About PIA

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Divisions of PIA

Since its doors were first opened in 1929, PIA has taken pride in the quality of its education programs and the successes of its graduates. Regardless of the program, a PIA education emphasizes hands-on learning. Qualified faculty members strive to present thorough and thoughtful instruction as they blend their practical experiences with new information and techniques. Of equal importance is the list of student services that are provided from the first day of instruction through, and beyond, graduation.

PIA’s main campus offers AST degree programs in Aviation Technology. The branch campuses also offer a diploma or certificate program in Aviation Maintenance Technology.

The Jump Start Division offers short-term training programs at the main campus, as well as at a number of locations in West Virginia.

We welcome the opportunity to serve the academic needs of both traditional and non-traditional students, and we invite you to contact our staff with any questions you may encounter as you explore our educational offerings.

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1929 - The Beginning

First PIA LogoThe 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.

Curtiss-Wright Flying Services

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.

PIA History 1930s

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 his death in April of 2017. PIA's current President and CEO is Suzanne Markle.

William Graham

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.

Steel Center logo

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.

Aviation Electronics

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 to include Heavy Equipment Operator training as well.

PIA's short term programs are a separate division of PIA and is not accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).


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.

Branch Locations

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.

PIA History


Sue-Markle-PIA-PresidentPIA is a not-for-profit organization with 501(c) 3 status, and is governed by a Board of Directors. The President and CEO is Suzanne Markle. Below outlines the organizational structure of PIA’s Administration as well as a full listing of PIA’s Board of Directors.


PIA Organization Chart

Missions and Philosophy

PIA is committed to the pursuit of higher education that is both meaningful to the individual and valuable to society. The Institute believes that it serves the dual functions of providing its learners with opportunities, while furnishing the community with its most valuable resources, skilled men and women who possess the willingness to learn and the propensity to mature as contributing members of society.

To accomplish its objectives, PIA believes that school programs must:

  1. develop specific career-related skills,
  2. broaden abilities in essential academic areas, and
  3. form attitudinal traits compatible with career goals.

In order to be effective, these studies must be dispensed through an appropriate collection of instructional techniques, each designed to best achieve its specific objective(s). In reaching these goals, PIA accomplishes its purpose as a provider of career opportunities and fulfills its role as an institution of higher learning.

Equipment Donations

To further support PIA’s mission, you or your company may assist PIA in training skilled workers by making monetary or physical asset donations to the institution. Many organizations within the industries for which we are training the future workforce (aviation, electrical and transportation) may have excess or below specification equipment that would be ideal for training purposes. Donations to PIA come in all different shapes and sizes! If you are particularly interested in donating training equipment to PIA, please contact John Kovac at 1-800-444-1440 or jkovac@pia.edu to initiate the physical asset donation assessment process..

As a non-profit organization maintaining an IRS 501 (c )(3) designation, the value of monetary contributions and donated assets are usually tax deductible for the donor. To learn about the benefits of donating to a 501 (c )(3) organization, please refer to the IRS’ Charitable Contributions Publication 526 at www.irs.gov.