Legislation aimed at increasing the number of direct flights to Oklahoma has now been signed into law. Senate Bill 1461, by Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma City, creates the Oklahoma Air Service Development Grant Program (OASDGP), which will be administered by the Oklahoma Department of Aerospace and Aeronautics (ODAA). Under SB 1461, grant funding can be used for commercial air service development projects to support the introduction of new airline service in the state. Eligible entities must demonstrate the ability to provide a minimum 20 percent of project funds through local sources and submit an application and business plan to be considered. Once selected by OSADGP and the Department of Commerce, the state will enter into a grant agreement contract with recipients prior to distributing program funds. The measure also creates a revolving fund for ODAA, which will consist of monies received by the Tax Commission, any public or private donations, contributions and gifts, and any amounts appropriated by the Legislature.
The Oklahoma Department of Aerospace and Aeronautics (ODAA) is a unique state agency in that we have the statutory authority to "draft and recommend legislation to advance the interests of the state in aeronautics" (Title 3, Section 85, F. 1.). ODAA accomplishes this objective by legislative action presenting initiatives to the Oklahoma Legislature. The Department is under the supervision of the Secretary of Transportation. Under current Governor of Oklahoma Kevin Stitt, Tim Gatz is serving as the Secretary. We have close communication with Secretary Gatz regarding our legislative initiatives ensuring that state ideas are in harmony with the Executive and Legislative branches of state government.
The following is a list of legislation that ODAA has championed, some of which has become a model for other states:
A three-year effort to qualify aviation and aerospace courses as core curriculum for students has been signed into law. The goal was to create a mechanism for the 4-year “You Can Fly” High School Curriculum developed by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), which is being adopted by school districts at a record pace across the state, to qualify as core credit and provide additional options for students. Senate Bill 1147, by Sen. Zack Taylor, R-Seminole and Nicole Miller, R-Edmond, directed the State Board of Education to determine if courses on aviation are eligible for non-elective academic credit toward meeting Oklahoma’s graduation requirements.
SB 659 established the Oklahoma Department of Aerospace and Aeronautics as the Clearinghouse for Unmanned Aircraft Systems in Oklahoma. The ODAA is designated as the agency for promotion, enhancement and development of UAS to ensure safe integration and use of this technology. The ODAA is directed, in its role as the clearinghouse, to cooperate, assist and coordinate among levels and agencies of government in development of UAS and to ensure integration of the technology into the National Airspace System. The clearinghouse is directed to conduct research on UAS rules, regulations and policies of other states and municipalities; to organize and coordinate applications for UAS test sites, pilot programs or grant funding; and to maintain registries of UAS operated by state agencies and of educational institutions offering training programs.
SB 1688 created the Oklahoma Advanced Mobility Pilot Program. Contingent upon availability of funds, the program identifies communities to serve as pilot programs for adoption of advanced mobility technologies, including autonomous ground vehicles or electric vertical takeoff or landing vehicles, making two matching grant awards each year of up to $500,000.
The measure provided more specificity as to the use of aircraft related to exemptions to the aircraft excise tax. In particular, the provisions were directed toward the actual use of aircraft for charter activities. With a limited number of airports in the state hosting charter activities, it is anticipated that audit efforts would be manageable and increased compliance with the aircraft excise tax was possible. The Incentive Evaluation Commission indicated in its November, 2016 report that all exempt sales of aircraft resulted in foregone revenue on excess of $3.7 million to the state. This bill would have put in place a requirement like 23 other states that 50% of the operations of the aircraft be charter. Twelve states don't even allow this exemption, and twelve states only allow it the actual charter certificate holder (owner). Kentucky requires that in order to receive the exemption, the operations of the aircraft must be 100% charter. Maine requires 80% the first two years and 50% thereafter. Oklahoma is the only state that has no requirement. The bill would have required Part 135 aircraft to operate at least 50% of its annual operations and requiring that said operators do not own a majority interest in a business entity in which the aircraft is registered to.
The two companion measures directed the Oklahoma Department of Aerospace and Aeronautics to administer an airport inspection program for all public-use airports within the state of Oklahoma. The measure required all airport owners to provide access to airport facilities for conducting inspections. Finally, the measure required the commission to submit a written report to each airport detailing the findings of the inspections. ODAA currently inspects all public-use airports to ensure state airports are safe for the flying public and collect vital airport safety data for various aviation publications (sectional chart, airport directory, etc.). These public-use and private public-use inspections are currently conducted under an agreement between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO). The surface environment at all airports, and specifically General Aviation (GA) airports, are challenging to develop and deploy runway safety solutions that benefit everyone. NASAO partners with FAA to seek best practices for runway safety. ODAA Airport Inspectors perform these Safety & Standards inspections to determine if an airport meets FAA and ODAA standards as well as collect vital airport safety data. These inspections help Oklahoma’s municipalities with the technical expertise on how to operate, develop, and maintain an airport. While at the airport during these inspections, ODAA will provide technical assistance to municipalities with the development of their short, medium, and long term capital infrastructure plans.
