US Airways passes over Pittsburgh in final ceremonial flight
August 21, 2015 12:00 AM
A jetliner from US Airways taxis past another near the air traffic control tower at Pittsburgh International Airport in 2004.
In 2007, US Airways dedicated an AirBus plane painted in Steelers colors at its maintenance facility at Pittsburgh International Airport.
By Mark Belko / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
To US Airways: Don’t forget to wave when you fly over Pittsburgh.
The airline’s ceremonial final scheduled flight Oct. 16 will land in Philadelphia, Charlotte, Phoenix and San Francisco, but not Pittsburgh, the city that gave it its start and built a $1 billion terminal to suit its needs.
“It’s maybe the last and final insult,” former Allegheny County Executive Jim Roddey said Thursday.
US Airways is planning Flight 1939 to mark the end of its run in the skies. It will be the last flight before the US Airways name disappears for good (except on planes that have yet to be repainted) in the merger with American Airlines.
The last flight will include some nostalgic touches. The airline selected the flight number because 1939 was the year that US Airways forerunner All American Aviation got its start — in Pittsburgh.
Edwin I. Colodny, the former USAir chairman who negotiated the deal with Allegheny County to build the midfield terminal at Pittsburgh International Airport, which became the airline’s largest hub, is expected to be on the flight.
Yet despite its history with the airline, Pittsburgh, once home to 12,000 US Airways jobs and nearly 550 daily flights before round after round of devastating cuts, will not be one of the stops on the carrier’s farewell jaunt.
The reason, American spokesman Ross Feinstein said, is that the city is not one of the airline’s current hubs. Philadelphia, Charlotte, and Phoenix are. “This flight is focusing on the current hubs we have in place,” he said.
US Airways Flight 1939 will start in Philadelphia, go to Charlotte, then Phoenix, and finally to San Francisco before returning to Philadelphia.
That line-up didn’t sit well with some.
William Lauer, a principal in Allegheny Capital LLC and a local aviation analyst, said he can’t understand why the airline isn’t touching down a final time in Pittsburgh, given the historical ties.
“I think it frankly would be more appropriate than anything else,” he said.
He maintained the farewell flight should be from Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., to Pittsburgh to LaGuardia Airport in New York because all were instrumental in US Airways’ ascent as an airline.
As for Philadelphia, Charlotte, Phoenix, and San Francisco?
“I don’t think [the flight] should have involved any of the cities. Frankly, I don’t think they’ve had anything to do with the growth of US Airways,” Mr. Lauer said.
News regarding the final flight comes as American Airlines prepares to shut down the US Airways flight operations control center in Moon on Sunday, costing the region about 650 jobs. The work is being moved to a new facility in Fort Worth, Texas. Workers at the Moon center had the option of transferring.
It marks the latest in a series of cutbacks the region has endured at the expense of US Airways. The biggest came in 2004, when the airline shut down its hub here. The region also has lost a reservations center in Green Tree, a flight crew base and flight simulation training in Moon.
The airline is keeping a jet maintenance base here.
With the cuts came the loss of 10,000 jobs and hundreds of flights.
The fact that US Airways would bypass Pittsburgh on its farewell flight isn’t surprising, said Danny Persuit, president of Transport Workers Union Local 545, which represents about 180 employees at the flight operations control center.
“It’s par for the course with the way Pittsburgh’s been treated. They could have made an exception here,” he said. “They could have at least showed respect for all the people who worked for Allegheny, Mohawk, Lake Central, USAir, and US Airways in Pittsburgh.”
But in the end, perhaps it’s better that Pittsburgh will not be among the scheduled landings, said Mr. Roddey, who tried without success to keep US Airways from closing its Pittsburgh hub.
“The management of the airline certainly will not be missed,” he said. “We can say good riddance.”
Mark Belko: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1262.
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