Changing Face of America
Airport 2001

Listen to the report.

America's airports are getting busier, especially over the past few years. With more traffic being routed through sprawling "hubs," busier airports must find ways to move people off one plane, thru the facilities, and onto another plane quickly and comfortably.

Despite all the recent complaints about delays and cancellations, that job is being done day after day. It's a carefully choreographed ballet performed by a huge company of performers: baggage handlers, air traffic controllers, merchants, pilots, gate attendants, cart drivers, and repair crews.

At the Pittsburgh International Airport, long-time operations manager James Maloney takes listeners on a tour of his world and the people who populate it. You'll experience the fast-paced whirl of activity around the busiest times of day -- known as "banks" -- and the quiet periods in between. You'll hear from airline personnel on what bugs them most about today's passengers -- and you'll see why some passengers might be driven to bug them.

You'll learn the tricks of the trade in packing and unpacking luggage. And you'll hear the frantic but disciplined activity inside the control tower, and find out how controllers handle the stress and fun of their jobs.

Listen to All Things Considered on Wednesday, January 31, to get a glimpse backstage at the Pittsburgh International Airport (

Pittsburgh International Airport
Pittsburgh International Airport
(Photo courtesy Pittsburgh International Airport)

fueling up
Fueling up at Pittsburgh International Airport
(Photo: Ellen Weiss)

Cat in a Cage
Kitty Takes a Plane Trip
(Photo: Ellen Weiss)

Airplanes at Pittsburgh International Airport
(Photo: Ellen Weiss)

The Changing Face of America is an 18-month-long NPR series that tells the stories of regular, everyday Americans and the issues they face at a time of rapid and dramatic change in the U.S. This special series can be heard on NPR's Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered and Morning Edition.

The Changing Face of America series is sponsored by The Pew Charitable Trusts.