From the Wikipedia page for the Pneumatic tube:

Denver International Airport [DEN] uses many pneumatic tube systems, including a 25 cm diameter system for moving aircraft parts to remote concourses, a 10 cm system for United Airlines ticketing, and a robust system in the parking toll collection system with an outlet at every booth.

The article lacks a citation and their are few credible references on the web. There is a 1994 Wired article with this sentence:

Systems like the one just installed by Denver's Translogic Corp. in that city's new international airport - its 10-foot-diameter tube whisks around airplane parts weighing up to 17 pounds - seem to be pushing the practical limits of pneumatic tube systems.

The lack of references seems suspicious. Yet, a 2017 Design Standards Manual published by DEN mentions pneumatic tubes, as well as a 2017 DEN press release.

Question: If these systems actually exist, what are their total lengths (eg. 35 km total) and usage rate (eg. 7000 objects per day)?

Note: The original question was posted (in a shorter form) at Aviation Stack Exchange last year by user Nicolas Raoul. No answer has yet been provided.

  • 2
    Have you tried asking Denver Airport? Mar 4 '19 at 8:07
  • 2
    They're not as obvious anymore, but pneumatic tube systems used to be quite common, and there was often such a setup running between the business office and the cash registers in US department stores. Hospitals used them extensively. Less common anymore, as much activity has been computerized, but still an obvious solution to moving aircraft parts or bundles of money. Mar 4 '19 at 13:08
  • 3
    Note that "10-foot-diameter" is likely a mistake on the part of the writer -- 25cm is about ten inches. Mar 4 '19 at 13:10
  • 4
    Why exactly would you doubt this? It's convenient and technology that's been around for decades (e.g. at banks).
    – Kevin
    Mar 4 '19 at 21:04
  • 2
    @DanielRHicks I've worked on new hospital additions before, and was surprised to find that they are still installing pneumatic tube systems.
    – JMac
    Mar 5 '19 at 20:33

There are some other references on the Web that appear to be from the time the airport was constructed. They are hard to find because most search hits come up with duplicates of the Wikipedia text.

This press release talks about using pneumatic tubes to deliver cash to and from parking payment booths. It includes two photographs and some plans:

Central cash vault

Long term parking

Main garage parking

The numbers in the plans are a bit difficult to read, but it looks like the long term parking has 4*164 + 2 * 1060 = 2776 feet of underground tube, and the main garage parking has 2*2950 = 5900 feet, plus a set of switches to route tubes between the booths and the vault.

I also found this LA Times article from September 1994 which says "United Air Lines plans to use a 7,100-foot tube system to shuttle aircraft parts to passenger gates when Denver's huge new airport opens, which is expected next spring.". Although this doesn't mention the diameter it backs up the Wikipedia article.

  • 3
    Eh, I worked in aviation maintenance for some years. You'd be surprised how often a plane has minor issues that can be taken care of between flights. With the emphasis on fast turnaround times at commercial airports, I could definitely see a use case for a fast delivery method for small parts straight to the gate.
    – Is Begot
    Mar 4 '19 at 14:20
  • @IsBegot OK, I'll take out the qualification. Mar 4 '19 at 14:33
  • @IsBegot Once Amazon gets their drone fleet up and running, will they deliver parts in flight? Mar 5 '19 at 22:02
  • @PaulJohnson Thanks for the great research! As you guys (the community) have much more experience than I do, what would you predict would be the "usage rate" of these systems? Mar 6 '19 at 9:21
  • @Acccumulation Unless they're using some seriously impressive drones, I doubt it ;)
    – Is Begot
    Mar 6 '19 at 13:23

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