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Aviation takes off
November 5, 2010
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  • By Andy Rieger

    October 9, 2010

    NORMAN – Commercial and general aviation has a “heck of aheritage” in the state where 74,000 persons work directly in the business andearn nearly double the average salary of other Oklahomans, the director of theOklahoma Aeronautics Commission said Friday.

    Victor Bird told Norman Chamber of Commerce members andguests of the $12.4 billion economic impact the aviation industry has in Oklahoma. One in 11Oklahomans earns an average salary of $55,000 compared to $30,000 for thepopulation at large.

    Tinker Air Force Base and the American Airlines maintenancebase in Tulsatogether account for 35,000 jobs and a combined economic impact in excess of $5billion.

    Nationwide, aviation remains a bright spot in the economywith a $56 billion trade surplus alone in 2009. It provides between 4 and5percent of the nation’s gross national product.

    “Our aerospace products and services continue to lead allothers in the world,” Bird told about 130 breakfast guests inside the OU flighthangar at Max Westheimer Airport.

    Bird addressed the state’s century-long successes withaviation and the recent failures of Rocketplane and Quartz Mountain Aviationthat were funded by state tax credits. He said those were probably baddecisions but, “That was a chapter É There’s got to be a little rain with thesunshine.”

    He lauded general aviation airports like Westheimer as astrong economic development tool. The airport had 73,184 takeoffs and landingsin 2008, down from more than 128,000 in 2000. It is classified as a regionalbusiness airport and is one of 13 Oklahomaregional airports with an instrument landing system.

    The Oklahoma Highway Patrol recently relocated the stateaircraft to Westheimer from Wiley Post Airportin Oklahoma City.

    Companies looking to expand and relocate want access to agood commercial airport, Bird said.

    “Business doesn’t come calling on a Greyhound bus. It comescalling in an aircraft,” Bird said.

    The annual aviation breakfast is sponsored by the chamber’saviation committee. Today’s aviation festival features static displays ofaircraft, including a FAA-owned DC3, youth activities and tours of the controltower.

    Date: 2010-10-09