At its meeting on Wednesday, March 11, the Commission heard details about the latest version of the Airport Construction Program for Fiscal Years 2021-2025. This $132 million Five-Year Plan programs federal, state and local funding for various airport infrastructure projects across the state. It will now go into a public comment phase and is expected to go up for approval in the May Commission meeting. Projects in the plan include:
• $1.5 million to construct a new terminal building at the Thomas P Stafford Airport in Weatherford in FY 2022.
• $974,000 to improve drainage at the Shawnee Regional Airport in FY 2023.
• A nearly $5 million project scheduled for FY 2025 to realign the parallel taxiway system at the Guthrie/Edmond Regional Airport.
• A $4 million project at the Miami Regional Airport in FY 2025 to realign the parallel taxiway system.
The full version of the plan and instruction on commenting will be available at oac.ok.gov starting the week of March 16.
Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission Director Victor Bird provided updates on several legislative measures affecting the aerospace/aviation industry. This includes Senate Bill 1826, a measure to create a grant program to incentivize more direct, nonstop routes from Oklahoma commercial airports nationwide and also Senate Bill 1157, a proposal to repeal the current $4.5 million cap on the aircraft excise tax revenue which comes to the Commission. Bird also discussed Senate Bill 1461, which will amend the Engineer Tax Credits for Aerospace so engineers with graduate degrees have no issue qualifying for the credits
“Oklahoma remains the only state with any tax incentive like this, and they have been a critical component to the 250% growth of the aviation and aerospace industry in Oklahoma since 1999,” Director Bird said. “Aerospace is now the second largest industry in our state. It was the intent of the Legislature that engineers could qualify for the credit with an undergraduate or graduate degree. These amendments will ensure that almost all engineers claiming the credits based upon a graduate degree in engineering will qualify for the tax credits.”
The Commission approved a change to permanent rules called for in House Bill 2118 which was enacted in 2019. This action helps ensure the state’s military training airspace is protected from encroaching development which could cause a conflict, such as the construction of wind turbines. These rules will require a wind energy developer to go through the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Defense airspace processes for project approval prior to construction in Oklahoma.
Grant funding for a weather observation system at the Thomas P. Stafford Airport in Weatherford and also for replacing the runway lighting system and other navigational equipment at the Chickasha Municipal Airport were also approved by the Commission.
The Commission is a seven-member panel appointed by the governor with the mission of promoting aviation, which includes ensuring that the needs of commerce and communities across Oklahoma are met by the state's 108 public airports that comprise the state system, and ensuring the viability of the state’s aerospace industry.
The Commission’s next meeting will be announced as it is scheduled.