Burbank Bob Hope Airport

Pittsburgh International or (Mister) Fred Rogers Int’l Airport?

There’s a petition out there to change the name of Pittsburgh International Airport to Fred Rogers International Airport.

Where would you weigh in?

Fred Rogers grew up near Pittsburgh and for 33 years episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the beloved children’s television show he and his red sweater starred in, were produced at Pittsburgh’s public TV station, WQED.

A special gallery at Pittsburgh’s Heinz History Center displays artifacts from the show, including Rogers’ iconic sweater, necktie, khakis, sneakers and the living room set he entered at the beginning of each show.  There’s also a recently refreshed exhibit dedicated to Rogers on Concourse C at Pittsburgh International Airport.

But that isn’t enough for Ian Miller, a Pittsburgh citizen who last week started a change.org petition asking that the name of Pittsburgh International Airport be changed to Fred Rogers International Airport.

“Fred Rogers, a television pioneer and children’s entertainer, shared Pittsburgh’s sense of community with the world through his PBS show,” Miller writes in his petition, “Pittsburgh is still an active transit hub and, for many people, our airport will be their first experience in Pittsburgh. We wish to welcome everybody to our neighborhood.”

The petition has over 11,000 signatures so far.

And while Allegheny County Airport Authority, which manages Pittsburgh International, appreciates Miller’s enthusiasm and agrees “Fred Rogers occupies a special place in the hearts of Pittsburghers and people around the world,” said airport spokesman Bob Kerlik, it seems unlikely the airport’s name will be changed.

“In 2016, we completed a rebranding of the airport to better match the ongoing renaissance of the Pittsburgh region,” said Kerlik, “And at this time our focus is on continuing to advance ‘Pittsburgh International Airport’ as a global aviation leader.”

Naming – or renaming – an airport after a celebrity with a local connection isn’t unheard of in the United States.

In Santa Rosa, CA, for example, passengers land and take-off from the Charles M. Schulz -Sonoma County Airport. In Louisiana, the major airport is the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. John Wayne Airport serves Orange County, CA and the Will Rogers World Airport provides air service to Oklahoma City, OK.


Oklahoma City Airport

And while it has recently been rebranded as Hollywood Burbank Airport, the official name of the airfield about 12 miles north of downtown Los Angeles is still legally Bob Hope Airport.


California airports dealing with drought

01_Mineta San Jose  Int'l Airport - The topiary bear that greets motorists at SJC is in no danger

Airports in California must obey strict local and state water conservation rules, but the topiary bear that greets arriving motorists at Mineta San Jose International (SJC) needn’t sweat.

The 12-year-old bear is well-established and, along with nearby native and drought-tolerant plantings, gets by with a sip of recycled water delivered every two weeks by the airport’s high-tech irrigation system.

Recycled water is also used in SJC’s low-flow toilets and to clean the sidewalks and the exteriors of the airport buildings.

Mineta San Jose Int'l Airport sign

San Jose Mineta Int'l Airport_ Windows no longer pressure washed, but washed by hand, and with recycled water.

“The windows in our two terminals are washed twice a year: before the peak year-end travel season and in the spring,” said Rosemary Barnes, SJC’s public information officer. “We no longer pressure-wash the windows, but wash them by hand using recycled water.”

Recycled water is also part of the conservation plan at many other California airports, including Los Angeles International, John Wayne and Fresno Yosemite, where established conservation efforts include low-flow washroom fixtures, synthetic turf and curbed watering programs.

On their own and in response to new water saving mandates, airports in the state are taking steps to save even more water.

A few years back, Palm Springs International Airport installed waterless urinals that have been saving the airport an average of 44,000 gallons per unit per year.

Now, in response to the drought the airport has shut down three water features, reduced landscape watering to three evenings a week and will soon begin eliminating all landside grass, according to airport executive Thomas Nolan.

Palm Springs International Airport pond without water - now

Oakland International has also cut back its watering schedule and increased inspections of the airport’s irrigation system to make sure it is has not sprung any leaks.

In addition to measures that include serving water only by request in the food courts, Sacramento International Airport has removed some areas of turf and now waters “at the lowest level possible to keep landscaping viable while minimizing the risk of fire hazards,” said airport spokeswoman Laurie Slothower.

“We are in the process of hiring a landscape engineer to help us determine our long-term plans for landscaping. There will be less of it, for sure,” she said.

SAC_When Sacramento Int'l Airport Terminal B was built, 9 acres of asphalt parking was converted back to landscape &  natural habitat with drought-tolerant plants.

Even car rental companies do their part. The Hertz Corporation, which also operates the Thrifty, Dollar and Firefly car rental brands, recycles 80% to 90% of the water used to wash cars at airports, said company spokeswoman Anna Bootenhoff, “and we are continually evaluating ways to reduce in this area.”

No more water canon salutes

San Francisco International Airport has implemented many similar conservation measures, including reducing sidewalk hose-downs and working with airport tenants to reduce water usage.

The airport has also discontinued the customary water cannon salutes that celebrate new carriers and major new routes. Each water salute used about 3,000 to 4,000 gallons of water, said airport spokesman Doug Yakel, and the airport had been averaging about one salute per month before the practice was discontinued.

Due to the drought, Los Angeles International and Burbank Bob Hope Airport also stopped the ceremonial use of water to welcome new carriers. And this year the Burbank airport nixed a popular demonstration performed by an airport fire department vehicle in a local parade.

“The vehicle would shoot a canon of water while driving down the parade route, showing the fire rescue truck’s ability to pump and roll,” said airport spokeswoman Lucy Burghdorf.

Every drop counts

In its response to the drought, San Diego International Airport (SAN) found a previously untapped source of water: the air conditioning units under passenger boarding bridges.

SAN - collecting drippings, with the boxlike AC unit hanging underneath the passenger boarding bridge. It is connected to the blue collection barrel in the foreground

Water created by condensation – condensate – from those units had traditionally just dripped onto the tarmac and evaporated, but in 2014 the airport began capturing that water and reusing it.

During 2014, SAN collected more than 5,225 gallons of condensate. And this year, the first full year of the program, the airport hopes to collect up to 840,000 gallons of condensate, an amount equal to the water used by five typical households in a year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“While conservation is important, sometimes you have to get a little creative if you truly want to make a difference,” said Jonathan Heller, SAN spokesman.

SAN DRIPPINGis actual condensate dripping from a bridge before the recovery apparatus was put in place.

(My story about California airports dealing with drought first appeared in USA TODAY, in my At the Airport column. Photos courtesy of the airports.)