Oklahoma’s booming aerospace industry
OKGIT member and Director of Oklahoma City’s Dialogue Institute Ersin Demerci recently penned an extensive look into Oklahoma’s growing aerospace industry for Ameri-Turkic Magazine. It is republished here with their permission.
The story of aviation often begins with Leonardo Da Vinci`s design for flying machines which would later inspire the Wright brothers and the famous sustainer Kitty Hawk in 1903. Even the most enthusiastic aviators in early 1900s would have struggled to believe the way in which the powered flight would evolve this much during the first 100 years of aviation industry. Starting from Wilbur and Orville Wright in 1903 with a basic wind tunnel to latest technology TRI model wind tunnels, the first hundred years of flight was just fascinating. Predicting what advancements we may witness in the store of the next 100 years of aviation is just as challenging.
Many people outside the state of Oklahoma have no idea the role of the state has played in the history of the aerospace industry. Oklahoma has been one of the world`s major aerospace industry centers since World War II. Clyde Cessna began testing aircraft in the state during the early decades of the 20th century. While other states struggling to recover after World War II, Oklahoma already had two airlines founded; Tulsa-Oklahoma City Airways and Southwest Air Fast Express. The Sooner State is one of only seven global aerospace hubs and home to the largest military aircraft Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) operations in the United States. The American Airlines maintenance center in Tulsa is the largest commercial MRO in the world. Oklahoma`s Spaceport is one of only a few in the country and with a 13,500-ft main runway, has one of the largest runways in North America. With nearly 5 million square feet of aviation-suited commercial space within a 4-mile radius of two international airports and the Air Force Base, the state fully supports local and international aerospace companies.
Economic forecast for the growth of global aerospace industry are expected to increase rapidly in a decade. Already recognized as “global aerospace hub”, Oklahoma is leading the way and promising great opportunities for businesses and investors. There are more than 500 aerospace companies contributing over $12.5 billion to the state`s economy such as Boeing, American Airlines, NORDAM and Spirit AeroSystems. According to Oklahoma Department of Commerce, Oklahoma`s parts and component industry exports to more than 170 countries around the world which brings $4.4 billion to the state.
Oklahoma`s aerospace industry is supported by comprehensive training infrastructures. The Federal Aviation Administration Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center is the central training and support facility in the U.S. for the FAA and the U.S. Department of Transportation. The center trains more than 20,000 students each year. 12 Oklahoma colleges and universities have undergraduate and graduate level programs and six centers with dedicated training for the aerospace industry. With an existing pool of skilled labor and a system that delivers a pipeline of well-trained workers, Oklahoma`s reputation as the MRO hub of the United States, continues to gain momentum. Oklahoma is one of the few states provide variety of Business Incentive Packages for the aerospace industry such as Quality Jobs Program, Investment or New Jobs Tax Credit, 21st Century Quality Jobs Programs, Aerospace Industry Engineer Tax Credit, Small Employer Quality Jobs Program and Economic Development Pooled Finance Program.
Leading Unmanned Aerial Systems on all fronts
An unmanned Aerial System is a reconnaissance vehicle; an aerial vehicle capable of operating without an internal pilot; are tethered by a radio control link; and can be programmed for both flight and payload operations prior to launch. Today, unmanned aircraft are flying in the National Aerospace System (NAS) under very controlled conditions, performing border and port surveillance by the Department of Homeland Security, helping with scientific research and environmental monitoring by NASA and NOAA, supporting public safety by law enforcement agencies, helping state universities conduct research, firefighting, border patrol, disaster relief, search and rescue, military training and other operational missions.
Over the past few years, UASs have undergone a radical transformation. Although commercial drones are not legal yet, reports show that companies are already willing to pay high salaries. According to Al Palmer, director of the center for UAS at University of North Dakota, drone pilots are paid about $50 an hour. It is expected that the use of UAS for commercial use will have a big impact across a wide variety of industries. BI Intelligence predicts that 12% of an estimated $98 billion in cumulative global spending on aerial drones over the next decade will be for commercial purposes. Currently, only UAS used for recreational and filmmaking purposes are allowed with the FAA approval.
Economic forecasts for the growth of the Unmanned Aerial Systems industry, both worldwide and in the U.S., indicate a burgeoning industry set to grow rapidly. For the United States Defense Department alone, expenditures on UAS will rise from its current $3.9 billion per year to over $5.5 billion by 2025. The world market will also triple over the next decade from the current $5.9 billion annually to a projected $15.1 billion. It is estimated that seventy percent of the world Research and Design (R&D) and procurement market in UAS will belong to U.S by the year 2020. AUVSI estimates almost 50,000 jobs will be created in the primary UAS market by the year 2015, with $106.6 million annually wages. With its central location, ideal terrain, research and development capabilities, training programs, business incentives, comprehensive UAS infrastructure, Oklahoma is expected to lead the industry.
Oklahoma`s rich history in aerospace has added to the sheer volume of unmanned aircraft development. The state is leading the on Unmanned Aerial Systems development efforts on all fronts. The state has established the world`s first university graduate degree in UAS at Oklahoma State University (OSU). “I would like Oklahoma to be the Silicon Valley of UAS!” said OSU President Burn Hargis during an open innovation forum on UAS hosted by the university.
Sources: Oklahoma Department of Commerce, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, Oklahoma Aeronautics and Space Commission, Oklahoma Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems Association.