Pittsburgh Airport Expands Enclave for Private Jets

There aren't many places in Western Pennsylvania that can boast about playing host to Tiger Woods, Ben Roethlisberger, Sidney Crosby, Al Gore and a host of other athletes, politicians and celebrities.

Atlantic Aviation Service's Business Aviation Center at Pittsburgh International Airport is one of them. And the company is looking to add to its growing customer base.

Atlantic Aviation Services, joined by local politicians and Allegheny County Airport Authority officials, opened a new 30,000-square-foot jet hangar and 7,250-square-foot charter terminal and office center at the airport yesterday.

The Dallas-based firm believes the $5 million expansion, which doubles its space, will further enhance its ability to serve corporations, sports team charters, private operators and general aviation enthusiasts.

Atlantic Aviation already has lined up three corporate tenants for the new hangar, which can hold anywhere from two to 12 jets, depending on their size. Officials also are hoping the charter terminal will better accommodate the sports teams that use it, including the Steelers, Penguins, local universities and visiting squads.

Current corporate clients include FedEx and Bayer.

Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato said the center is a key component of the region's economic development efforts, offering corporations a place to house their jets and easy access to them.

"In this global economy you need these types of facilities," he said. "It is key to us remaining competitive."

The facilities also help the region compete for events like the U.S. Open and the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which produce a lot of corporate and private jet traffic.

"These are the types of facilities you put in those proposals," Mr. Onorato said. "This goes a long way in allowing us to be competitive in those proposals."

The expansion complements a $13 million facility featuring a 20,000-square-foot hangar and a fixed base operations center, which Atlantic Aviation opened in 2001 on land that for many years housed the airport's main terminal before its midfield terminal opened in 1992.

The facilities have been used by the Steelers and Penguins as well as a number of politicians, including George W. Bush when he was a candidate, Dick Cheney, Mr. Gore and John Kerry.

Mr. Woods used the center when he came to Oakmont before the U.S. Open for a practice round.

Even as the doors opened on the new facilities yesterday, Atlantic Aviation and airport authority officials were talking about another possible expansion.

"Let's just say we're looking at the possibility," Atlantic Aviation General Manager John L. Carlen said. "We're always exploring avenues to increase business."

Last year, about 50,600 passengers took off and landed from Atlantic Aviation facilities in Pittsburgh, a 41 percent increase over 2005.

The company provides fueling and deicing, maintenance, ground transportation, catering, and hangar and ramp space for corporate and private jets and charters.

About 90 percent of its business involves corporations. The other 10 percent involves sports teams and celebrities.

Airport authority Executive Director Kent George does not believe the expansion will affect Allegheny County Airport, which also caters to corporate and general aviation traffic.

"The county airport is very busy. Corporations come in and out of there all the time," he said.