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"Pittsburgh to become state hub plan moves forward"
Saturday, June 9, 2012
Hub airport plans move forward
By Mark Belko
The Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette
A consultant has been hired to help with a bid to make Pittsburgh
International Airport a hub for travel within Pennsylvania.
The Allegheny County Airport Authority board hired Texas-based Mead & Hunt
Inc. Friday to develop possible business plans, including costs and flight
schedules, for airlines that might be interested in starting service between
Pittsburgh and 13 other airports in the state, including Latrobe, DuBois,
Erie, Harrisburg, Johnstown, Lancaster and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Mead & Hunt will be paid $299,148 for the work. The airport authority will
chip in $74,787, and the rest will be paid by a $224,361 state grant.
"Some of these smaller carriers don't have the resources to do route
planning and business modeling. This will actually give them that
information," Bradley D. Penrod, airport authority executive director, said
of the consultant's work.
The authority this week had formal and informal talks with airlines about
the initiative during a conference in Sacramento, Calif., Mr. Penrod said.
US Airways dropped Pittsburgh International as a hub in November 2004. With
the decision, the airline also eliminated service to many of the smaller
airports in the state that served as feeders for flights from Pittsburgh.
Mr. Penrod said the Marcellus Shale drilling boom is "a big piece of the
population that right now is driving" the new initiative. He added that he
senses a renewed interest from business people in having service between
Pittsburgh and other communities in the state.
"We hear that from across the state, that people want to reconnect by air to
Pittsburgh," he said.
The intrastate proposal has drawn withering criticism from Colorado-based
aviation consultant Michael Boyd, who described it as a "loony bin." He said
there's no airline in business with the desire or the equipment to tackle
such an initiative.
He maintained that it would cost "millions a year" in subsidies to make the
plan work. He also argued that it's easier and cheaper to drive to other
destinations in the state than it is to fly.
Mr. Penrod disputed the latter point.
"You don't talk to the same people I do," he said, adding that the airport
hears all the time from engineering firms, lawyers and Marcellus Shale
officials who are interested in such service.
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