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US Airways flight center in Moon may close in a few years, CEO says

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US Airways in Pittsburgh

The airline employs about 1,800 at Pittsburgh International Airport. Here are the largest work groups:

• Mechanics and aircraft maintenance — 696

• Support staff — 341

• Ramp workers/baggage handlers — 174

• Flight dispatchers — 150

• Managers — 146

• Administrative personnel — 109

• Gate and ticket agents — 96

• Supervisors — 92

Source: US Airways Group

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Thomas Olson
Monday, March 25, 2013, 12:48 p.m.
 

US Airways' flight operations control center in Moon, built with $16 million in public subsidies five years ago, probably will close in a couple of years, the company's CEO said.

Doug Parker, who will become chief executive of the merged US Airways-American Airlines, told a group of pilots and flight attendants in Charlotte on Wednesday that “you don't need, nor do you want” two operations control centers, according to a securities filing on Monday.

“Given discussions we've had with them, we are not optimistic that things will go our way,” Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald said.

If the airline pulls out of the state-of-the-art facility near Pittsburgh International Airport, it's not clear how the facility could be re-used, he and industry experts said.

“With the amount of flights they have in Pittsburgh, I couldn't see another use for this facility,” said Dan Persuit, president of Transport Workers Union Local 545, which represents US Airways flight dispatchers in Moon.

Though still Pittsburgh International's largest carrier, US Airways operates just 41 daily departures — a fraction of its peak of 512 in 2001 and 111 in late 2007. American operates 13 daily departures here.

The $25 million control center employs about 600 people, whose jobs would relocate to American's control center in Dallas, where the airline is headquartered.

The US Airways complex coordinates more than 3,000 daily flights systemwide. The facility, opened in late 2008, received $16.25 million in state and local subsidies in a bidding contest with Charlotte and Phoenix.

“I don't know why they gave (US Airways) that $16 million,” said Jake Haulk, president of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy in Castle Shannon.

“That'a big price to pay for just having it here for just a few years.”

American, operating in bankruptcy, and US Airways agreed on Feb. 14 to merge. The transaction to create the world's largest airline is expected to win approval in the July-October quarter. The airline would take American's name.

Parker said that if he “had to bet right now,” US Airways jobs in Moon “would move to Dallas.”

“We'll need to consolidate at some point in time,” Parker told the workers. The decision won't occur until “a couple years from now,” he said.

Mike Boyd, an airline industry expert who advised Pittsburgh International over the years, said there's little doubt the merged airline will choose American's control center in Texas.

“The bigger one American has in Dallas is state-of-the-art, too. So the one to go would be Pittsburgh,” said Boyd. “Plus, it doesn't make sense to keep the operations control center in a place where you don't have many flights.”

The Federal Aviation Administration does not stipulate where an airline locates its flight-operations control center.

Though US Airways' control center is in Moon, the carrier is headquartered in Tempe, Ariz.

Thomas Olson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached a 412-320-7854 or at tolson@tribweb.com.

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