Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Things are flying high at the Will Rogers World Airport. On Wednesday, Frontier Airlines begins serving Oklahoma City with nonstop flights to Denver and Orlando, Florida. Nonstop to San Diego begins April 9. The airline joins six other carriers, providing even more choices for travelers and bringing more people to Oklahoma City.
Will Rogers airport has been preparing for the continual rise in air travel – with demand expected to double by 2035. The airport is planning an $89 million expansion project that will add four new airline gates, a consolidated security checkpoint with more capacity and processing efficiency, meeter/greeter lounges, plans for international screening and increased public circulation. Construction is expected to begin in late spring.
Beyond being a hub for arriving and departing planes, airports like Will Rogers are being recognized as economic drivers. The increase in air travel will require a greater demand for aviation employees and services, including maintenance technicians. Currently, there are nearly 35,000 employees that work for maintenance, repair operations firms in the Oklahoma City area alone. The largest MRO in the metro is the Tinker Air Force Base complex. The second-largest concentration of maintenance, repair and overhaul activity is centered around major commercial air carriers and government aviation activity at Will Rogers World Airport.
In September, the U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded a $2 million public works grant to the Oklahoma City Airport Trust to expand and improve two hangars located at Will Rogers. The hangar expansions will increase capacity and the ability to conduct maintenance, repair and overhaul on newer, larger aircraft.
This summer, SkyWest Airlines became the third MRO firm at Will Rogers by starting construction on a $30 million hangar. The hangar is part of the growing development in Lariat Landing, a designated 1,000 acres at the airport for multi-use business development. The area is designed to attract aviation and aviation-support businesses, as well as hotels, retail and office space.
The Will Rogers World Airport strengthens our economy by connecting our citizens and businesses to markets around the world. It also strengthens our economy at home, by making Oklahoma City attractive and competitive for businesses that operate on a national and global scale.
Cathy O’Connor is president of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.