Thursday, January 26, 2012

To Flight Pittsburgh, To Flight

So news yesterday includes a mention that Alcoa will expand production destined for the aerospace industry.  

Is it a new gig for Pittsburgh?  Not even close.  Pittsburgh and specifically the Steel Building was for a long time the headquarters of the Rockwell Corporation.  Rockwell was a major player in aerospace having built the Apollo command module and parts of the Saturn V rocket before that.  It would move out as its Southern California operations eclipsed all that it was doing here, but still it was a Pittsburgh firm for a long time.  Some may recall the mockup of the Space Shuttle, also built by Rockwell, that was in the Steel building's lobby until they left town.  What is odd is I can find no image on the Internet of the Steel building's lobby with the shuttle mockup in it. 

More than that of course.  Just before the US would enter World War II, the Defense Plant Corporation would contract with the Curtiss Wright Corporation to build from scratch and operate a plant in Beaver County fo the production of state of the art propellers.  The plant would employ nearly 4,000 workers at its peak, only to shut down completely as the war ended. Think about those job numbers a bit when you read almost any business news today about job creation or destruction here or there. 4,000 manufacturing jobs would be nearly 5% of the total manufacuting job count in the entire region today and that was just one, relatively small by Pittsburgh standards, plant now mostly forgotten in the long Pittsburgh story. 

February is coming up and with it Black History Month.  I always find some new nugget in this old article Early Black Flyers of Western Pennsylvania, Western Pennsylvania History. Vol. 69, No. 2. April 1986.  Among other stories it covers is the story of one Charles Wesley Peters of the Hill District who in 1906 built a glider and flew it himself off of Herron Hill.  Can you imagine?

and I learn something new every day about Pittsburgh.  Checking a fact for some of the above I came across a recent newsletter for the Pittsburgh Space Command. Cool.


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