As the nation's aviation industry is poised on the threshold
of recovery, changes are being made to the Oklahoma Aeronautics
Commission which may speed up that recovery, at least in this
National aviation leaders have said that education probably is
the key to a recovering industry, something which will be
uppermost in the actions of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission,
according to one newly appointed member.
"I'm the new kid on the block, so I'm going to spend my first
few months learning what we're doing, but aviation education
along with safety probably are the two most important aspects
that we'll consider," said Mike Soper, a Muskogee ophthalmologist
who was appointed in January to replace Cookson publisher Joe
Cunningham. "I know that one of the things that we'll be doing is
promoting aviation education through the college level, allowing
students to learn what opportunities are available in aviation.
After all, there's a lot more to aviation than just being a
When Soper was named to the commission, Bill Khourie of Elk
City was named the at-large commissioner, replacing Paul B. Odom
Jr. of Oklahoma City. The commission has representatives from six
districts with one at-large member.
Although he didn't mention it by name, Soper said he'd work to
improve aviation maintenance technology education in the state,
such as Metro Tech's Phase III program designed to teach
maintenance technology on air carrier category airplanes.
Although there are four state-operated vocational-technical
schools and at least one privately owned school in Oklahoma which
offer instruction leading to a powerplant and airframe technician
license, there are no schools in the nation teaching how to
This training also will spill over into the business aircraft
segment, which is one of the most important to the industry,
according to the General Aviation Manufacturers' Association.
While delivery of general aviation aircraft _ any plane not
used for commercial air travel or the military _ dipped to 899
units in 1992, down 11.9 percent from 1,021 in 1991,
manufacturing association officials are optimistic about the
An improving economy, higher profits for United States
corporations, healthy export markets, high customer interest and
an aging general aviation fleet are expected to combine to
improve the industry, according to association President Edward
W. Stimpson and Chairman Robert H. Rau.
Education, not only of the formal type but educating new
members of Congress and the Clinton administration are on the top
of a revitalization plan, said Rau, who also is president of
Parker Bertea Aerospace Group.
Four elements of the plan are enactment of an investment tax
credit, elimination of the luxury tax on airplanes, product
liability reform and modernization and expansion of the aviation
It is the fourth element where the Oklahoma Aeronautics
Commission fits into the picture.
Improving the state's aviation infrastructure through
education and safety will be key to bringing new jobs here, Soper
"Oklahoma needs more high paying, quality blue-collar jobs,
and I feel that aviation is an industry which can supply this,"
he said. "For the first couple of months, I'll be on the learning
curve to determine just how we operate and what we do, so for now
I can't say what our agenda will be. But within a few months, I
expect to be working to improve education and safety in this
As a recreation flyer, Soper is an instrument-qualified
multiengine pilot. He said he has seen a lot of accidents which
could have been prevented with "some education and a lot more
common sense. …