OKC VeloCity | Aviation industry continues momentum in 2018

Aviation industry continues momentum in 2018

By Marcus Elwell / Economy / July 16, 2018

Maintenance of the KC-46A Pegasus will create 1,350 high-paying jobs for the region. Photo courtesy of the Boeing Company. 

Sometimes the numbers surprise even the most knowledgeable of Oklahoma City insiders: more than 230 aerospace firms employing more than 36,600 workers are located in our metro, producing $4.9 billion in goods and services each year. To say the aerospace industry is big business in Oklahoma City would be putting it mildly.

The biggest names in aerospace have a presence in Oklahoma City and most are growing. Names like Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Electric Aviation, AAR Aircraft Services are doing big business in OKC.

More impressive than the industry’s size seems to be its momentum. 2018 has been a banner year for aerospace here and there are no signs of a slowdown in the region.

One of the biggest projects for the region is the arrival of the new KC-46A Pegasus. The first of the new military aerial refueling and strategic military transport aircraft will be delivered to the Air Force in October.

Tinker Air Force Base will perform the maintenance on the KC-46A and in anticipation of the work a new $400 million maintenance hangar is being constructed on the base’s south side. The work associated with the KC-46A will add 1,350 new jobs to Tinker is expected to have an economic impact of nearly $1 billion in the first decade.

The land where the hanger is being constructed was formerly owned by the Burlington North Santa Fe Railway Co. In 2015, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber worked with Oklahoma County to purchase the land from BNSF. The land was then given to Tinker on a long-term, low cost lease to make way for the construction. 

On the commercial side, SkyWest, a leading regional air service provider, will soon open its 135,000-square-foot, $30 million hanger. Opening in late September near Will Rogers World Airport, it will be one of SkyWest’s largest maintenance facilities and employ 375 total workers.

Kratos Defense & Security Solutions will soon open a 75,000-square-foot production facility to manufacture their defense drones. 

Early this year, Kratos Defense & Security Solutions announced they would be opening a production facility in Oklahoma City. Kratos is the sole supplier of jet-powered, sub-scale target drones to all branches of the U.S. military.

“We are both honored and privileged to be here today in the great state of Oklahoma,” said Eric DeMarco, president and chief executive officer of Kratos. “Kratos is focused on delivering technology and products for greater effectiveness at an affordable cost for our customers and our new facility in Oklahoma City is another step forward in the successful execution of that strategy.”

Kratos is currently in a facility where their focus is on engineering and production planning. However, the company will soon move into a 75,000-square-foot facility to support production. The company expects to employ more than 350 workers when fully up and running. Oklahoma City will be the site for new tactical drone production and excess demand requirements related to target drone production.

From military to drones and commercial aircraft, these projects show the industry’s diversity in Oklahoma City is just as impressive as its size. 

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