90 Years of Pittsburgh Aviation

By Julie Bercik

Published June 16, 2023

Read Time: 4 mins


Working as a communicator and videographer for the Allegheny County Airport Authority, my job takes me into every corner of Pittsburgh International and Allegheny County airports.

I love spending time at the County Airport. I remember coming to the airport as child with my pap to watch the planes take off and land. Who would have known that little girl would work for the airport one day.

On a recent visit to research a story, the staff greeted me with a big red container full of pictures, newspaper clippings and other archival materials dating back decades.

Sifting through the documents, I was taken back in time, from construction of the municipal (now county) airport in the 1920s to the Greater Pittsburgh Airport in the ‘40s and Pittsburgh International in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. And, of course, we’re now documenting the rise of PIT’s modern terminal, scheduled to open in 2025.

These photos offer a glimpse of aviation history in Pittsburgh. I hope you enjoy the trip back in time as much as I did!

Allegheny County Airport was one of the nation’s largest airports at the time of its opening in 1931. (Pittsburgh International Airport Archives)

Allegheny County Airport

  • First called Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Municipal Airport, it was built for $3.5 million – the equivalent of about $59 million today.
  • Dedicated on Sept. 11, 1931, AGC was among the nation’s largest airports at the time. AGC served as the region’s main airport until Greater PIT opened in 1952.
  • In 1951, nearly 1.2 million passengers flew through AGC.
  • Today, AGC handles private flights and is the base for tenants like the Pittsburgh Flight Training Center, Stat MedEvac, Allegheny Flying Club and Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics – as well as two fixed-base operators.
  • AGC has around 60,000 departures and arrivals each year.

Crews inspect ongoing construction of Greater Pittsburgh Airport on July 1, 1949. (Pittsburgh International Airport Archives)

Greater Pittsburgh Airport

  • Construction on Greater Pittsburgh International Airport started in 1946, when the region outgrew AGC in terms of size and volume.
  • Greater PIT was dedicated on May 31, 1952.
  • Served as the region’s airport until October 1992, when Pittsburgh International opened.
  • The final arriving flight at Greater Pittsburgh International Airport landed at about 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 30, 1992. Six hours later, at 5:50 a.m. Oct. 1, a red-eye from San Diego arrived at Pittsburgh International Airport.

Workers inspect construction progress of PIT’s landside terminal which opened in October 1992. (Pittsburgh International Airport Archives)

Pittsburgh International Airport

  • Opened in October 1992
  • PIT was the first airport in the world built as a connecting complex, featuring a landside (or pre-security) building, a Central Services building with a separate commuter terminal, and an X-shaped airside terminal with four concourses.
  • The pioneering shape of the 1,204,986-square-foot airside terminal, which inspired similar designs around the world, allowed more planes to access their gates with greater ease.
  • The facility was built as a hub focused on connecting passengers.

PIT’s Terminal Modernization Program, which recently reached its halfway point of construction, is scheduled to open to the traveling public in early 2025. (Pittsburgh International Airport Archives)

Terminal Modernization Program

  • Pittsburgh International Airport is building a smarter, greener terminal, inspired by the best of our region. The new terminal is being built for Pittsburgh by Pittsburgh, with almost 90 percent of the contracts going to Pittsburgh-area firms.
  • The new terminal program includes construction of a new landside terminal that will include ticketing, security checkpoints and baggage claim.
  • The Multi Modal Complex includes a new 3,300-space parking garage and rental car facilities. Key design features of the new terminal and parking facilities are centered on elements of nature and sustainability, leading-edge technology and innovation in the community.
  • The new Pittsburgh International Airport arrives in 2025.
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