As Airports in Philadelphia and New York ask the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to expand, officials at airports in places like Pittsburgh and Cleveland are staring at under utilized facilities and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato wants something done about that. Onorato says he has been lobbying the FAA for nearly two years now to change the way it allocates landing slots. Onorato made his comments while addressing a meeting of the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce in Coraopolis this morning.
Passengers originating or ending trips in Pittsburgh has grown in recent years but the total number of flights in and out of Pittsburgh has tumbled since USAirways pulled its hub from Pittsburgh International. Onorato says he, and members of the state’s congressional delegation, have asked the FAA to stop allowing expansions at airports along the congested East Coast and instead force those flights inland. “The FAA should, maybe not re-regulate, but intervene with the [slots] of how many planes can go into these airports. Before we spend billions of your money to expand these airports where there is no room, I would argue that for public safety reasons and national security reasons why not use facilities already built,” says Onorato.
Onorato says Pittsburgh is only 45 minutes from the East Coast where the FAA has just announced final approval for a $5 billion expansion at Philadelphia airport. A proposal to expand airports in New York has been floated as well. At the same time, the FAA says it is looking at ways to increase the number of planes that can be in the airspace around New York at any given time. “We’re saying, without spending a penny, use [Pittsburgh International],” says Onorato. He says, “it is a better move for the taxpayers. We’re not saying come to Pittsburgh and build something, we’re saying, use what you already built here.” Pittsburgh International was built to support USAirways’ hub.
Onorato is not the only person talking to the FAA about the plan to send more traffic away from the East Coast. Airports are lining up on both sides of the argument. Detractors say the airlines are struggling to pay their bills now and do not need the additional regulations.