Dallas CBD Vertiport

A Tour of Dallas’ Huge Downtown Heliport

Venture thru Downtown Dallas, and you’re bound to see quite a few things – historic buildings, City Hall, and skyscrapers everywhere you look, just to name a few. Head several streets down into the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, and you might catch a glimpse of some trade show or expo going on. But something else unknown to most lies atop the roof of the Convention Center – the Central Business District(CBD) Vertiport, considered to be the world’s largest urban elevated heliport. After reading about this unique facility on the Dallas Airport System website, I had to go see it for myself. A huge heliport? In Downtown Dallas?

Built in the ’90s, the original idea was for air carrier service via rotorcraft. Much like the airport helicopter shuttle that’s been set up between Tokyo’s Narita International Airport and central Tokyo, planners envisioned a future where you could arrive at the Vertiport and board a helicopter to DFW Airport, or even other cities like Austin or San Antonio. After it was built, the idea never came to fruition, and today the Vertiport remains largely unused except for the few privately-owned helicopters that stop in every so often.

Showing me around was Rick Ellis, one of the Senior Airport Operations Officers for the Dallas Airport System, the City of Dallas department that owns and maintains the facility. To get up to the Vertiport was pretty interesting in and of itself. After meeting at street level, I followed Rick thru a series of curving ramps and security gates that went all the way up to the flight deck level, passing by the loading dock used by the Convention Center along the way.

Dallas CBD Vertiport entrance
One of the entrances leading up to the CBD Vertiport.
Dallas Convention Center loading dock area
One of the loading docks for the Convention Center, as seen on the way up.
Dallas CBD Vertiport
A sign points the way to one of the last ramps up to the flight deck level.

Upon getting to the top, my first reaction was “Wow, this is much bigger than I thought!”

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The Vertiport flight deck, looking towards the southeast.

As a fixed-wing pilot, many of the helipad markings were relatively foreign to me. Rick explained that there are two landing spots up here, where rotorcraft coming in must land at. From there, they can then taxi into one of the five parking spots. With a dual-deck design, the CBD Vertiport is capable of handling three helicopters and two tiltrotor aircraft(like the Boeing V-22) at the same time.

Dallas CBD Vertiport
One of two landing spots. Methodist Hospital, visible in the far distance, also sees quite a bit of helicopter traffic. Together with the usual airplane traffic, this forms a pretty busy region of Dallas’ airspace.

Why are there numbers on the pavement? Rick said that those indicated the maximum weight that could be supported at that particular landing point. In contrast, numbers in front of a runway indicate the number of that runway, which also aligns to the magnetic compass heading.

Dallas CBD Vertiport
Numbers on the landing spots indicate the maximum weight supported.

Up here, there is also an amazing view of Downtown Dallas!

Dallas CBD Vertiport

Of course, I had to get my photo taken.

Next, Rick and I headed to see the terminal building. Rick mentioned that the Vertiport has been used in several movies and TV shows – and it certainly fits the bill for some interesting filming!

Dallas CBD Vertiport
The terminal/lobby.

Inside the terminal was a pretty basic setup, with couches, restrooms, and an unstaffed attendant desk. Before the tour, I had expected something a bit more modern and well-equipped, but this setup made sense given the low traffic numbers seen here.

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Dallas CBD Vertiport

On the walls, various photos of helicopters served as artwork.

Dallas CBD Vertiport

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A small office hosted some communications radios and other mechanical equipment. Close by, a sign-in log for arriving aircraft was also there, the sheet only one line full.

Dallas CBD Vertiport

Dallas CBD Vertiport

Rick and I then headed down the elevators to see what was on the ground floor.

Dallas CBD Vertiport
The elevators leading to the ground floor.

Downstairs, there wasn’t much to see except the empty parking lot for Vertiport users and staff. Security gates ensure that folks parked here won’t have to worry about their vehicles being broken into or vandalized.

