March 2, 2012

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin gave a rousing endorsement of business aviation on February 28 to assembled local, state and federal officials in Tulsa, and backed up her endorsement with multiple practical examples in the state.

“Tulsa is attracting and retaining young talent…because of the economy we have, and the aviation industry has the kind of high paying jobs that power that economy,” she told the 350 attendees at the annual Oklahoma Partnership Conference, sponsored by the Oklahoma Airport Operators Association, Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission and FAA and held February 25-28 in Tulsa.

“In fact, aviation jobs pay an average of $55,000 per year, about twice the median income in Oklahoma.”

Statistics show that the aerospace and aviation industry in the Sooner State directly and indirectly supports some 144,000 jobs, providing an annual payroll of just under five billion dollars. In addition, the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission is charged with encouraging jobs by developing the state’s aviation infrastructure specifically to meet the needs of commerce and business.

“We also have a rich tradition of…aviation research and production,” she said, pointing out that that the tradition started even before Oklahoma became a state in 1907. “In 1906, a fellow named Cessna, first name Clyde, was test flying his first aircraft west of here, near Jet, Oklahoma. And another Oklahoman, Wiley Post, discovered the jet stream and twice set the record for flying around the world.”

But the bulk of Fallin’s speech to the gathered policymakers concentrated on the importance of today’s general aviation (GA) infrastructure and services. She noted that GA is THE – in capital letters – connector to the nation’s air transportation system for most of the communities across Oklahoma, and that 97% of the state’s population is within 30 minutes of a regional airport.

“GA airports are critical to communities like Miami, Altus, Idabel, Guymon, Stillwater, Ardmore, Norman, Weatherford, and many others across our state,” she declared. “In so many instances – Seaboard Farms in Guymon, Michelin in Ardmore, Conoco Phillips in Ponca City, the Chickasaw Nation in Ada, and Wal-Mart at about every one of our 49 GA regional business airports – business doesn’t come calling in a bus, it comes calling in a plane!”

According to spokesman Harve Allen of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, one of the state’s goals is to make all 49 of Oklahoma’s regional airports more business-friendly with runways of at least 5,000 feet for safer business jet operations. The state also recently passed legislation to protect community airports from encroachment, and implemented a runway-pavement management program that has been adopted by the FAA as a model for other states.

In addition, the Aeronautics Commission has committed up to a half million dollars each for communities that want to expand or build a business-friendly terminal building. “Those GA airport terminal buildings are the front door to our communities that businesses see when they arrive,” said Allen. “We want the business people to be impressed.”

The Governor’s speech echoed many of the themes of the No Plane No Gain advocacy campaign, sponsored jointly by NBAA and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. That campaign highlights the importance of business aviation to citizens, companies and communities across the U.S.

Governor Fallin’s remarks come on the heels of a January 27 letter she sent to President Obama asking for his support for all of general aviation, including business aviation. The governor’s letter reminded the president of the industry’s essential role in supporting job creation, helping companies of all sizes compete and succeed and connecting communities to global markets. Read the governor’s letter to President Obama.