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DFW is physically the second-largest airport in the United States, and is located equidistant from the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, near the cities of Irving and Grapevine, Texas. It was commissioned in 1961 by the Civil Aeronautics Board after too many airlines complained about having to serve both Love Field in Dallas and Meacham Field in Fort Worth. Ground was broken in 1968, and the airport opened to scheduled service in 1974. The airport's biggest boost came in 1978, when American Airlines announced that it would move its headquarters from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to DFW. Delta Air Lines later opened a hub at DFW, but it shut down in 2004.

A rough map of the airport:

         !
  #      !
\ # || ( ! ) || \
 \# || C ! ) ||  \
  \ ||   ! ) ||  |\
    ||   !   ||  | \
         !       |
         !
...and now the explanation. The line of ! marks running down the center is International Parkway, the airport's main access road. The ( and ) are the four main semicircular terminals, which were once called 2W, 2E, 3E, and 4E, but are now called B, A, C, and E respectively. The "C" is the more rectangular international terminal, Terminal D, which opened in 2005. South of Terminal D is where Terminal F will go—the space is being used as a parking lot right now.

There are seven runways. The two west parallels are 16/34 left and right; the three east parallels are 17/35 left, right, and center. The two outer runways are 13/31 left and right. The pound signs indicate the location of DFW's upcoming eighth runway, tentatively called 16/34 West.

So the totals for DFW are 7 runways, 5 terminals, 150-odd gates, and 61 million passengers a year (#5 in the world). When the airport opened in the 1970's, planners wanted to eventually expand it to 13 runways, 9 terminals, and 260 gates, but eventually realized that those were absolutely ludicrous figures for any forseeable future.

Dallas Fort Worth is not the most popular airport with air travelers. The semicircular terminals were designed to allow people to move quickly from their cars to their boarding gate, not to facilitate connections from one gate to another (which account for 65 percent of DFW's passengers). American Airlines tried to remedy the problem in the mid-90's by building the TrAAm, an absolutely horrible people mover system that was soon replaced by an even worse system called the TrAAin. DFW opened a new people mover in 2005 to serve all six proposed terminals, which alleviated the problem somewhat, but is still rather sketchy (it was having hiccups the last time I passed through DFW).

For airlines, though, DFW is an excellent airport. It can accommodate an almost unlimited number of flights, thanks to the fact that none of its runways cross each other as they do at other airports. The main problem now is bottlenecks on the taxiways leading toward the terminal complex.

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