Blue Sky News Executive Editor Bob Kerlik interviews Richard Kozak during a planeside service in November 2018. The remains of Kozak's uncle, Navy aviation radioman 3rd Class Walter E. “Bert” Mintus, returned home to Pittsburgh after being found in the Pacific after 74 years. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

Blue Sky News: 300 Stories and Flying High

We put a GoPro camera on our eight-mile baggage belt. We gathered planeside to meet the long-lost remains of fallen World War II soldiers. We announced plans for the airport’s billion-dollar modernization plan and broke news on what the Max 8 grounding means for overbookings nationally.

Blue Sky News staffers Matt Neistein and Natalie Fiorilli accept an award from Airports Council International on Nov. 7, 2019, in Miami. (Courtesy of Airports Council International)

And we set a new standard for airports when we unveiled the largest, most comprehensive sensory room in the world for autistic children and adults who find air travel stressful.

Those are just a few of the highlights that mark the first anniversary of Blue Sky News, Pittsburgh International Airport’s news platform – the first of its kind among airports in the U.S.

More than 300 stories later, we’re growing our audience both in Pittsburgh and around the world. And people are paying attention.

So forgive us for taking a quick victory lap. On Nov. 7, Airports Council International awarded Blue Sky News first place for overall public relations programs for medium-sized airports. We are honored to be recognized, but what’s even more satisfying is hearing from readers who appreciate good stories (and photos) with an aviation bent.

We’re not the first company to take news distribution in-house, but we are the first airport. Private companies and organizations have increasingly launched their own news sites, particularly in markets where traditional media outlets have dwindled. Count Coca-Cola, Disney, UPS and Adobe among them.

To celebrate our birthday, we thought we’d take a look back at five of our favorite stories from the past year. Enjoy.

1) A Perfect Place for Presley: Pittsburgh International Airport took an idea from heavy equipment operator Jason Rudge – whose son, Presley, was diagnosed with autism at 2 – and built an industry-leading sensory room.

2) Remains of WWII Airman Return Home to Western Pennsylvania After 74 Years: It took more than seven decades to find the remains and wreckage of Sgt. Vernon Hamilton’s plane in Germany.

3) Passenger ‘Bumps’ Jump 36 Percent: Sifting through FAA data, we found the number of passengers getting bumped from flights was increasing nationally.

4) Airport Gives Free Lunches to Federal Workers as They Miss Their First Paychecks: During the government shutdown earlier this year, our free lunch program for TSA workers started a national trend.

5) POO, BOO and EEK – Airport Codes That Make You LOL: We had fun too. Ever wonder what airport code is the best or see one that SUX?

We hope you’ve enjoyed Blue Sky News stories as much as we’ve enjoyed telling them, and we look forward to making our second year even better.

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