With a musical
fanfare befitting a state-of-the-art transit system, Skylink, the world’s
largest airport people mover began service to the traveling public at DFW
International Airport today, forever changing the way travelers use the
world’s third-busiest airport. The Skylink automated people mover system debuted today with the 40-member
Fort Worth Carter-Riverside High School band marching off the train
playing Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration” and breaking through a
commemorative banner. Airport Ambassadors tossed confetti and the
Southlake Carroll High School Emerald Belles drill team cheered. In honor
of Armed Forces Day, DFW also invited U.S. service men and women
participating in the military’s R&R program to join the festivities.
Today’s opening day ceremonies caps a remarkable 5-year construction
program that offers DFW passengers the ability to connect between flights
that are less than 30-minutes apart—a vital link for air carriers and
“This is a day our passengers have been waiting for a long, long time and
now we have a new world-class people mover to get around our world-class
airport,” said Jeff Fegan, CEO of DFW International Airport. “And later
this summer, Skylink will begin serving our new International Terminal D.
All of these additions to DFW are making our region an even greater magnet
for international tourism and business.”
Skylink will zip passengers in both directions at speeds up to 35 miles
per hour on its elevated guideways. Skylink will initially be able to
shuttle 5,000 passengers per hour per direction. When the system is
expanded to capacity, Skylink will be capable of transporting 8,000
passengers per direction per hour.
Skylink train cars are connected to Airport terminals via 4.81 miles of
guideway, elevated at an average of 50-feet. Guideway construction began
in the fall of 1999 and took place with limited interruption of airline
traffic at the world’s third-busiest Airport. Contractors worked during
overnight hours for 3 years—when airline gates were unused—arriving
on site, completing work and removing equipment each evening before
returning gates to an airline.
“To build this massive of a system on the world’s third busiest airfield
and finish on time and on budget is certainly a tribute to the thousands
of men and women who worked tirelessly to make it happen,” said Clay
Paslay, DFW’s executive vice president of airport development. “This
construction was done around multi-million dollar aircraft in the middle
of the night and in all kinds of weather. And the result is a
significantly-improved passenger experience at our Airport, offering fast
connections and dramatic aerial views of the Airport and our surrounding
An average ride time on Skylink is anticipated to be five minutes, while
the longest ride is anticipated to be 9 minutes. Because the people mover
is bi-directional, passengers will no longer need to ride a significant
portion of the loop to get to their destination. If a passenger wanted to
ride the loop for fun it would take approximately 18 minutes to complete
Because of Skylink’s speed and frequency, DFW Airport travelers will be
able to visit other terminals, concession areas and public art displays
across the Airport during longer layovers. This will greatly change the
way passengers use the Airport.
The Skylink system is located on the air side of each terminal, beyond the
security checkpoints. Each terminal has two Skylink stations located on
the north and south ends of the terminal. The four-story, 480-foot long
stations feature soaring ceilings of 76-feet and unique floor art designed
by local artists and fabricated by in terrazzo by a Dallas-based company.
Skylink stations were built into existing Terminals A, B, C and E.
Stations were incorporated into the interior design of the new
International Terminal D. Skylink trains will pass through the center of
the new terminal, allowing riders a glimpse inside. Travelers in the
concessions villages, ticketing halls and the international arrivals hall
will have an exciting view of the train cars gliding through the structure. Each Skylink train car will accommodate up to 69 passengers and their
carry-on luggage. The trains run on rubber tires to provide an ultra-quiet
and smooth ride.
Skylink features an advanced train control system that automatically
guides the movement of the train cars along the guideway. This innovative
moving block technology allows a greater degree of flexibility during peak
passenger demand periods. Two control centers are located at the airport,
allowing DFW staff to control the unmanned cars on the guideway or en
route to the maintenance facility.
The train car shells were fabricated in Scotland, while the mechanical
elements were manufactured and installed in Pittsburgh. Interior
finish-out and exterior detailing were completed at DFW.
The Airport Train system will be decommissioned about a month after the
opening of Skylink, ending a successful 31-year run. From its inception
with the debut of the Airport in 1974, the Airport Train, originally known
as AirTrans and later the American Airlines TrAAin, transported a quarter
of a billion passengers between DFW’s four terminals and employee
facilities, logging a total of 97-million miles on its fleet.