Dallas CBD Vertiport

One thing I found neat was this turnstile, which led directly to the DART Convention Center Station, served by the Red and Blue lines. Literally, you could take the light rail from your apartment in downtown Plano all the way to the Convention Center station, and board your helicopter airline flight to Oklahoma City. Well, at least that was the initial idea. I guess if you have your own helicopter, that’s still doable.

Dallas CBD Vertiport
This turnstile connects the Vertiport to the DART station.
DART Convention Center Station
The DART Convention Center station.

Wrapping up the tour back upstairs, Rick showed me the side catwalk area of the Vertiport terminal, which looked out to a huge parking lot full of trailers used in Convention Center expositions, as well as massive cooling towers below.

Dallas CBD Vertiport

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Although the facilities here are quite nice, the main problem plaguing the Vertiport is lack of traffic. I saw so much potential here – yet, the place sits deserted. Hopefully down the road, the City of Dallas starts a revitalization initiative to bring traffic here – done correctly, I’m sure it would be successful!

Dallas CBD Vertiport
Looking out onto the flight deck from the terminal.

Special thanks to the folks at the Dallas Airport System for making this post possible!

Lincoln, Nebraska – The Capital City of the Cornhusker State

A few weeks ago, I set off to visit two new states – Nebraska and Iowa. Although most folks associate these midwestern states with nothing but farmland and cornfields, I wanted to see what really was out there, as well as to just get a deeper understanding of our country’s backbone. My first stop on this three-day trip was to Lincoln, the capital city of Nebraska.

Although the city’s roots started with settlers arriving in the mid-1800s, Native Americans had occupied the area for thousands of years. After the passage of the Homestead Act in 1862, more people began to inhabit this new village. In 1869, the City of Lincoln was incorporated, named after President Abraham Lincoln. Today, Lincoln is home to over 280,000 people and is the second most populated city in the state.

The first place I checked out was the Nebraska State Capitol. Completed in 1932 and rising 400 feet into the Midwestern sky, it is the second tallest capitol building in the country.

picture of the nebraska state capitol
The Nebraska State Capitol.

The interior of this building was nothing but grand. It felt like I was walking into a historic church or castle of some kind tucked away in Europe.

picture of the interior of Nebraska State Capitol

Nebraska State Capitol

One of the places I enjoyed seeing here was the observation deck, located on the 14th floor! Free and open to the public, you can get some great views of Lincoln.

The state library was also open, and it contained an abundance of books spread out across two floors.

Nebraska State Capitol Library

Nebraska State Capitol Library

Something that I hadn’t seen elsewhere were these handheld reading lamps!  Fully functional, they looked like they could belong in an antique store. I could see these lamps being handy, especially back in the day when the lighting was dim.

Nebraska State Capitol Library reading light
Quite a few of these were installed throughout the library.

No visit to a state capitol would be complete without checking out the legislative chambers. I was surprised to hear that although there are two chambers, only one was being actively used, since Nebraska only has one legislative body! This unicameral setup is the only one of its kind in the nation. The west chamber(the one in use) happened to be closed, but I was able to peer in and take a look.

Nebraska State Capitol legislative chamber
The actively-used legislative chamber.

I was able to go inside the east chamber, used until the start of the unicameral system in 1937 and since closed-off. Much like the rest of the building, the design of this room didn’t disappoint!

Nebraska State Capitol Legislative Chamber
The other legislative chamber, which hasn’t been used since 1937.

Nebraska State Capitol Legislative Chamber

In total, I spent about two hours here, in which I explored the majority of the building.  Although many states have some gorgeous designs when it comes to their capitols, the combination of tile ceilings, marble floors, and murals make this one of the most beautiful ones I’ve seen to date!

My next stop fit right in with the state’s reputation for agriculture: The Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum.

Larsen Tractor Test Museum
One of the many tractors on display here.

