The History of PIE
After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the airfield was constructed on its present site as a military flight-training base. Known then as Pinellas Army Airfield, the airport was a base for the 304th Fighter Squadron, a combat training unit of the 337th Fighter Group (Third Army Air Force). It based P-40s and, later, P-51s for the duration of World War II. A permanent exhibit commemorating the airport's place in history is located in the terminal and dedicated to Brigadier General James H. Howard, the only European Theater fighter pilot to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in WWII and the last wartime base commander of Pinellas Army Airfield.
Following WWII, the U.S. Government gave the airport property to Pinellas County to operate as a commercial airport. It was originally called the Pinellas International Airport and given the airport call letters, PIE. The original terminal building was dedicated in 1957 and the following year the airport was renamed St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport to capitalize on recognition as a tourism destination.
Over the next 50 years, several improvements were made. In 2010, a major terminal renovation project was completed, including the addition of our first passenger loading bridges. In 2013, the airport launched a new logo, replacing the original one designed in 1976. The rebranding features PIE in our logo and shortens our airport name to St. Pete-Clearwater International.
PIE is located on Tampa Bay, north of St. Petersburg—the birthplace of commercial air transportation. Barely a decade after the Wright brothers' pioneer flight at Kitty Hawk, the first ticket for air travel was sold by the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line to a fare-paying passenger. This historic event on January 1, 1914, marked the beginning of commercial air transportation. A replica of the Benoist amphibious airplane flown on the inaugural flight is displayed in baggage claim.
The 100th anniversary of this historic flight is in 2014 and the Flight 2014 organization is planning a recreation of the flight and other celebrations.
The airport is a 2,000-acre fully certified facility with 3 LS-equipped runways. It is home of the busiest Coast Guard Air Station in the world. U.S. Customs, the FAA-operated control tower and the Central Florida Region Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS), are also important federal government services at the airport, along with the Airport Industrial Park. The entire 2000-acre tract of the airport is designated as a Foreign Trade Zone.
Air cargo operations by United Parcel Service and General/Corporate Aviation are also major activities. The airport includes 24-hour Airport Rescue and Fire-Fighting (ARFF) Department, Facilities, Operations, Engineering, and Administrative personnel.
The Tampa Bay area celebrates pioneers in commercial aviation with the Tony Jannus Distinguished Aviation Award, a program that began in 1964. The non-profit organization sponsors college scholar awards and a high school essay contest annually. For more information, visit tonyjannusaward.com.