Many Experience Flight During Oklahoma’s Aviation, Aerospace and Defense Awareness Day 2023
Vol.9 Issue 3
Aviation, Aerospace, and Defense Awareness Day at the Oklahoma Capitol

The FAA Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center (MMAC) brought a fixed-wing aircraft flight simulator to the Oklahoma state Capitol during "AERO Oklahoma" Aviation, Aerospace, and Defense Awareness Day 2023. Aeronautical Center employees provided information about the many careers within the Federal Aviation Administration. They also guided adventurous participants down the virtual runway into thin air.

The purpose of Aviation and Aerospace Day was to recognize Oklahoma’s aviation, aerospace, and defense industry as a vital economic engine for our state. It is a unique opportunity for industry officials to come together in one unified voice and meet with state legislators and other elected officials to remind them of Oklahoma’s strong aviation heritage and show them firsthand how the industry continues to solidify our state as a worldwide leader in aviation, aerospace, and aerospace and defense.

The Aeronautical Center was not the only participant in the event. There were over 50 other exhibitors and companies who participated in advocating for the aviation industry. Governor Kevin Stitt, House Speaker Charles McCall, Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Tim Gatz, and several state senators and representatives recognized Oklahoma’s aviation, aerospace and defense industry as a vital economic engine for our state. "The aviation industry is more than just a source of pride for the state of Oklahoma. It’s really our economic engine. It’s a powerhouse for our state," Governor Kevin Stitt said in remarks. He also mentioned that we’ve got five (military) bases, seven National Guard bases, and that Oklahoma is just one of 10 states that have an FAA-licensed spaceport. Stitt continued, "We’re home to the largest single-site FAA complex in the nation, the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, which is another advantage for our state."

Lt General Stacey T. Hawkins, the Commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center and Air Force Materiel Command at Tinker Air Force Base also gave a brief state-of-the-base during the general assembly. Further, the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission welcomed Gigi Coleman, the great-niece of Bessie Coleman to the event as well, who role-played an animated, informative depiction of her aunt’s struggles and accomplishments.

More than 200 students from 16 schools across Oklahoma also joined with pilots, airport managers, military members, aerospace industry professionals, comprising a large part of the 1,000+ person turn-out on the second floor rotunda. A large gathering was expected, since Aerospace is the second largest industry in Oklahoma, following energy. It is the fastest-growing industry in the state, and produces just under $44 billion in annual economic activity. The industry also supports about 206,000 total jobs in Oklahoma, with 120,000 of those being directly connected to an aviation or aerospace company.

Many companies provided information to attendees during the event, ranging from BizJet International to Boeing to Delaware Resource Group. Colleges and universities, flight schools and clubs, the Civil Air Patrol, Oklahoma Air National Guard, the Air & Space Forces Association, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and others provided helpful information and in-person discussions to aviation enthusiasts in attendance.

This annual event is a great opportunity to bring together all facets of Oklahoma’s aerospace industry. "This event gets better and better each year. It’s a great occasion to celebrate awareness and advocacy of Oklahoma’s impact of aerospace and defense on the economy," explains Kim Sheppard, Chief of Staff of the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt takes the stage during AERO Oklahoma
A view from the 4th floor
FAA Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center presence during AERO Oklahoma
(Pictured L-R) Kim Sheppard, MMAC Chief of Staff; Justin Cockroft, MMAC Deputy Chief of Staff; Senator Paul Rosino; and Craig Smith, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority
Laura Shepherd-Madsen explains how to operate the fixed wing flight simulator
Laura Shepherd-Madsen (seated), Katy Williams and Justin Cockroft represent MMAC during Aero Oklahoma at the Capitol
(Pictured L-R) Paula Kedy, Gigi Coleman and OAC’s Sandra Shelton
Dustin Rollins, Investigations Specialist (AXE-710) represented the FAA and answered questions about DUI reporting during Oklahoma Aero Day
Federal Aviation Aministration (FAA) seal