Part of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus, this museum showcases various tractors from history. Several different rooms and displays talk about the various brands and models of these enormous machines. Admission is free, although donations are accepted.

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Larsen Tractor Test Museum

Here’s a fun fact: all tractors sold in Nebraska must be tested to ensure that rated performance claimed by the manufacturer checks out, and the testing is done right here! Up until 1980, testing was done in this building. Right next door was the current facility, which museum volunteer Don was gracious enough to show me around.

Nebraska Tractor test facility
The modern-day testing facility.

Don explained that testing is the ultimate example of consumer protection. Testing serves to ensure that if you buy a tractor with the Nebraska numbers on it, you can rest easy knowing that performance will be what the manufacturer claims it is. Various machines are used to complete the testing process, such as this big truck, which simulates a load.

Nebraska Tractor test facility

Right outside the shop was the testing track. Here, various benchmarks are performed in an area with ample space.

Nebraska Tractor test facility
The tractor test track.

Prior to me stopping in, I had no idea of this important measure that serves to protect our farmers and agricultural industry. Both the tour and the museum were nice!

The next stop was to the Nebraska History Museum, which exhibited different items related to the state’s history.

Nebraska History Museum
The Nebraska History Museum.

When I went, there was construction going on inside, and therefore only one floor was open. That floor had photos on display from the early days of the state, to different historical documents and artifacts.

Nebraska History Museum Exhibit
Different photos and items depict the history of this state.
Nebraska History Museum Exhibit
A windmill wheel used for many years.

Did you know Kool-Aid got its start in Nebraska? I didn’t!

Nebraska History Museum Exhibit
This famous drink got its start here in the Cornhusker State.

What I saw here was great in terms of being detailed and informative, and the best part is that there was no admission fee! I didn’t spot any free parking, and had to spend around a dollar at a covered garage about two blocks away.

After dinner was the last stop here in town, the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. The main campus of the University of Nebraska system, this huge 613-acre school was chartered as a land-grant university in 1869. Over 25,000 students call this place home. A major athletics program exists here as well.

University of Nebraska at Lincoln
One of the first buildings I came across entering UNL.

Checking out many of the buildings that make up their campus, I found that they all looked to be maintained very well. I’m sure quite a few of these halls have dated back many decades, but the exterior and interior upkeep seemed superb.

UNL buildings

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Although the architecture wasn’t nearly as nice as that of Ole’ Miss, the campus as a whole very much still had that traditional university feel to it. I only saw a few new buildings, one of which was the Howard L. Hawks Hall, home to the College of Business.

UNL Business Building
The College of Business building.

The classrooms in here looked like a great environment to learn in, and had all the modern technology one would expect for a university of this caliber. Inspirational quotes from famous people were on the wall of each room I went into.

UNL Classroom
A classroom inside the business building.

If you think their classrooms are nice, wait until you take a look at their football stadium! Memorial Stadium, on the edge of campus, is one of the largest collegiate stadiums I’ve seen to date.

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UNL’s Memorial Stadium.

Almost indistinguishable from an NFL stadium in my opinion, there were various seating levels, ranging from your standard bleachers all the way up to suites on the top floor. In total, this place is capable of seating over 85,000 people.

UNL Memorial Stadium

UNL Memorial Stadium

I had heard about UNL only once or twice before, and it was nice seeing the school in person. I knew their football program was pretty big, but it seems like academically speaking, the school has many programs and offerings the Cornhuskers can be a part of.

UNL Buildings
The Computer Science building.

Lincoln as a whole was pretty good, and I felt like my first day in Nebraska was well-spent. Out of all the places I saw here, I spent the most time at the Capitol – and I could have easily stayed another half-hour checking out the building in true detail. One could argue that there just isn’t much to do here, but if you are looking for a well-rounded introduction to the Cornhusker State, visiting this city will do the trick.

Nebraska Highway Sign
My first day in one of the least-visited states in the country went well!