The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission (OAC) was created by the Legislature in 1963. The OAC was a successor agency to the Oklahoma Aviation Commission, which was created by the Legislature in 1946, predating the Civil Aeronautics Board and Administration, which became the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In view of the fact that Tinker Air Force Base was built in the early 1940s, American Airlines largest maintenance base was moved from New York’s LaGuardia Airfield to Tulsa in 1946, and the Civil Aeronautics Administration’s Standardization Center was moved from Houston to Oklahoma City in 1946, state and prominent business leaders believed that it was essential for the state to have a state agency focused upon aviation, aerospace, and airports to ensure that state government did all that it could do to take full advantage of the opportunity presented by the rapid growth of aviation after World War II. Aviation was having a profound impact upon the everyday lives of all Americans. It was dramatically shrinking the world.
The core responsibility of OAC has been to ensure that the needs of communities and commerce across the state are met by a system of public airports, the Oklahoma Airport System (OAS). OAC has utilized federal, state, and local funds to make the investment for needed development and maintenance to the 108 airports that comprise the OAS. Beginning in 2001, with aviation-generated revenue provided by the Legislature from the aircraft excise and fuel taxes, and aircraft registration fees, OAC has been able to make a meaningful investment in our airport system that has also resulted in receiving additional federal funding from the FAA for our airport system.
Since 2002, OAC has received $99.9 million from this aviation-generated revenue and invested $79.7 million in airport infrastructure across the State—80% of the revenue that OAC has received since FY 2001 has been invested in airport infrastructure! That is a rate of return to the users of the OAS who pay the aircraft taxes and fees that fund OAC of which the State can be very proud. Many of these investments in infrastructure have been critical to airport projects. The 2,000 foot extension to the runway at Enid would not have been possible without the largest State/OAC airport grant ever of $2.5 million. The extension was done so that T-38 trainer jets from nearby Vance AFB could land and takeoff from the Enid municipal airport rather than having to go to Wichita or Tulsa to train when the main runway at Vance is closed for maintenance; a significant step to help BRAC proof Vance. The record investment from OAC was necessary because the FAA could not invest what it usually would because the extension was driven by military rather than civil aviation demand. Another great example is the federal/state/local investment directed by OAC for infrastructure improvements at the Stillwater Regional Airport. The $27.7M in total investment ($24.5M Federal, $1.9M State, $1.3M Local) is the most for any general aviation airport in the state. These projects were the foundation that allowed the airport to achieve its goal of having scheduled commercial air service that started in 2016. These are just a few examples of many critical federal/state investments in airports that the OAC has been able to do. Having funding to invest at the state level has also been leveraged to garner $384 million in federal/FAA funding. The state investment has been particularly pivotal insofar as the receipt of federal discretionary funding.
These are just a few examples of many critical state and federal investments, directed by OAC that have also figured prominently in economic development and sustainment in many communities across the State. Major employers such as Michelin in Ardmore (Ardmore’s largest employer), the Chickasaw Nation in Ada, Seaboard Farms in Guymon (Guymon’s largest employer), and Conoco-Phillips (Phillips 66) in Bartlesville (Bartlesville’s largest employer) all cite having immediate and ready access to their sites in those communities through the local airport as significant reasons they chose to locate or stay in those communities. These are just a few examples of similar stories across the State.