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St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport is a joint civil-military airport located in unincorporated Pinellas County, Floridamarker, six miles (10 km) north of St. Petersburgmarker, serving St. Petersburg, Clearwatermarker, and the surrounding Tampa Bay Areamarker in the USAmarker.

While most scheduled commercial airline traffic in the Tampa Bay Area uses Tampa International Airportmarker (TPA, ten miles (16 km) or 16 km to the east), St. Petersburg-Clearwater remains a destination airport for low-cost and charter carriers, notably several from Canada. Once a focus city for Largo based Southeast Airlines, St. Petersburg/Clearwater now serves as a focus city for Las Vegas based carrier Allegiant Air The airport also serves as the gateway airport to Pinellas County.

Because of its lesser pace of operations, PIE is frequently used instead of TPA as a destination airport by pilots of private planes and executive jets for access to the bay area.

The airport uses "Pie In The Sky" as an advertising slogan in reference to its three-letter IATA code.

History

The airport is located on the west shoreline of Tampa Baymarker, six miles (10 km) north of St. Petersburg, Floridamarker (the "birthplace of commercial air transportation"). Barely a decade after the pioneer flight of the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawkmarker in 1903, the first tickets for airline travel were sold by the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line of Tony Jannus to fare-paying passengers. Using a Benoist XIV amphibious aircraft, the inaugural flight took place from a location near the downtown St. Petersburg Piermarker. Mayor Abram C. Pheil of St. Petersburg and Mae Peabody of Dubuque, Iowa, were the first passengers, flying across the bay to Tampamarker and, according to a United Press account, reportedly reaching the maximum speed of 75 miles per hour during the flight. Other reports indicate that they reached an altitude of .

This historic event marked the beginning of commercial air transportation anywhere in the world and is commemorated by a replica of the Benoist aircraft and a plaque at the airport terminal baggage claim area. Another replica is displayed at the St. Petersburg Museum of History adjacent to the Pier.

Construction and wartime

Construction of the airport at its present site started in March 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbormarker, the airport was acquired by the U.S. Army Air Force, which used it as a military flight training base assigned to Third Air Force.

The 304th Fighter Squadron, a combat training unit of the 337th Fighter Group based P-40 Warhawk and, later, P-51 Mustangs at Pinellas Army Airfield (as it was then known) for the duration of World War II. Antisubmarine patrols were also flown from the airfield.

To commemorate the airport's vital role during that conflict, a plaque was dedicated at the airport terminal in 1994 by the P-51 fighter Pilots Association and Brigadier General James H. Howard, who was the only European Theater fighter pilot to be awarded the Medal of Honor in World War II and later served as the last wartime base commander of Pinellas Army Airfield. A permanent exhibit honoring General Howard is located in the terminal.

Postwar operation

FAA diagram of PIE
After World War II, the Airport property was returned to Pinellas County by the U.S. government to operate as a commercial airport. It was originally called Pinellas International Airport and given the IATA designation, PIE, which it still uses. In the 1950s, some airlines provided service to both PIE and TPA, such as Delta Air Lines, Eastern Air Lines, and Northwest Airlines. With the advent of the Jet Age, the airport's runway was extended northward into Tampa Bay and the first commercial jet service to PIE was operated by Northwest.

However, the greatly increased seating capacities of the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8, compared to the smaller propeller-driven DC-6 and DC-7, prompted the Civil Aeronautics Board to approve the consolidation of commercial airline service at TPA in the early 1960s. By 1964, Eastern was the last remaining air carrier at PIE when it terminated service that year. Until deregulation resulted in new airlines serving PIE in the 1980s, the airport was used by charters, private airplanes, and Coast Guard aircraft.

Current airfield and government facilities

Today, the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport is a fully-certified facility with ILS-equipped runway and two runways. It is home of Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, the largest and busiest U.S. Coast Guard Air Station in the United States, operating HC-130 Hercules and HH-60J Jayhawk aircraft. The U.S. Army Reserve also maintains an Army Aviation Support Facility (AASF) at the airport for Companies A and F, 5th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment and Medical Evacuation Unit, operating UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, FAA-operated control tower, the Central Florida Region Automated Flight Service Station , the busiest in the United States, and the St. Petersburg VORTAC for airway navigation are also important federal government services at the airport.

Along with scheduled commercial airlines, United Parcel Servicemarker, Air Cargo, and General/Corporate Aviation are also major activities. The entire tract of the airport is designated as a Foreign Trade Zone and a large Airport Industrial Park developed in the 1980s is a major center of commerce. The airport and its tenants employ over 3,000 people and have an economic benefit of more than $400 million yearly to the Tampa Bay area.

The airport includes a 24-hour airport rescue and fire-fighting (ARFF) department (Index C), facilities, operations, engineering, and administrative personnel.

Recent developments

PIE's Baggage Claim Area has four baggage carousels
In September 2006, Allegiant Air announced significant scheduled service from St. Petersburg-Clearwater to destinations in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Since then, Allegiant has grown its destination count to and from PIE to 21 airports across the Eastern US. In February, the Lansing, MI service shifted to Grand Rapids, Michiganmarker with four weekly flights.

Also, the airport plans to spend $9.5 million for renovations, including, among other things, expanding the gate sizes, new plumbing, and building loading bridges, as the current system requires all passengers to walk across the tarmac to the gate. The renovations are planned to be completed by the end of 2009.

USA3000 Airlines announced in May 2008 its discontinuation of all service to the Pinellas County airport effective August 18, 2008. The airline blamed the escalating price of jet fuel for the decision to end its 21 weekly flights to the airport. USA 3000 carried 300,000 passengers at the airport in 2007, representing 30 percent of the airport's total airline passenger volume. On October 23, 2008, USA3000 announced resumption of service beginning in December, with non-stop flights six days a week from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport to Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD). In a statement, USA3000 said the decision was due largely to a recent decrease in oil prices and in response to the almost 7,000 letters of support received urging the airline's return.

Locair is slated to begin regular flights from PIE to The Bahamas, starting on December 18th; marking the ONLY nonstop service from the Tampa Bay area to the Bahamas. Locair will be using 9 and 19 seat configured turboprops on the nonstop flights. Flights will operate from the Main Terminal

Aircraft operations

For the 12-month period ending July 30, 2007, the airport had 187,978 aircraft operations, an average of 515 per day: 84% general aviation, 8% military, 5% scheduled commercial and 3% air taxi. At that time there were 293 aircraft based at this airport:61% single-engine, 11% multi-engine, 12% jet, 9% helicopter and 8% military.

Airlines and destinations



St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport has one Terminal and thirteen Gates: 1 - 12, and 14

Passenger Airlines

Cargo Airlines

See also



References

  1. 'Other' airport gets facelift, St. Petersburg Times, June 26, 2007.
  • Bickel, Karl A. - The Mangrove Coast, 1942 by Coward McCann, Inc., Fourth Edition in 1989 by Omni Print Media, Inc., p. 265


External links




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