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Sun, Aug 13, 2023

Oklahoma Invests $1 Million in Aerospace Education

Sooner is Better

The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission has approved grants totaling $502,885 and will provide over $1-million in total to schools, aerospace programs, and aviation-centric organizations during the 2024 fiscal year.

Oklahoma’s educational institutions have vectored the minds of aviation greats the likes of Tom Stafford, Gordon Cooper, William R Pogue, John Herrington, and numerous others. To invoke an arboreal metaphor, aero education in Oklahoma is at once rooted in the red earth of the state’s 77 counties, and comparable to a century-old tree with a great wind bolstering its canopy.

Persisting in the metaphor, what was an aviation sapling in 1911—when Clyde Cessna built and flew Silverwing, his first airplane, over the state’s Great Salt Plains, Oklahoma, has evolved into a strong oak with an aerospace and defense sector bringing $44-billion yearly dollars into the Sooner State.

Successes notwithstanding, the Oklahoma aerospace industry’s greatest challenge remains securing a quality workforce capable of supporting, sustaining, and imparting long-term growth to the sector.

Cognizant of such, the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, in the early 2000s, made aerospace and aviation education its top priority. Over the years since, the Commission has provided $4.6-million in aerospace and education funding to organizations and programs throughout the state. The Commission has been given the prodigious responsibility of inspiring young minds and guiding them toward aerospace careers. During the 2023 legislative session, Senate Bill 930 established the Aero Student Pathways for Aerospace Careers and Education (AeroSPACE) program to help the agency broaden its aero-education efforts. The legislation directed the agency to address the workforce needs of Oklahoma’s aviation and aerospace sectors by promoting and implementing quality aerospace educational curriculum statewide.

2024 will see the Commission adopt its largest ever Aero Education Program, with an overall outlay eclipsing $1-million. In addition to over $500,000 worth of competitive grants, the Commission awarded funds to select Oklahoma high schools. The Commission also approved $125,000 in funding for the development or improvement of classroom laboratories dedicated to teaching aviation and aerospace programs. Finally, the Commission approved the continuation of four major aerospace education events, including Oklahoma Student Pilot Day, Oklahoma UAS Teacher Training and Awareness Conference, the Oklahoma AERO Education Training and Professional Development Symposium, and Oklahoma Superintendents Aviation Day.

Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz stated: “I am so proud that the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission is equipping students with the training and resources they need to pursue a future in our state’s second-largest industry. Oklahoma has a rich history in aerospace and aviation, and I am glad to see the continued investments that make us top-ten in this growing field.”

Throughout Oklahoma, over 1,100 aerospace and defense companies provide some 120,000 direct jobs.

Oklahoma State director of aeronautics Grayson Ardies remarked: “The Oklahoma legislature and our state leaders are certainly driving what we are calling a renaissance for aerospace and aviation, but Oklahoma’s educators in the classrooms are the professionals helping to vector these young minds towards an aerospace career. Whether it’s Oklahoma’s continued number-one ranking with eighty-plus schools teaching the high school curriculum, our award-winning Aero education program, or the host of industry partners we work with, Oklahoma has never been better positioned to turn today’s students into tomorrow’s aerospace workforce.”

FMI: www.facebook.com/OACAeroEd

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