There's a dichotomy of signals coming out of the nation's
On the one hand airline companies are decrying their financial
losses saying they can't afford to buy new airplanes and continue
their same level of service.
This means that the nation's airplane builders can't sell
airplanes. Not only are the United States carriers cutting back
on their orders, but Airbus Industrie _ a European consortium _
is taking a big chunk of what orders there are.
Government reports, however, show that the airline travel will
continue to grow at least for the next decade.
The Federal Aviation Administration predicts that air
passenger traffic will double within the next 10 years while the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration is sinking more
money into research designed to strengthen America's aviation
As examples of this growth, passenger enplanements from both
Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport and Tulsa International
Airport were at record levels in 1994 and have been up the first
two months of this year.
Until the mid-1980s, aviation meant "made in America." The
United States was the world's manufacturing leader in virtually
all segments of the aerospace industry, except for space
exploration, which was lead by the Soviet Union.
The General Aviation Recovery Act of 1994 gave the nation's
small airplane makers repose from frivolous lawsuits and limited
liability to 18 years after manufacture. That will become a major
boost for these companies. In fact, Cessna Aircraft Co. of
Wichita has started construction on a plant in Independence,
Kan., to resume making single-engine airplanes.
Oklahoma workers and parts manufacturers are expected to be
called upon in this effort to rebuild a company.
But it's not just the small airplanes where Oklahoma is
expected to play a role in the recovery of the nation's aviation
Demand for jet transport planes is expected to grow to $600
billion per year by 2005, according to projections by NASA, which
has dedicated $860 million annually to aeronautics research and
development. This program is designed to recapture the market
share lost by United States manufacturers in recent years.
Oklahoma also could benefit from a state-level aviation and
high technology research program, proposed by the Oklahoma
Aeronautics Commission, tapping into some of these research
"To reach for the high ground in high-technology aeronautical
research, Oklahoma needs to establish a coordinated effort of
government, academia and business," said Dana Batey, aeronautics
director. "The goal of this effort would be to target
high-technology research opportunities and identify or develop
the instate capability to conduct and compete for these research
A state program, in cooperation with the federal agencies,
would be similar to the national Cooperative Highway Research
Program and the Transit Cooperative Research Program created by
the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991,
These research programs receive a combined $8 million annually
from highway and transit trust funds.
"Preliminary investigation reveals that aviation could also
adopt a cooperative research for solving state and local
problems," Batey said. "The proven success of (these highway
programs) could be transferred to aviation through institutional
mechanisms similar to those used by highways."
Oklahoma would not develop its research program in isolation,
but rather would work with other states to encourage more federal
research, not only into aviation manufacture but also into
Already the FAA and NASA spend a combined $1.1 billion
annually on aeronautics-related research, primarily air traffic
control, airframes, propulsion, aero medicine and pavements for
heavy aircraft, Batey said. …