Oklahoma’s State Director of Aeronautics, Victor Bird, has retired.
During his 18-year tenure with the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, Bird was known throughout the state — and the nation — as a leading advocate for aviation.
As the top aviation official in the state, Bird emphasized promotion of the aerospace industry, one of the state’s largest industries and top employers; oversaw critical planning and development for the state’s air transportation system, upgrading as many of the state’s 49 regional business airports as possible to be jet-capable; and encouraged public-private partnerships to promote the aerospace industry. Under his leadership, the commission has invested $71 million in state funds and directed $189 million in federal funds into airport infrastructure statewide.
Bird’s career in state government started in the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office under Mike Turpen in 1983. He subsequently served at Oklahoma State University, the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, and again in the Attorney General’s office under two different attorneys general.
Bird earned his law and bachelor’s degree from the University of Tulsa, leading to him to a career in law within the public sector. It was this legal background and his knowledge of state government that ultimately led him to the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission as director in 2002. Although he was a newcomer to aviation and aerospace, he saw the amazing opportunities to help foster and grow the industry and immediately put his knowledge and connections within state government to work.
“Congratulations to my longtime friend, Vic Bird, on retirement after 18 years of service as director of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission,” said U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.). “As the longest serving director in Oklahoma history, he has been a tireless advocate for aviation and aerospace. His efforts have resulted in pro-aviation legislation here in Oklahoma, growing its annual economic impact to $44 billion that has resulted in tens of thousands of jobs. He has championed general aviation, supporting pilots and airport investments across the state. His tenure as director has been marked with distinction from his peers and professional firsts. He is the first and only Oklahoman to serve as chairman of the National Association of State Aviation Officials in its 90 year history. He is also the first and only non-elected public official to receive the Joseph B. “Doc” Hartranft Jr. Award from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). I am proud of his service to Oklahoma and the aviation community as whole. Thank you, Vic.”
Highlights of Bird’s tenure include formation of the Governor’s Aerospace Task Force in 2004, which resulted in several recommendations to ensure the viability and growth of the state’s aerospace industry. One of those recommendations that Bird was instrumental in bringing to fruition was the Legislature’s creation of Engineer Tax Credits for Aerospace, which provides tax credits to engineers that go to work in aerospace and the aerospace companies that hire them.
Bird also championed a sales tax exemption on purchases of products and services from the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) sector of the aerospace industry. Up to 80% of aerospace companies in Oklahoma are engaged in MRO and this provided them a critical competitive advantage.
Other legislative successes include the Aerospace Development Act of 2008, which transferred two key aerospace programs, the Center for Aerospace Supplier Quality and the Oklahoma Aerospace Institute, to OAC. These programs evolved into the very successful Aerospace Commerce Economic Services (ACES) program now operated by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. The Aircraft Pilot and Passenger Protection Act, which became law in 2010, was also accomplished under Bird’s watch and ensured that public-use airports and military airports were provided legal protections from encroaching development. It was this accomplishment that led to Bird receiving AOPA’s coveted Hartranft Award.
In 2010, Bird was elected chair of the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) as the first Oklahoman to ever hold the post, and he has been the long serving co-chair of NASAO’s Legislative Committee.