Airport authority spurs CEO search

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A national headhunter has been hired to find someone to do what no one has been able to do for at least a decade — bring a lot more flights to Pittsburgh International Airport.

Allegheny County Airport Authority board members ratified an agreement with Maryland-based Krauthamer & Associates Inc. Friday to help find a new CEO whose main job will be to increase service at the Findlay airport.

Krauthamer will be paid 30 percent of the new CEO’s salary, estimated at $250,000, plus reasonable expenses for its work.

The board decided to launch a search after dismissing in March Bradley D. Penrod, who served as the authority’s executive director for six years before being reassigned to the position of president and chief strategy officer last year.

In doing so, the board and county executive Rich Fitzgerald emphasized that they were looking for someone who could increase the number and frequency of flights at the airport, which has seen service cut dramatically since US Airways closed its Pittsburgh hub in 2004.

The search will be no easy task, said Michael Boyd, a Colorado-based aviation consultant. He believes Pittsburgh, with an average of 148 flights a day to 37 destinations, has just about the level of service it deserves. The chances of finding someone who can do what the authority wants aren’t good, he argued.

“It’s going to be difficult. Houdini’s not in the job market any more,” he said. “If they’re looking for someone who’s going to bring them more air service, they’re looking for someone who doesn’t exist.”

State Sen. Matt Smith, an authority board member, said he is well aware of arguments that Pittsburgh has the proper level of service for the size of the market. But he stressed that the authority must try “any and all measures” to boost the number of flights from the airport.

“The key will be finding someone who’s not willing to accept that we’ve reached the ceiling of our air capacity,” he said.

“I certainly think you hear that argument out there that we’ve hit that ceiling but I don’ think the board is willing to accept that. I don’t think the county executive is willing to accept that and I don’t think the corporate community is willing to accept that we’ve hit the ceiling.”

But Mr. Boyd said the board and Krauthamer may have a hard time finding candidates willing to take the job given what the authority is asking the new CEO to do. “If you have a board that wants you to do something you can’t do, you’d be pretty nuts to take the job,” he said.

Mark Belko: or 412-263-1262. First Published May 9, 2014 12:50 PM

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