Oklahoma was first in the Nation to recognize, in state statute, the contributions of women in the aviation and aerospace industry. The measure established Women in Aviation and Aerospace Day in Oklahoma on the 9th day of December of each year. The date was selected to honor Pearl Carter Scott, from Marlow, Oklahoma, After learning how to drive at the age of 12, Scott soared to new heights and learned to fly at the age of 13 under legendary aviator Wiley Post. She became the youngest pilot in the United States with her first solo flight on September 12, 1929. She later worked as a stunt pilot.. Oklahoma abounds with famous female aviators. The 99s Museum of Women Pilots is in Oklahoma City and is the headquarters for the 99s organization. They boast one of the largest collections of artifacts and information solely dedicated to women pilots. The museum is operated by The Ninety-Nines Inc, an international organization of women pilots established in 1929 with Amelia Earhart as the first president. This bill will be a foundation for focus on a declared date to plan events highlighting airports, women’s contribution to aerospace companies, famous female aviators in the past and present, and to bring the excitement of aerospace exploration and learning to young women throughout the State of Oklahoma.
The measure established Aviation and Aerospace Day in Oklahoma each year on August 19th, which is also National Aviation Day. National Aviation Day is observed in the United States each year to celebrate the history and development of aviation. It coincides with the birthday of Orville Wright who, together with his brother Wilbur, made significant contributions to powered flight. Oklahoma established a rich aviation and aerospace heritage when some of the first commercial airlines began here. Aerospace manufacturing soared with the making of WW II bombers in both Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The state was key in the space race with the manufacturing of parts for Gemini, Apollo, and the space shuttle, and Oklahoma boasts more astronauts per capita than any other state. On aviation day, Oklahoma schools will be encouraged to organize classroom activities that focus on the topic of aviation. Activities such as discussing aviation history, including the efforts of the Wright brothers, Amelia Earhart and other aviation pioneers; and engaging in interactive tasks about airplanes and other means of flight transport, as well as careers associated with the aviation industry, would be appropriate. Aviation enthusiasts and students may visit museums about aviation history and technology in Oklahoma such as the Tulsa Air and Space Museum in Tulsa, the Stafford Air & Space Museum in Weatherford, or the 99’s Museum of Women Pilots in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma Department of Aerospace and Aeronautics will focus on encouraging and assisting the 109 airports comprising the Oklahoma Airport System to hold festivities and conduct first-flights for school children, host an open house, or provide airport tours on this day.
Oklahoma’s aircraft registration fees were established in 1976 by the legislature based on motor vehicle registration in the state. For over forty years aircraft fees had remained unchanged. SB 433 adjusts the fee schedule for inflation through a 50% increase across the board to the aircraft registration fees while keeping registration at affordable rates for aircraft owners. The fees are paid by its users and go back into the Oklahoma Airport System. All airworthy aircraft based, or primarily used, in the state for more than 30 days in a calendar year must submit an Aircraft Registration Application form and pay the applicable annual registration fee.
The Oklahoma State Aviation License Plate will highlight the importance of the state’s aviation system, and will raise funds to support aviation and public-use airports in Oklahoma. The cost for the aviation plate would be $35. Of that fee, $11 would cover vehicle licensing fees and the remaining $24 would support aviation-specific initiatives. Before the plate is moved intro production, 100 pre-paid registrations must be recorded with the Oklahoma Tax Commission within the first six months of sales.
The Aircraft Pilot and Passenger Protection Act (APPPA) is focused on increasing safety near airports in Oklahoma. This law regulates the height of structures built or erected near public-use airports and military installations in the State. APPPA also regulates construction projects that may be deemed incompatible to normal airport operations due to safety concerns for individuals both in the air and on the ground.
HB 3239, which has often been referred to as the "Aerospace Industry Engineer Work Force Bill," grants engineers hired after Jan. 1, 2009, by an Oklahoma aerospace company a state tax credit of up to $5,000 per year for a period of time not to exceed five years. It also allows aerospace companies a tax credit of 10 percent for compensation paid to a qualified graduate during the first five years of his or her employment if the employee graduated from an in-state college or university or a tax credit of 5 percent if the employee graduated from an out-of-state college or university.
Other legislation supported by ODAA:
- ACES program to support the aerospace industry (2018)
- Meteorological Evaluation Towers (METs) marking (2014)
- Recreational immunity for activities at private airports (2013)
- Aircraft Dealers Protection Act (2008)
- MRO sales tax exemption on aircraft maintenance (2005)