do distinctly remember reading in news articles that the options were discussed, however only he, and only he had the authority to choose where to land at that point in the communications. I doubt anyone other than the aircraft I was on would have had the authority to second guess him. If they did, I doubt I'd be sitting here right now.

09-30-2005, 07:08 AM
Nobody is doubting your observations. It is just that untrained observers easily and often do not completely understand the situation.

There ARE many airports where sidesteps are done, and often. Although the pilot is, as you observed. the ultimate authority, he is not permitted to land on any runway at a controlled airport without permission. Period. Thus, he DID get permission to sidestep. Without laws such as this, flight would be anarchy!

Finally, if there was no alternate runway available, a missed approach procedure can be done safely even after the wheels touch the ground. All pilots are trained in this safe and easy procedure. If the pilot had landed on a taxiway without having declared an emergency, and rather than doing a missed approach, he would no longer have a job.

The ONLY exception to the above is if the pilot had declared an emergency. In that case, you would not have taxied off the runway after landing and would have been surrounded by emergency vehicles. If you noticed this, I retract everything.

10-12-2005, 09:32 AM
Just my 2 cents, but here in DEN, the new runway has been open since October of 2003. Now an inactive runway is different from one that is not opened yet. Generally at late night, there is not enough traffic to keep all the runways active, so they will stop vectoring traffic into to there to lighten their own workload. I personally have side stepped a few times, mostly in SFO. Go-arounds are not all uncommon either and are completely safe.