Location: Allegheny Country Airport in West Mifflin
Featured guest: Matt Neistein, public affairs manager for Allegheny County Airport Authority
3 things that surprised me:
1. The Allegheny County Airport opened in 1931 and, at the time, it was the nation’s third-largest airport. The art deco-style structure — which was recently repaired and restored — was Pittsburgh’s primary airport until 1952, when an airport was built at the current Pittsburgh International Airport location in Findlay Township. Matt reminds me that air travel was very different in the 1930s and ’40s. Back then, flying on a plane was an incredibly novel experience. On some early flights, passengers were probably sitting on sacks of mail.
2. Today, there are no commercial flights routinely landing at the Allegheny County Airport. Private pilots use the airport regularly as do corporate clients on private jets. Additionally, Air Force One has landed at the county airport on numerous occasions. While Matt and I were chatting that afternoon, I probably saw half a dozen planes taking off or landing.
3. Since this was one of the only places to land a plane in the Pittsburgh airport for a long time, a fair share of celebrities have visited the airport. Matt pointed to a bench where Eleanor Roosevelt once sat. He took me down some stairs where Lena Horne once walked. There’s a small display in the building of photographs, many taken by Charles “Teenie” Harris, of notable folks visiting the airport.
One thing that didn’t make the final cut: Matt walked us through a part of the building that used to house the Propellor Lounge, an airport restaurant that was a popular haunt for pilots. The only business left in the building is Nancy’s Hairport Express, which was bustling when we stopped by.
Additional info: You can learn more about the Allegheny Country Airport at the website.