Aerospace and defense is Oklahoma’s second-largest — and fastest growing — industry, with annual economic activity of nearly $44 billion. As a major hub for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), flight training, defense operations and manufacturing, Oklahoma has more than 1,100 aerospace entities operating within the state.
Oklahoma’s airports and military airfields have attracted other aviation and aerospace companies to the state. Following World War II, Oklahoma emerged as a center for aviation activity. Ever since that time, Oklahoma has continued its upward trajectory, attracting the nation’s most sophisticated aviation/aerospace developers, maintainers, and suppliers.
Oklahoma has the largest commercial and defense MROs in the world, and is home to five military installations and seven national guard assets.
The American Airlines Maintenance and Engineering Center in Tulsa is the largest commercial MRO and employs more than 6,000.
The Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City is the nation’s central FAA and U.S. Department of Transportation support and training facility – 80,000 students are trained through the center annually.
Oklahoma’s three Air Force Bases (Altus, Tinker, and Vance) are vital to the nation’s security. The Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex at Tinker Air Force Base is the largest air depot maintenance facility for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Beyond contributing to many facets of national security, the Air Force Bases in Oklahoma have a tremendous economic impact in the state. The three bases are economic engines that support thousands of military and civilian jobs in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma's five military installations and seven national guard assets include:
- Tinker AFB
- Vance AFB
- Fort Sill
- Altus AFB
- McAlester Army Ammunition Plant
- Two Air National Guard campuses and five Army National Guard complexes
There are 109 public airports in Oklahoma, supporting more than 74,000 jobs. Oklahoma has four airports that have scheduled commercial airline service: Will Rogers World Airport, Tulsa International, Lawton—Fort Sill Regional, and Stillwater Regional. In 2016, airport records indicated that all four airports served a total of 2.9 million boarding passengers or enplanements.
Oklahoma is the site of one of only 10 licensed U.S. spaceports – the only one in unrestricted airspace. The “Infinity One” space flight corridor is 152 miles long and 50 miles wide. The facility contains 50,000 square feet of manufacturing space, six commercial aircraft hangars (100,000 square feet) for lease, and a 13,503′ x 300′ primary runway. The site was used as an alternate landing site for shuttle missions.
In February 2009, Oklahoma established its own chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), known as UAS-OK. UAS-OK supports small companies involved in research, development, testing, evaluation, and production of unmanned systems. The establishment of UAS-OK was followed with the organization of the Governor’s Unmanned Aerial System’s Council.
According to information collected for the OAC study by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, there are an estimated 110 companies in the state that are engaged in some facet of UAS/UAV research, testing, development, or flight.
Oklahoma is in the top five states for UAS/UAV activities concerning academics for this industry. Oklahoma’s prominence in this area is a result of research teams from The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University. Oklahoma State University is one of the first universities in the country to offer a graduate engineering degree specifically tailored to the UAS/UAV field. The two universities have over 30 teaching staff involved in UAS/UAV education.
More than 4,200 manufacturing firms operate in Oklahoma, providing more than 140,000 jobs (7.6% of Oklahoma’s total private employment). The manufacturing industry has an annual output of $17 billion. Oklahoma continues to grow its role in aerospace manufacturing. From small to large original equipment manufacturers (OEM), companies in the state manufacture various parts for different aircraft.
Oklahoma is a national leader in aviation education and training. Students from around the country and the world choose to receive their aviation education in Oklahoma because of the excellent reputation of the state’s aviation schools and programs. Oklahoma plays an important role in training tomorrow’s pilots and aviation professionals.
- 12 Oklahoma colleges and universities offer aerospace degrees.
- Approximately 50 different Oklahoma airports support some type of aviation training or educational activities with programs such as pilot training, training for aircraft mechanics, and training for airport managers.
- 9 colleges offer aeronautical certifications
- Oklahoma's CareerTech system includes 6 technology centers around the state that provide aerospace-focused certification, training and testing and are part of a larger system of 29 technology center districts with 59 campuses statewide
The state’s three research universities, Oklahoma State University (OSU), the University of Tulsa (TU) and the University of Oklahoma (OU), are setting themselves apart nationally through aerospace degree programs, facilities, research, grants and more.