Effort Takes Wing to Keep US Airways Control Center

Retaining US Airways' flight operations control center in Moon is "a major priority" for Allegheny County, said county Chief Executive Dan Onorato after a tour of the 450-worker site on Monday.

Pittsburgh is being pitted against Phoenix and Charlotte, N.C., by US Airways, which wrote officials in those cities Aug. 29 seeking proposals, including incentives, for a new flight-control center for the merged airline.

US Airways requested responses by Oct. 15 and expects to make a decision by February. The airline said it wants to have the new or consolidated facility up and running in late 2008 or early 2009.

"We're in a dog fight with two other cities," said Onorato at a news conference Downtown yesterday.

The airline has been using both the US Airways control center in Moon and the America West Airlines control center in Phoenix since the carriers merged a year ago. The Moon center employs 450, while the Phoenix facility has 175 workers.

As many as 150 jobs could move to Pittsburgh, if US Airways consolidates into one flight-control center here, Onorato said.

Such airline nerve centers use sophisticated computer programs and screens to monitor weather conditions, aircraft locations and flight plans in real time. They also schedule each day's hundreds of flights and flight crews.

"One strong point we have is that a majority of these workers are here," Onorato said. He noted earlier the Pittsburgh International Airport corridor has at least 800 shovel-ready acres.

US Airways estimates the project will cost about $25 million. The carrier anticipates leasing the facility for 20 years, with two 10-year options beyond that. It seeks a single-story building with at least 60,000 square feet on at least six acres.

Airline executives on Thursday will give a presentation to, and field questions from, the three cities' delegations, who also will tour US Airways flight-control center in Phoenix. The airline has not made a "pre-decision," Onorato said.

The Pittsburgh delegation will include Allegheny County Airport Authority Executive Director Kent George, county Economic Development Director Dennis Davin and perhaps Onorato himself, as well as two state officials from the governor's economic development Action Team.

"We will put together an aggressive proposal," Onorato said. "But this is not going to be an open checkbook."

Once crafted, Allegheny County's proposal will probably include low-interest loans and other incentives that dove-tail with state programs, he said.

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