The conclusion of August as the state’s first-ever Oklahoma State Aviation and Aerospace Month marks a point when the aerospace sector has experienced substantial growth over the last decade, adding more than 7,000 new jobs over the last two years alone.
Aviation and aerospace is the second largest industry in Oklahoma and the fastest growing, with the sector providing more than 206,000 jobs and generating almost $44 billion in annual economic activity. The single-largest incentive for this growth has been developments and partnerships being made at Tinker Air Force Base, whose contributions to the state’s economy are something Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt describes as invaluable.
"Tinker is the largest single-site employer in our state and has played a critical role in our economy and the strength of our aerospace and defense industry for more than 75 years," Stitt said.
In recognition of the advances the sector has played in moving the state’s economic development forward, Stitt declared August Aviation and Aerospace Month in an Aug. 16 press release from the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission.
“Oklahoma is now recognized as one of the seven centers in the world for the maintenance, repair and overhaul of aircraft. Oklahoma hosts the world’s largest military aircraft repair facility, Tinker Air Force Base, and commercial aircraft repair facility, the American Airlines maintenance base in Tulsa,” the OAC said in the release.
The observance is concurrent with National Aviation Day, which was originally established through a proclamation issued by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a way to promote interest in aviation.
The state’s first-ever observance of Oklahoma State Aviation and Aerospace Day was celebrated August 19, 2018, after the state legislature passed a measure enacting it into state law during the 2017 legislative session as a way to celebrate the significant impact made each year by the state’s aviation and aerospace industry.
“For over half a century aerospace has been a growing sector of our economy,” said Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt. “In recent years, we have seen amazing growth and diversification in this area. It seems every few weeks there is a major new aerospace announcement in our city. We will do everything we can to continue the momentum.”
Along with the energy sector, aviation has been closely tied to Oklahoma since statehood. Oklahoma established a rich aviation and aerospace heritage as business aviation began in the state when Frank Phillips, W.G. Skelly and other oilmen began using aircraft as a way to transport oil. Several of the first commercial airlines also got their start in the state, including Braniff, and the first Southwest, Southwest Air Fast Express, started by Erle Halliburton.
Aerospace also continues to be a major export, with the state exporting more than $600 million in aircraft or aircraft parts in 2018. The state Department of Commerce has also brought in more than $700 million in planned capital investment throughout the last few years, a significant portion of which has been centered around partnerships with Tinker.
"As the industry advances, so does Tinker, maintaining a strong and innovative workforce that responds to the challenges of today and anticipates those to come,” Stitt said.