Direct from London, with Plenty of Pittsburgh on Board

From metals to windows and paint, locally based companies make the Dreamliner possible

By Bob Kerlik

Published March 29, 2019

Read Time: 3 mins


The British Airways jet landing here on April 2 will have plenty of Pittsburgh ties, and not just in its passengers – in its very DNA.

The 214-seat Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner that will serve Pittsburgh’s nonstop route to London Heathrow is emblematic of the region’s continued success in advanced manufacturing and technology, some of which helped the region land the flight.

Part of the plane’s metal came from Pittsburgh-based ATI. The paint and windows came from Pittsburgh-based PPG. And it’s not just 787s. Those companies supply planes all over the world.

“We like to say, ‘Airplanes don’t fly without ATI.’ The technically advanced specialty materials and complex components ATI produces enable our customers and the airlines to achieve amazing things,” said Kevin Kramer, ATI’s chief commercial and marketing officer. “Our alloys and components are built to meet this new generation of jet engine and airframe design needs.”

READ MORE: Flight of Fancy: Look Inside British Airways’ Dreamliner Jet

ATI’s alloys operate in both rotating and stationary parts of jet engines, such as shafts, discs and heat shields, as well as numerous structural components used in critical applications such as landing gear, fuselage ribs and chords, doors, window assemblies, fasteners and many others, Kramer said.

Similarly PPG’s technology is on – and in – the plane, including new window technology that eliminates the need for window shades as passengers can opt to dim the windows themselves with a button, and key paint coatings and sealants.

“PPG has a long history of serving the aerospace industry. The PPG Aerospace portfolio is comprised of a unique group of products and services, including transparencies, sealants, coatings, and packaging and application systems,” said Bryan Iams, vice president of Corporate and Government Affairs. “Through our global team, PPG is able to deliver what is key to the aviation industry: innovation.”

(Image courtesy of ATI)

It’s that kind of innovation that allows the evolution of aircraft like the 787 to expand air service opportunities for mid-size cities like Pittsburgh, explained Pittsburgh International Airport CEO Christina Cassotis.

“Traditionally, long-haul transatlantic routes were served by much bigger planes – a 747, for example, seats 400-plus passengers. Pittsburgh can’t fill that many seats for almost-daily service year-round.

“But we can fill 214 seats on a 787 because technology has allowed smaller planes to fly farther than ever before and we have Pittsburgh companies like ATI and PPG, who are helping to fuel that technology, to thank for that,” Cassotis said.

Both Kramer and Arthur Pang, PPG’s government affairs manager, will be part of the Pittsburgh delegation on the inaugural flight from London to Pittsburgh. Joining them will be Cassotis, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, VisitPittsburgh CEO Craig Davis and Allegheny Conference CEO Stefani Pashman.

READ MORE: British Airways Connecting Pittsburgh to the World Stage

Both corporations – among many others in the region – have large presences in the U.K. and said nonstop access increases efficiencies and saves time and money.

“ATI is headquartered in Pittsburgh, and the majority of our Flat Rolled Products segment is here,” Kramer said. “We support improving the ease of access to our operations. We’re especially excited that our UK customers – especially in the aero engine and airframe industry – now have direct access to our Flat Rolled Products operations and the technical experts who reside here.”

ATI employs 1,200 in Southwestern Pennsylvania and another 7,000 globally, officials said. PPG has called Pittsburgh home for more than 135 years and employs more than 2,500 people locally, part of a global workforce that totals more than 47,000.

“In addition to our global headquarters, Pittsburgh is home to our global research and development center,” Iams said. “Our scientists and engineers here in the North Hills are working on developing new, innovative coatings solutions for customers in several industries, including aerospace.”

(Image courtesy of ATI)

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