STATEWIDE AERO EDUCATION IN OKLAHOMA
In Oklahoma, education institutions have played a crucial role in shaping the brilliant minds of aviation greats such as Bessie Coleman, Dr. Shannon Lucid, Tom Stafford, Gordon Cooper, William R Pogue, Geraldyn Cobb, John Herrington, Pearl Carter Scott, and many others. Aero education in Oklahoma is deeply rooted in the red dirt of our 77 counties, comparable to a 100-year old tree with strong roots throughout the state. Over the years, the aviation industry has become a leading industry, generating an annual economic impact of $44 billion in aerospace and defense.
However, despite its success, the industry faces a major challenge of finding a quality workforce to sustain and grow in the future. Recognizing this challenge, the Aeronautics Commission made aerospace and aviation education one of its top priorities in the early 2000s. Since then, the Commission has invested $4.6 million in aerospace and education funding to support organizations and programs statewide.
AeroSPACE Program: Doubling Down on Aero Education Efforts
In 2023, Senate Bill 930 established the Aero Student Pathways for Aerospace Careers and Education (AeroSPACE) program, directing the Aeronautics Commission to address the workforce needs of the aviation and aerospace industry. This program aims to promote and implement quality aerospace educational curriculum statewide.
Recognizing the growing need for a skilled workforce in the aerospace and defense industry, the Aeronautics Commission adopted its largest ever Aero Education Program for FY 2024, surpassing $1 million. In addition, the Commission approved over $500,000 worth of competitive grant awards, funding Oklahoma high schools teaching the AOPA “You Can Fly” curriculum and supporting the development or improvement of classroom laboratories dedicated to aviation and aerospace programs.
The Commission also continues to organize major aerospace education events, including Oklahoma Student Pilot Day, Oklahoma UAS Teacher Training and Awareness Conference, Oklahoma AERO Education Training and Professional Development Symposium, and Oklahoma Superintendents Aviation Day.
Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz expressed pride in the Aeronautics Commission’s efforts to equip students with the necessary training and resources for a future in aerospace, highlighting Oklahoma’s rich history in the industry and its position as a top player in this field.
Aerospace and Aviation Education Grant Program
Oklahoma’s Aerospace and Aviation Education Grant Program, which has been awarding grants for over 30 years, continues to support targeted learning programs with a direct application to aerospace and aviation. During the Commission’s August meeting, grants totaling $502,885 were awarded to seventy-one organizations. These grants support a wide range of programs, including high school curricula, summer camps, drone racing competitions, aircraft mechanics courses, STEM activities, airport tours, and more. These programs are expected to reach nearly 50,000 students across the state.
Aerospace and Defense: Economic Engine and Career Opportunities
Aerospace and Defense serve as a significant economic engine in Oklahoma, with over 1,100 companies providing 120,000 direct jobs. It is vital for the state’s commerce and communities to have a safe, reliable, and economically viable air transportation system. Oklahoma’s airports play a crucial role not just in fulfilling the air transportation mission but also in raising awareness and passion for aerospace careers.
The Aeronautics Commission actively connects AOPA schools, Aero Education Grant recipients, and aviation programs with airports and passionate aviators to inspire students and adults to consider aviation and aerospace careers.
Preparing Tomorrow’s Aerospace Workforce
As the state’s fastest-growing industry, Aerospace and Defense require a capable workforce to support ongoing growth and replace upcoming retirements in the coming decades. The growth of aviation education in Oklahoma schools has been remarkable in recent years, driven by the state’s leaders, educators, and aviation professionals. The Aeronautics Commission, along with its partners, is committed to providing strong aviation STEM opportunities for students.
The agency’s Aerospace and Aviation Education Grant Program has gained recognition from the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) for investing millions in aerospace and aviation education programs across the state. The Commission approved grants totaling $502,885 in August and plans to provide over $1 million in total to AOPA schools, aerospace programs, and aviation-centric organizations in the next fiscal year.
List of Grant Recipients
Ada City Public Schools, Alva High School, Ardmore High School, Cameron University, Charles Page Freshman Academy, Chelsea Public Schools, Claremore NJROTC, Collinsville Public Schools, Cushing High School, Deer Creek Public Schools, Dove Schools of Oklahoma, Durant Public Schools, East Central University, ECHO Homeschool Extension, Elmore City Pernell Public Schools, Enid Public Schools, FIRST, Grandfield Public Schools, Great Plains Technology, Grove High School, Ketchum High School, Kingfisher Public Schools, KISS Institute for Practical Robotics, Lawton High School, Lexington High School, McAlester Public School, Mid-Del Technology Center, Moore Norman Technology Center, Mustang High School, Norman Public Schools, Oilton Public Schools, Oklahoma CareerTech Foundation, Oklahoma Engineering Foundation, Inc., Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics Foundation, Oklahoma Science & Engineering Foundation First Lego League, Oklahoma State University Speedfest, Oklahoma State University (Tulsa) Girls in Aviation Day, Paoli Public Schools, Pauls Valley High School, Pawhuska Schools, Piedmont Public Schools, Ponca City Regional Airport, Port of Muskogee, Pryor Public Schools, Putnam City Schools (North), Redeemed Flying Corps, Rose State College, Route 66 Flight School, Sallisaw Public Schools, Seminole High School, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Southern Tech, STARBASE Oklahoma, Inc., Stillwater Public Schools, Stroud Public Schools, Tahlequah High School, Terra Verde Discovery School, Tri County Tech, True Sky Credit Union Foundation/Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, Tulsa Community WorkAdvance, Tupelo High School, Tuttle High School, Union Public Schools, University of Oklahoma, Washington Public Schools, Watts Public Schools, Weatherford Public Schools, Wright City Public Schools, Wyandotte Public Schools, and Wynnewood High School.