Air show spotlights Oklahoma's leadership in aerospace

By:  Sen. Jim Inhofe, Gov. Mary Fallin
The Oklahoman

Link to OpEd 


Recently we had the exciting opportunity to see Oklahoma's leadership in the aerospace industry highlighted on the world stage at the Farnborough International Airshow in England. At Farnborough, nations and industries showcase the latest in aviation and defense technologies.

We were proud of the state's strong showing: More than 50 companies with Oklahoma ties were represented and engaged in important discussions with potential investors and clients. The air show provided an opportunity to encounter companies and countries that are interested in working with Oklahoma because of its expertise in aerospace and defense. In fact, while in Farnborough, a Belgian aerospace company called ASCO announced the opening of a facility in Stillwater, a project expected to create up to 600 jobs and a $90 million investment.

In addition to the contributions from private-sector companies like ASCO, Oklahoma aerospace is a key player in supporting the military. Tinker Air Force Base, for instance, houses the largest military depot in the nation. Altus AFB is a strong potential candidate to house the new KC-46A tanker, and Enid AFB continues to expand and flourish. Meanwhile, the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center employs thousands of Oklahomans and remains the premier FAA training center in the country.

With $12.5 billion in annual industrial output, Oklahoma's aeronautical industry is robust and will continue to be a big part of the economy for years to come. Our challenge as a state is to continue to build on our momentum and ensure that new technologies and opportunities continue to make their way here.

While our roles as governor and U.S. senator are vastly different, we're both committed to keeping Oklahoma on the cutting edge of aviation and defense. Whether fighting drastic defense cuts or attracting business to the state, we are working together for our state's and nation's betterment. In that regard, we're working to promote new opportunities in the area of unmanned aircraft systems.

This technology is the fastest-growing area within the aerospace industry, with an extremely diverse array of potential applications. Working at the state and federal levels, our goal is to make Oklahoma the nation's No. 1 place to do unmanned aircraft system research and development. These programs play a pivotal role in our military's ability to wage the war on terrorism.

On the domestic side, Oklahoma was recently selected as a test site for the new Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety Program. The program will research and test small, unmanned aircraft systems in the restricted airspace near Fort Sill, focusing on possible applications for first responders, including search and rescue scenarios, response to radiological and chemical incidents and fire response and mapping.

In the weeks and months ahead, you'll hear more good news about unmanned aircraft systems in the state and coming out of Congress. Oklahoma is playing an important role in this process, and that's great news for the state, for job creation and for our people.