St. Pete–Clearwater International Airport

St. Pete–Clearwater International Airport

Airport type Public
Owner County of Pinellas
Serves Tampa Bay Area
Location Pinellas County
Focus city for Allegiant Air
Elevation AMSL 11 ft / 3 m
Coordinates 27°54′36″N 082°41′15″W / 27.91000°N 82.68750°W / 27.91000; -82.68750Coordinates: 27°54′36″N 082°41′15″W / 27.91000°N 82.68750°W / 27.91000; -82.68750

Location of airport in Florida/United States

Direction Length Surface
ft m
4/22 5,903 1,799 Asphalt
18/36 9,730 2,966 Asphalt
Statistics (2012)
Aircraft operations 122,023
Based aircraft 323
Total passengers (2012) 865,942
Cargo tonnage (2011) 15,060
Sources: FAA,[1] Airport website[2]

St. Pete–Clearwater International Airport (IATA: PIE[3], ICAO: KPIE, FAA LID: PIE) is a public/military airport in Pinellas County, Florida serving the Tampa Bay Area.[1] It is nine miles north of downtown St. Petersburg, USA,[1] seven miles southeast of Clearwater and seventeen miles southwest of Tampa.

The National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2011–2015 categorized it as a primary commercial service airport since it has over 10,000 passenger boardings (enplanements) per year. In 2014 it experienced double-digit growth and handled more than one million passengers and set a passenger record.[4]

Most scheduled airline traffic in the Tampa Bay Area uses Tampa International Airport (TPA), ten miles (16 km) to the east, but St. Pete–Clearwater remains a destination for low-cost carriers. St. Pete–Clearwater is a focus city for Las Vegas-based carrier Allegiant Air.

Because it is less busy than Tampa, PIE is frequently used by pilots of private planes and executive jets flying to the Tampa Bay Area.

The airport uses "Tampa Bay The Easy Way" as an advertising slogan and Fly2PIE in reference to its three-letter IATA and FAA codes.


The airport is on the west shoreline of Tampa Bay, six miles (10 km) north of St. Petersburg, Florida (the "birthplace of commercial air transportation"). Barely a decade after the pioneer flight of the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk 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 Pier.[5] Mayor Abram C. Pheil of St. Petersburg and Mae Peabody of Dubuque, Iowa, were the first passengers, flying across the bay to Tampa 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 50 feet (15 m).

This 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. Since 1991, the terminal holds the archives of the Florida Aviation Historical Society.[6]

Construction and wartime

Construction of the airport at its present site started in March 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the airport was acquired by the United States Army Air Forces, 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 Warhawks and, later, P-51 Mustangs at Pinellas Army Airfield (as it was then known) for the duration of World War II. Antisubmarine patrols against German U-boats in the Gulf of Mexico 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 (October 2006)

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, because PIA was already taken by Peoria International Airport.[7] It was later changed to St. Petersburg–Clearwater International Airport because, according to airport manager "Bobo" Hayes, tourists didn't know where Pinellas county was.[6]

In the 1950s some airlines provided service to both PIE and TPA, such as Delta Air Lines, Eastern Air Lines, National Airlines and Northwest Airlines. The April 1957 Official Airline Guide (OAG) shows 17 airline departures: ten Eastern, six National and one Mackey. Four of those flights were nonstop beyond Florida, including an Eastern Air Lines DC-4 to Chicago and a Lockheed 1049G to Pittsburgh.

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 Airlines. The greatly increased seating capacities of the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8, compared to the propeller-driven DC-6 and DC-7, prompted the Civil Aeronautics Board to approve the consolidation of commercial airline service for the Tampa Bay area at TPA in the early 1960s.

Eastern was the last remaining scheduled air carrier at PIE when it terminated service in 1964. Airline service returned to PIE in the 1970s when Air Florida flew Lockheed Electras out of PIE; in 1982, Northeastern International started DC-8 nonstops to Islip, New York, and in 1983 People Express started nonstops to Newark with Boeing 737s and Boeing 727s. In 1986, Florida Express was operating British Aircraft Corporation BAC One-Eleven twin jets nonstop to its nearby hub in Orlando.[8] In 1987, American Airlines started nonstops to its Raleigh-Durham hub, but by October 1989 PIE again had no scheduled airline service.

