ADA — Victor Bird, director of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, was the guest speaker for this week's Rotary Club meeting held Wednesday. Bird was promoting the aerospace industry and spoke about the benefits smaller airports located around the state offers for its local residents.

According to Bird, the aerospace industry provides over 140,000 jobs in the state, with one in 10 Oklahomans receiving their income from the aerospace industry.

"Who's the largest employer in the state of Oklahoma? It's right up the road at Tinker Air Force Base with 26,000 employees," Bird said. "I know that there are people who live in Pontotoc county who work at Tinker."

According to Bird, 18 percent of Oklahoma's overall economy stems from the aerospace field.

"We have something aviation--whether it's military, commercial, general, corporate aviation--needs badly," he said. "It needs their aircrafts repaired, maintained, overhauled, modified. It needs these things because they're flying aircrafts longer and farther. Let me give you two, prominent examples in our world today: KC-135 and B-52. They've already had a shelf life of 50 years. They were supposed to be retired, but what happened? The Air Force expects to fly those another 50 years. That means, more maintenance, more repairs, more overhaul."

Bird also said more opportunities for this industry are arriving continuously.

"What really excites me, is the opportunity for growth in this industry," he said. "We're in perfect position to take advantage of that, and the same thing is going on in commercial and general. The number of commercial aircrafts is going to double by 2020. We have got one of the highest concentrations of facilities in skilled workman in this regard in the world. We're one of the six centers of the sustainment of aircrafts in the world. We're recognized for that expertise and have some companies right here in Ada that do this kind of work. General aviation modification is on the cutting edge of modification work for single engine aircrafts."

Bird also spoke about how important the Ada Municipal Airport is for the area to continue growing financially.

"It is extremely important to your local economy," he said. "It's all about access and getting from point A to point B fast. There are 18,000 airports in the United States. Only 540 of those are commercial airports. So that means that those 737's that Southwest flies can only go to 540 airports. What about all of those other airports? General aviation aircrafts, like the kind you see right out at your airport, they can get to almost all those other airports. They can fly right into Ada, Oklahoma to conduct business just like the Chickasaws do, just like Pre-Paid legal does. It is very, very important."

Bird said that out of the 114 total airports we have in the state of Oklahoma, 111 of them are general aviation and 40 of those are jet capable.

"There are 220,000 aircrafts in general aviation," he said. "Business use of that--35,000 companies today operate over 50,000 aircrafts--that's more than double in a 10 year period. That's one of the biggest complaints we hear from commercial airlines, that they lost the business traveler and that's who they really counted on. That's going to continue because of what I'm talking about. It is so much quicker and so much more efficient for them to use general aviation aircrafts. That's why you're seeing the air taxi concept that brings you right into Ada, Oklahoma. You don't have to go to Dallas or Oklahoma City. You're not going to waste any time driving, you're not going to waste any time going through the airport security at Dallas-Ft. Worth. It increases the productivity and efficiency of business. It's one of the major reasons that businesses locate or expand where they do, to be in close proximity, usually within 10 miles of a general aviation airport. The Chickasaw Nation cite the airport as a significant reason they're here and they do business here.

According to Bird, 92 percent of our population is within 25 miles of a jet-capable runway.

"No other state in the union can say that," he said. "That is only becoming more and more important in this century. Your airport is your gateway to the world. You give me a mile of highway and that's what I got, a mile of highway. But you give me a mile of runway, and I have the world. It's pretty remarkable. I assure you that it is important that you don't want to go forward in this century without a good airport that provides the service it does."

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