The Value of a PIA Education
Ranked by Forbes as a Top Two-Year Trade School in 2017, PIA has produced top notch aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians to enter the workforce in aviation maintenance, electronics, and other related fields since 1929. Our graduates are in demand throughout the US, and PIA offers employment assistance to help both students and alumni in their pursuit of employment in the field of aviation and related industries.
PIA’s specialized Aviation Maintenance Technology (AMT) and Aviation Electronics Technology (AET) programs provide hands on skill-sets based on aviation industry practices, but transferable into a diverse set of related occupations. Our aviation maintenance program will prepare you for an exciting career as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified aircraft mechanic, and our aviation electronics (or avionics) program leads to opportunities as a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licensed avionics technician.
Over the years, graduates have proven their versatility by entering into positions as technicians for regional and major airlines, aircraft production and maintenance facilities, amusement parks, automated production facilities, government contractors, petrochemical manufacturing plants, telecommunication systems providers, specialty metal manufacturers, and research and development centers – just to name a few.
In 2017, all of PIA’s campuses were selected by Delta Airlines as partner schools. Understanding the impending shortage of qualified aviation technicians, Delta created a mission to help increase both the awareness of technician demand and increase the knowledge and character of technicians entering today’s workforce.
Visit our Career Services page to learn more about how a PIA education can prepare you for a successful career.
Who Can Succeed with PIA?
PIA’s Admissions Department is here to help individuals seeking to advance their education from a variety of life situations. Navigate to our Admissions page using any of the following links for details on the enrollment process.
Since 1929, PIA’s goal has been to provide its learners with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that they need in order to succeed in their chosen career fields. With associations in every facet of the aerospace industry, PIA has placed its graduates worldwide, in aviation and in other high-performance organizations. Explore our history below.
1929 - The Beginning
The Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics was created from a company named Curtiss-Wright Flight Services. The company, founded by Glenn Curtiss and Orville Wright, offered aircraft sales and service, as well as flight training.
In 1929, August G. Becker, who managed the organization for the Curtiss-Wright Corporation, leased the operations at Bettis Airport and purchased the school and its facilities. As president, Becker changed the name of the school to the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics that same year. Under the direction of Becker, the activities of the school changed from selling airplanes to repairing and maintaining them.
PIA was later one of the first to be approved by the Civil Aeronautics Authority, predecessor agency to the Federal Aviation Administration.
1944 - Reorganization of PIA
In 1944, Mr. Becker was informed that the Bettis Airport property was being sold, which would deprive the school of its valuable airport facility. The Bettis site was used for the construction of the U.S. nuclear plant where the atomic engine for the Nautilus submarine was developed by the Westinghouse Corporation. Mr. Becker decided to sell his interest to Mr. William J. Graham, President of the Graham Aviation Company and pioneer in aviation training.
The existing profit corporation was soon dissolved, and the school was reorganized as a nonprofit corporation chartered in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on February 8, 1946. In May of 1946, the school established its advanced phase of training for aircraft mechanics in new shops opened at Allegheny County Airport.
1967 - The Graham Family
After 23 years under the direction of William J. Graham, PIA underwent a change in ownership in 1967. PIA was acquired by Mr. Jack Graham, son of William, who became active in the management of PIA as President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board.
In July of 2005, Jack Graham stepped down from his position as PIA’s President after 40 years of dedicated service. The role was taken on by his son, John Graham III, who served as PIA’s President and Chief Executive Officer until April of 2017, when he lost his life. PIA's current President and CEO is Suzanne Markle.
1975 - Public School System Partnership
In 1975, Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics became the first private school in Pennsylvania to contract with the public school system by arranging for students of the Southeastern Area of Allegheny County to attend PIA as an adjunct of the Steel Center Area Vocational Technical School. This program continued for nearly 30 years until public school system budget cuts forced the discontinuation.
1980 - Expansion to Aviation Electronics
The 1980s brought about a new program for Aviation Electronics, then called Avionics, that had been in development for five years. Enrollments in this program, along with increased enrollments in the Aviation Maintenance Technician program, made it necessary to consider additional facility expansion. A second story was added to a portion of the school’s building in 1985, which provided classroom and laboratory additions totaling 17,000 square feet. Immediately upon completion of this structure, construction began on a 4,000 square-foot lunchroom for PIA’s staff and students.
In order to further accommodate the need of an expanding student population, PIA added three additional buildings to its campus between 1987 and 1990. Shortly after, however, it became necessary for PIA to downsize, selling both a recently purchased Powerplant Department and the three-story Graham Building on Lebanon Church Road. PIA did, however, retain all its facilities on the airport grounds, including the hangar acquired in 1990.
1995 - Introduction to Short-Term Training Programs
The year 1995 brought the addition of PIA’s Truck Driving Program. This new program, while quite a change from the usual course offerings, was created to serve both the company and the community. As skilled commercial drivers are always in demand, the course of study provides a much-needed training program to the Pittsburgh area. The Truck Driving Program has expanded over the years to include several locations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio.
In 2003, PIA expanded the short-term training division, now called "Jump Start", to include Heavy Equipment Operator training as well.
2006 - PIA Expands Aviation Campuses
In order to meet a growing need for qualified technicians in the aviation industry in the new millennium, PIA decided to expand beyond its Pittsburgh campus and into several branch campuses over the next several years.
In 2006, PIA began training at its first branch campus near Youngstown, Ohio. After the success of the Youngstown campus, PIA sought to continue expansion, so the year 2011 brought the addition of the Hagerstown, Maryland branch. Finally, PIA instituted an aviation maintenance technician school adjacent to the Myrtle Beach International Airport in January 2012.
The Future is You
PIA’s longevity can be greatly attributed to its continuous pursuit of excellence in education. With the incredible changes that have taken place in the aviation industry, the economy, and the world since 1929, it seems unlikely that a school that offers such specialized training would remain in existence, and even more unlikely that it would remain at the forefront of its field. Yet, PIA has done just that. PIA's commitment to serving the needs of its students and employees, along with a responsibility to both the industry and the community, has secured its position as a well-respected postsecondary educational institution.
Ultimately, however, the future of aviation falls to you, the student. Our job at PIA is to prepare you for the ever-changing, ever-challenging field, but the rest is up to you. You take the knowledge you gain at PIA and carry it far beyond the campus, and, through determination, hard-work, and skill, you are the ones shaping the future of the industry forever.