American Trans Air, and Southeast Airlines added air service in the mid 1990s but both ceased operations at PIE in 2004, ATA downsizing due to bankruptcy and Southeast going defunct.

Recent developments

In September 2006, Allegiant Air announced significant scheduled service from St. Petersburg–Clearwater to destinations in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Since then, Allegiant has grown its destination count to and from PIE to 21 airports across the eastern U.S. In February, the Lansing, Michigan service shifted to Grand Rapids, Michigan, with four weekly flights.

Also, the airport recently completed a US$22 million renovation, including, among other things, expanding the gate sizes, new plumbing, and building loading bridges, as the previous system required all passengers to walk across the tarmac to/from the gate. These improvements played a significant roll in the airport luring passenger flights to and from the airport.[9]

In January 2015 Silver Airways announced it was beginning service to PIE, but in March the company had cancelled its plans.[10]


Runway 27 (March 1988)
Runway 17L and taxiway/runway 17R (1988)

The airport covers 1900 acres (769 ha) at an elevation of 11 feet (3 m). It has two asphalt runways: 18/36 is 9,730 by 150 feet (2,966 x 46 m) and ILS-equipped, and 4/22 is 5,903 by 150 feet (1,799 x 46 m), 9/27 is 5,165 by 150 feet (1,574 x 46 m).[1]

The airport is also the 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 MH-60T Jayhawk aircraft. The U.S. Army Reserve also maintains an Army Aviation Support Facility (AASF) at PIE immediately west of the approach end of Runway 17R 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, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-operated control tower, the FAA's Central Florida Region Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS)...the busiest AFSS in the United States...and the St. Petersburg VORTAC for airways navigation are also important federal government services at the airport.

Along with scheduled passenger and charter airlines and military flight operations, United Parcel Service / UPS Airlines, other air cargo, general/corporate aviation are also major activities, with UPS conducting extensive Boeing 757. The entire tract of the airport is designated as a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) 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 has a 24-hour airport rescue and fire-fighting (ARFF) department (Index C), along with operations, facilities, engineering, security, and administrative personnel.

In the year ending May 31, 2012 the airport had 122,023 aircraft operations, averaging 334 operations per day. Breakdown by category was: 74% general aviation, 16% military, 6% airline, and 5% air taxi. 323 aircraft were then based at this airport: 49% single-engine, 18% multi-engine, 13% helicopter, 12% military, and 9% jet.[1]

Airlines and destinations

Baggage-claim area, with replica of Benoist XIV flying boat flown by aviation pioneer Tony Jannus in 1914 (2009 photo)
PIE's baggage-claim area has four baggage carousels (2009 photo)

St. Petersburg–Clearwater International Airport has one terminal and thirteen gates: 1–12 and 14.


Allegiant Air Akron/Canton (ends February 15, 2017), Allentown, Appleton, Asheville, Austin (begins February 17, 2017),[11] Bangor, Belleville/St. Louis, Bloomington/Normal, Cedar Rapids, Chattanooga, Chicago/Rockford, Cincinnati, Columbus–Rickenbacker, Concord (NC), Cleveland (begins February 15, 2017), Dayton, Des Moines, Elmira, Flint, Fort Wayne, Grand Rapids, Greensboro, Greenville/Spartanburg, Harrisburg, Huntington (WV), Indianapolis, Kansas City, Knoxville, Lexington, Memphis, New Orleans, Newburgh, Niagara Falls, Omaha, Peoria, Pittsburgh, Plattsburgh, Raleigh/Durham, Roanoke, Sioux Falls, South Bend, Springfield/Branson, Syracuse, Toledo, Trenton,[12] Tri-Cities (TN), Wilkes–Barre/Scranton, Youngstown/Warren
Seasonal: Fargo, Hagerstown (MD), Moline/Quad Cities, Portsmouth (NH),[11] Richmond, Tulsa
Sun Country Airlines Charter: Gulfport/Biloxi
Sunwing Airlines Seasonal: Halifax, Ottawa, Toronto-Pearson
Flight destinations as of Spring 2016


