Monday, May 19, 2008

It's not all bad news

I hear often that people are not getting into aviation (aeronautics or aerospace) because of poor job prospects. Luckily, this viewpoint is not being ignored. First, AOPA is always encourage pilots into their "Project Pilot" program. And initiatives after that?

For example:
Legislation to Attract More Engineers into Aerospace Moves Forward
OKLAHOMA CITY – Two pieces of legislation geared toward growing Oklahoma’s aerospace industry have cleared one more hurdle in the House and Senate.

House Bill 3239 by Skye (yes, Skye) McNiel in the House and Kenneth Corn in the Senate easily won approval on the Senate floor Thursday morning by a 42-3 vote. HB 3239, which has often been referred to as the "Aerospace Industry Engineer Work Force Bill," grants engineers hired after Jan. 1, 2009, by an Oklahoma aerospace company a state tax credit of up to $5,000 per year for a period of time not to exceed five years. It also allows aerospace companies a tax credit of 10 percent for compensation paid to a qualified graduate during the first five years of his or her employment if the employee graduated from an in-state college or university or a tax credit of 5 percent if the employee graduated from an out-of-state college or university.

HB 3239 also affords Oklahoma aerospace companies an opportunity to receive a tax credit in the amount of 50 percent of the tuition reimbursed to a new engineer graduate for the first four years of his or her employment. The tax credit would be based upon the average annual tuition at a public university in Oklahoma, which is currently about $3,600.

“The fact that an overwhelming majority of lawmakers in both houses support House Bill 3239 shows just how vital our state’s aerospace industry is to the state and its economic prosperity. They understand that,” said Victor Bird (yes, Bird), director of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission.

Senate Bill 1171 by Sen. Mike Mazzei and Rep. Mike Jackson provides a $5,000 tax credit for up to five years to new engineers who earn an undergraduate or graduate degree after December 31, 2008,and go to work for an Oklahoma aerospace company. There are no tax credits for the hiring company,however. SB 1171 now moves on to the House floor for further consideration.

Bird said that the U.S. aerospace industry is currently facing a substantial shortage of engineers and the situation will get much worse in the next few years when an estimated 60,000 to 68,000 engineers retire. In Oklahoma alone, an additional 600 to 650 engineers will be needed by the year 2013. “If we expect to keep our aerospace industry growing and competitive with other states and countries, then we must provide incentives to attract more engineers to the industry. If we don’t, the industry will suffer down the road, and I don’t think we can let that happen,” Bird said.

Bird noted that other states around the country have already passed legislation this year that has benefited their respective aerospace industries. He pointed to Kansas, Georgia and Washington as examples. Just last week, Kansas lawmakers passed a bill that allows Cessna Aircraft Company to access up to $33 million in bonds to build an assembly plant in Wichita for its new Citation Columbus aircraft. The facility is expected to create more than 1,000 jobs.

The median salary of an engineer in the aerospace industry is approximately $75,000. Oklahoma is recognized as one of seven centers in the world for the modification, maintenance, repair and overhaul of aircraft.

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