Aeronautics Commission, Oklahoma (3 O.S. § 81 et. Seq)
Agency Code 060 (IA) oac.ok.gov
110 N Robinson, Suite 200, Oklahoma City 73102 405/604–6900, fax 405/604–6919
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 2001, OAC has received $82 million from this aviation-generated revenue and invested $68 million in airport infrastructure across the State—83% 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 over the last 17 years. The $27.7M in total investment ($24.5M Federal, $1.9M State, $1.3M Local) over this time period 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 $180 million in federal/FAA funding during this same time period. 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.
The statutory purpose of the OAC as stated in its original legislation in 1963 is “to encourage, foster, and assist in the development of aeronautics.” Aeronautics is broadly defined to encompass about anything pertaining to aviation, aerospace, or airports. Due to this broad charge, OAC has engaged in many facets of aviation and aerospace beyond its core responsibility.
OAC has one of the most robust aerospace and aviation education programs in the country. Our nationally recognized program has invested on average $250,000 annually over the last several years to not only expose young Oklahomans to careers in aviation and aerospace, but also adult Oklahomans who are being retrained for placement in the aerospace industry. OAC supports about 30 aerospace/aviation education programs, many of which are STEM, across the State. Such an endeavor is crucial to helping ensure the workforce necessary, today and tomorrow, for one of Oklahoma’s largest industries.
As part of its broad mandate to encourage and foster the development of aviation and aerospace, the Legislature, consistent with this mandate, specifically and somewhat exceptionally, tasked OAC to “recommend necessary legislation to advance the interests of the state in aeronautics.” Fulfilling this responsibility, OAC has drafted and recommended legislation that has served this goal:
- 2018 50% use requirement for charter aircraft receiving the aircraft excise tax exemption.
- 2017 Inspection of all public-use airports to ensure aviation safety.
- 2017 1st state in the U.S. to have “Women in Aviation & Aerospace Day” in statute,
- commemorating the contributions of women to Aviation and Aerospace.
- 2014 Requiring marking of MET (wind evaluation) towers for aviation safety.
- 2013 Led effort to keep 6 air traffic control towers open to ensure aviation safety.
- 2010 Aircraft Pilot & Passenger Protection Act, providing state zoning authority to protect all public-use airports, including military airports, while facilitating compatible development.
- 2008 Tax credits for engineers hired by aerospace employers and the employers hiring them. Has significantly helped Tinker, FAA, Boeing, Spirit, NORDAM meet engineering needs. One of top 3 reasons cited by Boeing for moving 2,000 engineers to Oklahoma.
- 2005 Eliminated sales tax on all aircraft repairs, giving OK companies a competitive advantage, critical to Oklahoma remaining one of the 7 centers in the world for the maintenance, repair and overhaul of aircraft. Oklahoma has the largest military (Tinker AFB) and commercial (American Maintenance Base) aircraft repair facilities in the world; and the largest independent MRO provider (AAR) in the world.
Relevance is defined as being important or relating to the matter at hand. In view of the continuing endeavor to diversify our State’s economy and that Aviation & Aerospace is the State’s second largest industry according to the 2017 Economic Impact Study of Aviation & Aerospace done by OAC, OAC is relevant. Aviation & Aerospace has an economic output of just under $44 billion, provides 206,000 direct and indirect jobs, an $11.7 billion payroll, and an average salary of $73,300. Having an agency solely focused upon encouraging and fostering the development of aviation and aerospace is as Governor Bellmon and other leaders thought, a very good idea. Time and the remarkable growth of aviation and aerospace in Oklahoma have proven them right.