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 is the home of the School of Specialized Technology, offering degree programs in Aviation Technology. The branch campuses also offer a diploma or certificate program in Aviation Maintenance Technology.
PIA’s 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.
PIA is committed to the pursuit of 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 serve as contributing members of society.
PIA was created from a company called Curtiss-Wright Flight Services, founded by Glenn Curtiss and Orville Wright, which offered aircraft sales and service and provided 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 Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, and under his direction the activities of the school changed from selling airplanes to repairing and maintaining them.
On August 15, 1940, the school was one of the first to be approved by the Civil Aeronautics Authority, predecessor to the Federal Aviation Administration. At this time, the operation was moved into leased facilities in downtown Pittsburgh, PA. Advanced training remained at the Bettis Airport location.
In 1944, the Bettis Airport property was sold, forcing all activities to be located at the downtown branch of the school. Becker decided to sell his interest and withdraw from the school’s activities.
On December 1, 1944, William J. Graham, President of the Graham Aviation Company and pioneer in aviation training, purchased one-half interest in the school. The existing for-profit company was dissolved, and the school was reorganized as a nonprofit corporation. In 1950, the school moved its aircraft mechanic and instrument courses to Allegheny County Airport. Ten years and seven building expansion projects later, the school’s physical area had increased to 54,000 square feet. In 1967, Jack Graham, son of William Graham, purchased the controlling interest in the school.
The 1980s brought about the new Aviation Electronics program. Enrollment in this program, along with increased enrollment in the Aviation Maintenance Technician program, made it necessary to expand classroom and laboratory space yet again.
In 1995, PIA added its Truck Driving Program, created to serve both the company and the community. The program, along with other short-term offerings like computer training, is now part of PIA’s Jump Start division, which currently has training locations in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
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 currently serves as PIA’s President and Chief Executive Officer. A year later, PIA opened a branch campus at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Vienna, OH.
Decade after decade, PIA’s longevity can be greatly attributed to its pursuit of excellence in education. Despite the incredible changes that have taken place in the aviation industry, the economy, and the world since 1929, PIA’s commitment to its students and employees, as well as industry and community, has secured the school’s position as a well-respected postsecondary educational institution. One of the very few vocational schools with a history dating back to the early 20th century, PIA has grown and changed along with industry and technology so that it can provide its students with the skills they need for success in the workplace, both today and in the future.