UPS Airlines Louisville, Orlando

Seasonal: Albany (GA), Philadelphia


Airline market share

Carrier shares for (Jan 2014 - Dec 2014)[13]
Carrier   Passengers (arriving and departing)
Sun Country

Top domestic destinations

Top domestic destinations (August 2015 - July 2016)[13]
Rank City Airport Passengers
1 Cincinnati, OH Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) 40,000
2 Grand Rapids, MI Gerald R. Ford International (GRR) 34,000
3 Indianapolis, IN Indianapolis International Airport (IND) 31,000
4 Asheville, NC Asheville (AVL) 29,000
5 Knoxville, TN McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) 28,000
6 Pittsburgh, PA Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) 27,000
7 Fort Wayne, IN Fort Wayne International Airport (FWA) 24,000
8 Lexington, KY Blue Grass Airport (LEX) 23,000
9 Huntington, WV Tri-State Airport (HTS) 23,000
10 South Bend, IN South Bend International (SBN) 22,000

Annual traffic

Annual passenger traffic (enplaned + deplaned) at St Pete-Clearwater Airport, 1992 thru 2014[14]
Year Passengers Year Passengers Year Passengers

Accidents and incidents

On June 6, 1982, a Douglas C-47A (N95C), of Fromhagen Aviation, was written off after the starboard engine failed during the takeoff for a training flight. All five people aboard survived.[15]

On September 30, 2015, the pilot of a Piper PA-30, registered to Jet Aircraft Management, crashed and died while practicing takeoffs and landings.[16][17]

On June 1, 2016, Allegiant Air flight 871 made an emergency landing at the airport, its scheduled destination. The plane departed from Moline, Illinois. No injuries were reported, and the airline declined to comment on the mechanical failure.[18]

Historical airlines

St. Pete–Clearwater has had a rich variety of airlines, both mainline,charter, and international come and go over the decades with one of the first scheduled airlines, the St. Petersburg–Tampa Airboat Line flying passengers between St. Pete and Tampa occurring in the area around the airport.

Historically many of the international flights have been seasonal flights to Canada for snowbirds who have places of residence in Florida during the winter and tourists. Most airlines that have served PIE have focused on vacation packages for vacationers coming to the Tampa bay area.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 FAA Airport Master Record for PIE (Form 5010 PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Effective November 15, 2012.
  2. "Fact Sheet 2012" (PDF). St. Petersburg–Clearwater International Airport. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
  3. "IATA Airport code Search (PIE: St.Pete/Clearwater)". International Air Transport Association. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
  5. "Tony Jannus —An Enduring Legacy of Aviation". Tony Jannus Distinguished Aviation Society. Archived from the original on February 4, 2008. Retrieved April 25, 2008.
  6. 1 2 McCarthy, Kevin M. (2003), Aviation in Florida, Illustrated by William Trotter (illustrated ed.), Pineapple Press Inc, pp. 159–164, ISBN 9781561642816 External link in |publisher= (help)
  7. Anderson, Anne W. (2010), Insiders' Guide to the Greater Tampa Bay Area: Including Tampa, St. Petersburg, & Clearwater, Insiders' Guide Series, Globe Pequot, p. 16, ISBN 9780762753475
  8., Florida Express route map
  9. 'Other' airport gets facelift, St. Petersburg Times, June 26, 2007.
  10. "Silver Airways aborts flights to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport" (Archive). Tampa Bay Times. Thursday 31 March 2015. Retrieved on April 3, 2015.
  11. 1 2
  13. 1 2 "St. Petersburg, FL: St. Petersburg-Clearwater International (PIE)". Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), U.S. Department of Transportation. June 2015. Retrieved May 2016. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  14. Passenger Statistics & Reports. Retrieved on March 6, 2015.
  15. "N95C Accident report". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved July 25, 2010.
  16. "Pilot killed in small plane crash at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport". Retrieved 2015-10-01.
  17. "Pilot dies in plane crash at St. Pete-Clearwater Airport". 10NEWS. Retrieved 2015-10-25.
  18. "Allegiant flight declares emergency at St. Pete-Clearwater Airport". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
  19. Wittkowski, Donald. "Fly to Fla. and Return for $140: Airline to Start A.C. Service". The Press of Atlantic City. March 14, 1993.
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