April 15, 1953, is a date in history without much fanfare but significant nonetheless. It was the last time the United States lost a ground soldier due to an enemy air attack. This is truly remarkable, especially considering all of the wars and battles this country has fought in since then. The reason for the extraordinary achievement is our air superiority — we have owned the skies for almost six decades.
This momentous accomplishment didn't happen by accident. It happened because of the outstanding pilots in our armed services and also the vastly superior aircraft produced by the U.S. aerospace and defense industry. American pilots, aircraft and the workforce that produce these aircraft are the best in the world because of an industry that prides itself on innovation, knowledge and skills.
This is National Aerospace Week. Across the nation, more than 1 million people are employed in the aerospace and defense industry. In Oklahoma, aerospace and defense is responsible for 144,000 direct and indirect jobs. This is one of the state's leading economic engines, generating an annual economic output of $12.4 billion (10 percent of the state's total) and a payroll of $5 billion with salaries averaging about $56,000, almost twice the average salary in Oklahoma. Aerospace is Oklahoma's top export, with sales of more than $500 million annually.
Oklahoma is one of the seven centers in the world for the maintenance and repair of aircraft. Tinker Air Force Base and the American Airlines Maintenance and Engineering Base in Tulsa are the world's largest military and commercial aircraft repair facilities, respectively. With nearly 28,000 employees, Tinker is the state's largest single-site employer. Oklahoma City also is home to the FAA's Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, the nerve center of the nation's aviation system.