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Oklahoma Aeronautics Hosts 2023 AERO Oklahoma at State Capitol

Thursday, March 23, 2023

At the Oklahoma State Capitol on March 22, the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission brought stakeholders, pilots, aerospace and defense businesses, and lawmakers together to celebrate the state’s second-largest industry – aviation, aerospace, and defense. 

Over 60 exhibit booths opened that morning on the second-floor rotunda and welcomed state leaders at a general assembly including Gov. Kevin Stitt, President Pro Tem Greg Treat, Speaker Charles McCall, Lt. General Stacey Hawkins with Tinker Air Force Base, and Matthew Steenman with L3Harrris. The group greeted the aviation, aerospace, and defense community with remarks about the important economic impact of aerospace and defense in the state. Many students from across the state were also in attendance from aviation high schools located in Ada, Altus, Atoka, Duncan, Durant, Elmore City/Pernell, Enid, Ketchum, McAlester, Mustang, Norman, Okmulgee, Weatherford, Wewoka, and Wyandotte as well as students from Canadian Valley Technology Center and the University of Oklahoma. 

“The aviation industry is more than just a source of pride for the State of Oklahoma. It’s really our economic engine. It’s a powerhouse for our state. It is the second largest industry with a 44 billion dollar economic impact in the state. Well over a thousand companies support aviation and defense,” said Governor Kevin Stitt from the stage. “We’ve got five military bases, seven National Guard bases, and we are just one of ten states that have an FAA-licensed spaceport. We’re home to the largest single-site FAA complex in the nation, the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, which is another advantage for our state.”

“Senator Paul Rosino and Senator Adam Pugh have created a caucus, along with others, on aviation, that has transformed our vision of aviation here in the Oklahoma State Senate,” said Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat. Pointing to the crowd of over 1,000 attendees, Treat said, “We know that you are the driving force of our economy. You’re leading our defense around the globe. We appreciate everything you do and we stand ready to lock arms and continue to move you forward, into the number one spot.”

From the podium, Speaker Charles McCall acknowledged the defense industry by stating, “I want to first say thank you to the men and women who protect our freedom every day throughout the world in the Oklahoma National Guard and all branches of the U.S. military.” McCall continued, “Let me assure all of us here today that the Legislature is going to continue to fund aerospace in the State of Oklahoma. The House last year appropriated millions of dollars for aerospace in terms of airports throughout the state as well as to bring additional industry and economic development efforts in the State of Oklahoma.”

Lt. Gen. Hawkins spoke regarding the impact of military aviation and the bases and installations located in Oklahoma and invited Oklahomans to come to visit Tinker Air Force Base. Addressing the 200+ aviation students in the crowd, he said, “If you’re interested, as the Governor said, in getting into this industry, tap into the state’s academic ecosystem and become a part of our team.”

Matthew Steenman from L3Harris spoke as a representative of the aerospace and defense industry and said, “Currently, L3Harris has had a presence inside of Oklahoma for over 50 years and employs more than 700 people through high-quality jobs.” Steenman spoke to the crowd about the new mission assigned to the 137th Special Operations Wing based at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. “Not only will this new aircraft platform be produced in Tulsa, we are proud to partner with the U.S. Air Force in bringing the platform to the 137th SOW at the Will Rogers Air National Guard base.”

As part of the event, the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission also welcomed Gigi Coleman, the great-niece of Bessie Coleman, to the festivities at the State Capitol. Coleman is an advocate for youth of all ages, encouraging the exploration of the wonders of flight. She addressed the crowd on the Second Floor Rotunda and performed her one-woman show about Bessie Coleman, the first African American and Native American woman to earn a pilot's license when she received her international license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale on June 15, 1921. Gigi Coleman accepted a citation in memoriam of Bessie Coleman by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

The purpose of “AERO Oklahoma” Aviation, Aerospace, and Defense Day is to recognize Oklahoma’s aviation, aerospace, and defense industry as a vital economic engine for the state. As Oklahoma's second-largest and fastest growing industry, this sector has a significant impact on the lives of our citizens. The annual event serves as a unique opportunity for Oklahoma’s military members, aerospace companies, private and commercial pilots, airport managers, municipal officials, drone pilots, educators, flying clubs, and the many users of the Oklahoma Airport System to meet one-on-one with state legislators and other elected officials to remind them of Oklahoma’s strong aviation heritage and show them firsthand how the industry continues to solidify our state as a worldwide leader in aviation, aerospace, and defense.

Presented by the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission (OAC), the agency partnered with the Air & Space Forces Association Gerrity Chapter, Oklahoma Department of Commerce ACES Program, Oklahoma Air & Space Forces Association, Critical Components Aerospace, Kratos Defense, Northrop Grumman, Oklahoma Defense Industry Association, Pratt and Whitney, Southern Tech, Spirit AeroSystems, Tulsa Tech, and the University of Oklahoma Price College of Business.

“Oklahoma Aeronautics has been hosting this aviation and aerospace advocacy day at the Capitol for decades to help connect the industry to our state’s leaders. The industry is experiencing the highest level of support from the legislative and executive branches of government that it ever has. We can be proud of how the industry is leading the way and ensuring that Oklahoma is seen as a fly-to state and not a flyover state insofar as aviation and aerospace is concerned.” said the State Director of Aeronautics, Grayson Ardies.

Many of the state’s top aviation and aerospace entities participated in AERO Oklahoma this year including: The Oklahoma Air National Guard 137th Special Operations Wing, AAR Corp, ACES Oklahoma Department of Commerce, Air & Space Forces Association Gerrity Chapter #215, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Asphalt Systems Inc, Aviation Training Consulting LLC, BizJet International, Boeing, CareerTech, Cirrus Aircraft, Computer System Designer, Critical Components Aerospace, Consolidated Turbine Specialists, Delaware Resource Group, Duracoatings, Embry Riddle, Federal Aviation Administration Mike Monroney Center, Field Aerospace, FIRST Robotics, Guernsey, HUB International, L3Harris, Lufthansa Technik Component Services, Metro Tech, National Business Aviation Association, NORDAM, Oklahoma Aeronautics Academy, Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, Oklahoma Airport Operators Association, Oklahoma Chapter of Ninety-Nines, Oklahoma Defense Industry Association, Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance, Oklahoma University / OADII, Oklahoma Wing Civil Air Patrol, Omni Aircraft Maintenance, Pratt & Whitney, Ready 3, Rose State College Workforce Development, Route 66 Flight School, Safety Training Systems, Inc., Southeast Oklahoma State University, Southern Tech, Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU), Spairrow Aviation, Spartan College of Aeronautics & Technology, Spirit AeroSystems, Swanda Aerospace, Thunderbird Drone Festival, Tinker Air Force Base AFSC/OC-ALC, True Sky Credit Union, Tulsa Air and Space Museum, Tulsa Tech, US Commercial Service, Vigilant Aerospace Systems, Inc., and Women in Aviation International.

The next event has been set for April 3, 2024, to be held again at the State Capitol.

Watch the March 22, 2023, YouTube video of the event:

Last Modified on Apr 28, 2023
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