A Boeing 777-300ER sits at Pittsburgh International Airport's cargo processing facility after arriving on Monday, Sept. 21. (Photo by Bob Kerlik)

MIAMI – A new international all-cargo service landed Monday at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT), the latest step in PIT’s increased focus on cargo. For PIT, the new service by Cathay Pacific (CX) is yet another step toward developing the airport’s cargo facility as an international logistics center.

The CX Boeing 777-300ER would be carrying more than 300 passengers, but on this occasion, it was filled with cargo.

The company flight CX8800 landed at 9:45 a.m. local time, arriving from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, after a stop in Hong Kong. The flight is the first of 20 scheduled cargo flights operated by Hong Kong based CX in partnership with freight forwarder Unique Logistics International.

Pittsburgh Processing Facility

The US Department of Transportation awarded PIT an US$18.69m BUILD grant to support the construction of a 75,000-square-foot cargo processing facility and an adjacent surface parking lot to expand its air cargo operations.

Under PIT’s ‘Cargo 4 Project,’ the new building will allow for larger aircraft, new cargo destinations on all-freighter aircraft or additional parking for integrator carriers like FedEx or UPS that require sorting facilities and high volumes of truck access. Airport officials expect that cargo capacity in the existing three buildings could be full in the near future.

The twice-weekly flights are scheduled to arrive in Pittsburgh on Mondays and Thursdays for 12 weeks and are slated to end in November.

Since April, the airport has welcomed five FEMA charter flights operated by National Airlines, carrying critical medical supplies from South Korea. Additionally, airport officials signed an agreement with Ted Stevens Anchorage International this summer to collaborate in better streamlining the global air cargo supply chain.

The Boeing 777-300ER was converted from passenger to cargo use by Cathay Pacific. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

Statement from Cathay Pacific

Fred Ruggiero, Cathay Pacific’s vice president of cargo, Americas, said, “It’s easy to get in and out of the airport. Other airports are congested; it could take a whole day for a trucking company to pick up freight. In Pittsburgh, everything can be done within three hours. It’s a matter of time and ease.”

Ruggiero also said, “Necessity is the mother of invention. Passengers aren’t traveling nearly as much right now and cargo has been very busy for us. While we have large freighters, we also have a number of passenger planes parked. Last month, the airline flew more than 300 cargo-only flights, and there’s potential for more—including, perhaps, to Pittsburgh.”

“With 20 freighter aircraft in its fleet, CX is one of the largest combination carriers in the world, operating both passenger and cargo services. By removing the seats in the Boeing 777s, the airline is able to carry cargo inside the cabin in addition to the belly of the aircraft. CX is also transporting freight with a number of other passenger planes that haven’t been converted for cargo.”

“Our hard work is complete and this flight is already set up,” he said. “Cargo is all about finding solutions. Our job is to make it as seamless as possible for the shipper, and in this case, the solution is flying to Pittsburgh.”

Cathay Pacific Boeing 747-8F taxing. Photo: Cathay Pacific

Statement from Unique Logistics

Marc Schlossberg, executive vice president of Unique Logistics, said, “Pittsburgh’s location is also ideal, the freight forwarder that coordinates cargo transports from shipper to consumer. Pittsburgh sits within a 24-hour drive of about two-thirds of the U.S. population.”

Schlossberg also said, “You also need to have the runways, the facilities and the cargo handlers in place, and Pittsburgh has that. We couldn’t bring in a Boeing 777 or other large aircraft to a smaller airport. PIT is kind of ready-made to operate a flight like this.”

Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300; B-HLJ. Photo: Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland

Statement from Allegheny County Executive

Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County Executive, said, “Pittsburgh’s history is as a hub for transportation and logistics. We continue to have that industry as a core part of our economy, which is why I’m proud to welcome CX and Unique Logistics to our expanding air cargo portfolio.”

“We know now, more than ever, how important it is to move products around the world quickly and efficiently, and we look forward to both companies expanding their business in PIT. Air cargo has a direct impact on jobs, from those unloading the planes to the trucking companies taking the products to their destinations.”

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 ER taking off. Photo: Cathay Pacific

Statement from Airport Authority

According to Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis, “We are thrilled to partner with CX and Unique Logistics in expanding our cargo portfolios. This is another step in building PIT into a global logistics center with world-class service. Our speed, efficiency, and ideal location offer a unique benefit for carriers and freight forwarders.”

Vince Gastgeb, PIT’s Vice President of Government & Corporate Affairs, said “This entire process has had many partners along the way working in collaboration, which includes our federal agency partners of the Transportation Security Administration along with U.S. Customs & Border Protection. Their involvement in helping to bring this project to a successful completion is very much appreciated.”

Featured image: A Boeing 777-300ER sits at Pittsburgh International Airport’s cargo processing facility after arriving on Monday, Sept. 21. (Photo by Bob Kerlik)