Denver, Colorado/90,000 SF
United Airlines is consolidating all pilot training operations into its flight training center, located at the former Stapleton International Airport site east of downtown Denver. Prior to expansion, the campus consisted of six buildings, A through F, which together totaled approximately 470,000 GSF. Existing pilot training equipment included 32 Full Flight Simulators (FFS) and 16 Fixed Training Devices (FTD), plus classrooms and other training spaces.
To support the airline’s growth and to provide training facilities for new aircraft models entering the fleet, United Airlines engaged project manager JLL, design-builder Hensel Phelps Construction, and architect BOKA Powell to design a new facility, Building G, which adds eight (8) FFS bays and four (4) FTD simulators, bringing the total to 40 FFS and 20 FTDs. The expansion, totaling roughly 90,000 square feet, also includes support spaces for simulator operation and flight crew instruction, including computer rooms, briefing rooms, classrooms, instructor and pilot amenities, simulator technician work areas, and storage.
Building G was designed to fit the architectural style and proportionality of the existing modernist campus, which opened in 1968 as part of the Stapleton International Airport complex. The material palette consists of masonry, exposed cast-in-place concrete, and pre-cast concrete accents. The roof line accentuates the low, horizontal nature of the campus. Tall, slender windows mimic the fenestration of the existing buildings, and a large five-bay-wide window wall feature on the south side of the building introduces natural light into the common spaces and vertical circulation.
The building was designed to fit within the tight constraints of the existing training center. Building G is wedged between Buildings A and D on two sides, connected to Building C on a third side, and limited by a fire lane and property line on the street side immediately to the south. Support spaces, including additional training rooms and storage, were displaced into an east wing that backs up to the loading area of Building D. It was important not to impinge on simulator loading doors on the west side of Building D, while also providing access to the campus’ interior courtyard.
Inside, spaces cater to pilots and instructors, emphasizing comfort and utility. Fundamentally, the building is designed to support and protect the vital training equipment needed to keep United’s pilots airworthy. The simulator bays on either side of the primary building mass are open to all three levels, showcasing the two-story-tall, full-motion training devices. Exterior glazing was deliberately limited in these spaces to minimize the impact of severe weather or man-caused disasters outside the building. Careful coordination with CAE, the simulator manufacturer, and the engineering team allowed the floor of the simulator bays to be kept pristinely clear of extraneous equipment or cabling. Structural loads were a key consideration as well, given the dynamic forces imposed on the building by the movement of the simulators during training exercises. Computer rooms and simulator technician offices are located on the first floor to provide support for operations. Catwalks to each simulator connect to a ramp on the second floor and retract when in use. Pilot briefing rooms are also located on the second floor, immediately adjacent to each simulator, for pre-flight and debrief discussions. Computer stations at each simulator bay allow pilots to check in and check out of simulator sessions.
The basement of the building is a vast network of building systems and simulator support systems pushed below grade to preserve the cleanliness of the simulator bays and prevent any leakage or other issues from affecting the expensive FFS devices.