I am excited to be in Oklahoma City this morning at the Oklahoma Aerospace Summit and Expo. This is an event that brings together representatives of every aspect of the aerospace industry, and GA plays an important role.
I love to visit Oklahoma and often plan fuel stops in Ponca City, my mother’s hometown. I always get a warm welcome and make time to enjoy a bite at the airport’s great Mexican restaurant. But today I am in the state for more than a fuel stop and lunch.
I’m here as part of a panel on the challenges facing general aviation. It’s a great opportunity for me to talk to a new audience about General Aviation Serves America and how much value GA brings to the nation, to individual states, and even to specific communities. Also on the panel are Ed Bolen of NBAA, Pete Bunce of GAMA, Jim Coyne of NATA, and Henry Ogrodzinzki of NASAO—together we represent just about every segment of the GA community from pilots to FBO owners to manufacturers.
Also here are Congressman Tom Cole and Lindy Ritz, director of the FAA’s Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, home to the largest concentration of Department of Transportation personnel outside of Washington, D.C. Along with many other leaders in business and government, they’ve taken the time to participate because they recognize that aviation and aerospace are an important part of the future, for everyone.
Lots of people here in Oklahoma know that, and this is a state that takes aviation seriously. In fact, the state legislature has recently passed “The Aircraft Pilot and Passenger Protection Act” to help protect airports from obstructions. It was championed by Oklahoma Aeronautics Director Vic Bird, who has worked closely with AOPA and is a driving force behind this week’s conference. Vic and Mary Smith, executive director of the Oklahoma Aerospace Alliance that hosts this summit, are committed to supporting aviation and aerospace in their state, and it’s paying off for everyone—aerospace, including GA, accounts for about 10 percent of the state’s economy.