This is not at all what Pittsburgh officials or US Airways envisioned when they agreed in 1986 "to develop a world-class airport that would be the airline's anchor hub for years," the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported recently. "Pittsburgh officials borrowed more than $900 million to build (it), largely to US Airways' specifications." The airport was widely admired. An array of upper-end stores lured shoppers who, before 9/11, could browse airport concourses at will.

Pittsburgh had been US Airways' heart since 1939, when mail carrier All American Aviation began service to western Pennsylvania. For decades, employees called Pittsburgh "Mecca." Most airline infrastructure -- including the operations center, the largest crew bases, and a maintenance base -- was located there, even though Crystal City, Va., housed the executive offices. They were called "CCY."

Present-day US Airways began to take form in 1987, when US Air acquired Piedmont, operator of the Charlotte hub. For years, cultural conflict divided the two regions. In a 2004 interview, Teddy Xidas, president of the Pittsburgh local of the Flight Attendants Association, declared: "Pittsburgh is rough and tough ... we come from labor, steel mills, blue-collar workers." By contrast, she said, "Charlotte is very delicate (with) gentle, soft souls. They wear their hair in a bow and say, 'I just hate that for you.' "

In a 2007 interview, Orr discussed USAir's effort to expunge the Piedmont culture following the acquisition. "When you buy somebody, you ought to save the good parts and throw away the bad parts, but US Air did the opposite," he said, adding: "They thought the sun rose and set in Pittsburgh."

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