Pittsburgh International Airport is among world’s most innovative airports

Pittsburgh International Airport is among world’s most innovative airports

Writer: Lincoln Warstler

2 min read July 2022 Four million honeybees, air taxis and a first-of-its-kind microgrid are just a few of the unique developments positioning Pittsburgh International Airport as one of the most innovative airports in the world.

“We want to be a place where all of the innovation and great work of our local economy is leveraged, showcasing what Pittsburgh has to offer on a global stage,” said Christina Cassotis, CEO of the Allegheny County Airport Authority, in an interview for Invest: Pittsburgh 2022.

Pittsburgh has transformed itself from the capital of the economically shattered rust belt to a globally-recognized hub of innovation, and Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) serves as a shining example of that change.

The one-year anniversary of the first-ever airport microgrid, commissioned at PIT, was July 14. When it opened a year ago, it cemented PIT’s place in history as the first airport to be completely powered by a hybrid microgrid. Today the microgrid successfully produces up to opens in a new window20 million watts of electricity, far surpassing the peak of 14 million watts needed to run the entire airport. The microgrid will help to power PIT’s incoming and widely-known $1.4 billion new “tech-forward” terminal, with a variety of exciting innovations of its own. While the microgrid and incoming terminal are perhaps PIT’s most notable displays of innovation, the airport is excelling and innovating in a number of other areas.

10 years ago PIT was prompted to start a small apiary program after a large swarm of bees settled on the wing of a plane and delayed its takeoff. The program started with one yard for bees, and opens in a new windowtoday there are 10 different bee yards and over 150 hives. Four million honeybees and the nearly 3,000 pounds of honey they create each year are supported by the airport, showcasing PIT’s focus on sustainability and improving the environment.

According to Steve Repasky, certified master beekeeper and owner of Meadow Sweet Apiaries, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a third of all consumed food is made possible by honeybees. “Your cucumbers, your watermelons, your strawberries, our apples, cherries, peaches, pumpkins, all of those are (available) because of the honeybees,” opens in a new windowsaid Repasky.

Of course, PIT is leading the way in more areas than apiaries. The airport is exploring the incorporation of electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOLs) into its incoming opens in a new window$1.4 billion new terminal. eVTOLs are advanced aircraft that run off of electricity, take off and land vertically and fly at the speed of a small plane. The idea is that these could be used as a system of transportation for anywhere within a 100-mile radius of the airport for arriving travelers. 

The airport has also not ruled out the possibility of hyperloops, a term popularized by Elon Musk, which is a proposed high-speed underground transportation system. “Is the best thing to get on an airplane to travel 400 miles or is there a more sustainable way to do that? We have the land, the mindset and the will to think outside the box and make sure that we’re meeting the needs of the community while staying in front of the definition of sustainable transportation,” said Cassotis with Invest: Pittsburgh 2022.

In the area of mental health, the airport has opens in a new windowpartnered with the Pittsburgh-based Staunton Farm Foundation on a four-year campaign that aims to change the way society thinks about and discusses mental health. Through this four-year partnership, PIT will be granted $150,000 to place seven-foot electronic towers throughout the airport that will display messages and videos about the subject.