WATCH: Allegheny County Airport Hosts Air Force One

President arrives in Pittsburgh on famed C-32 to talk infrastructure

By Bob Kerlik and Julie Bercik

Published January 31, 2022

Read Time: 3 mins


Allegheny County Airport has seen its share of VIPs over its 90-year history. Last week it added another sitting U.S. president to the list.

President Joe Biden arrived at AGC on Friday afternoon as part of a planned visit to Pittsburgh to talk about infrastructure. The president and his team opted to land at the general aviation airport—still the fifth-busiest in the state—because of its close proximity to his speaking event at Mill 19, a former steel mill that is now a hub for manufacturing research and development that includes affiliations with Carnegie Mellon University.

Biden arrived from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland onboard a Boeing C-32. Based on the Boeing 757-200 passenger jet, the C-32 is used for executive transport of top U.S. government officials around the world. The Air Force’s 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews operates eight C-32s in this role.

The C-32 is best known as the primary means of transport for the vice president. While the president mainly uses the larger VC-25 (based on the Boeing 747), presidents will fly on the C-32 into smaller airfields.

Dedicated on Sept. 11, 1931, four years after Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight, the airport, located about 10 miles southeast of Downtown Pittsburgh in West Mifflin, Pa., is a timepiece in some respects. It has no mall, food court or security lines, as it handles only noncommercial flights. The community celebrated the airport’s 90th birthday in September.

In its nine decades, a parade of notables has landed at the airport, including Presidents Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Mike Pence also landed there as vice president.

In September 1941, Eleanor Roosevelt landed at AGC before meeting with Pittsburgh’s African-American leaders, visiting a new housing development and speaking on behalf of stepped-up defense manufacturing months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It was replaced as the region’s primary airport when Greater Pittsburgh Airport opened in 1952.

“I think many times people are surprised at the large planes this airport handles. Allegheny County Airport has more than 60,000 take-offs and landings annually,” said Traci Clark, vice president of corporate and general aviation, Allegheny County Airport Authority. “This facility is an economic driver for the region, particularly the Mon Valley. We’ve continued to invest here and the growth we’ve seen during the pandemic is amazing.”

The airport remained busy the last two years as the pandemic slowed commercial aviation, driving some travelers toward alternative ways to fly. Operations at AGC are exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

During Biden’s previous visit to the area last April, he mentioned the $1.4 billion Terminal Modernization Program at Pittsburgh International Airport as a prominent example of investment in national infrastructure.

Friday’s visit included Carnegie Mellon’s advanced manufacturing research facilities at Mill 19, where he met with faculty and students to learn about projects that will lead in the new economy.

Pittsburgh has 400 acres dedicated to the regional innovation system, including the Mill 19 site and the airport’s Neighborhood 91 additive manufacturing campus. Leaders have touted the continuum of research and development to manufacturing as a way to lead the industry and grow next generation of manufacturing jobs in the region.

“Right here in Pittsburgh the future is being built on the foundation of this city’s storied past. The manufacturing resurgence we’re seeing today is no accident. It takes local leaders, federal leaders, foundations, businesses, unions and universities all pulling together,” Biden said. “It requires a mindset like you have here at Mill 19. Here’s what I mean by that. Generations ago, Mill 19 used to roll out 10-inch steel bars. Today, it rolls out the latest innovation in advanced manufacturing, robotics, 3D printing and artificial intelligence.”

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