Excitement filled the air Friday morning as people gathered for a ceremony to celebrate the completed expansion of the runway at Jones Memorial Airport in Bristow. The expansion is significant for Bristow and surrounding areas as it makes traveling more convenient for businesses. Senior Senator Jim Inhofe’s plane was the first to land on the runway, flying a red, white, and blue Grumman American AA-5. The Bristow High School Choir kicked things off by singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” and Boy Scout Troop 571 presented the colors.
In the good-sized crowd was an array of city and state leaders who were present to show support or to speak enlightening words about Bristow and Oklahoma. Creek County’s Commissioners Lane Whitehouse and Leon Warner, and Sheriff Bret Bowling and Deputies were in attendance as well as representatives from the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and Oklahoma Department of Transportation. Bristow Mayor Rick Pinson declared, “Bristow is open for business…we are adding economic power and prosperity to Oklahoma…we are ready for any challenge ahead…we are just getting started!”
The event’s emcee Albert “Kell” Kelly introduced Senator Inhofe to the podium, recognizing his dedication to aerospace and our country for a lifetime. Senator Inhofe relayed a story about getting the USS Batfish to Oklahoma, a process that started in 1969. He recalled breaking ground at the Bristow Airport two years prior, for the runway expansion, and how landing on the runway used to be “rough.” He said, “We are getting more industry here because you are friendly people.”
Vic Bird, Director of Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission told the crowd the expansion is “truly exceptional” and “You should be very proud…only the sky is your limit, Bristow!” Oklahoma Commerce Secretary Sean Kouplen declared, “Oklahoma’s turning point is happening as we speak. One hundred and fifteen new companies are looking at coming to Oklahoma. In Oklahoma, we value every business. He ended by sharing a Nelson Henderson quote, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”
Bump Grant, Consolidated Turbine Specialists CEO, and Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall both spoke of Oklahomans…how we work together and work hard. House Speaker McCall went on to thank everyone who made the expansion happen.
Representative Kyle Hilbert encouraged the audience to look at the bigger, long term picture and to teach the next generation that there is “something up above to be a part of.” Senator James Leewright said with a smile, “I can’t be happier to have this 4,000-foot runway in my hometown.” As chairman of Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee he said Oklahoma has a “healthy climate” for economic development.
Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell recalled recently meeting a Route 66 group from Czechoslovakia who, upon being freed from communism, wanted to travel the “Mother Road.” To them, Route 66 symbolizes freedom as they travel the road through our hometowns. With his contagious energy, he declared, “Oklahoma is open for business!”
Law enforcement officers and veterans were honored with individual rounds of applause and people were asked to take souvenirs ranging from hand-sanitizer to baseball caps.
The runway expansion was a several-year process, which started in 2007. After an environmental study and an aviation forecast for the airport, the project was added to the Aeronautics Commission’s Airport Construction Program and grants were approved in 2018. This $3.9 million project was a partnership between state, city, and federal governments as safety and standards were lacking. An investment of $3.4 million by the Federal Aviation Administration made this project possible. It is anticipated that the economic growth could be $10 million within the next ten years as Bristow is able to make it more convenient and safer for business owners to travel. Pete Pittinger, a twenty-year employee of the airport and a pilot himself, told Sapulpa Times this renovation was needed as the runway was “dilapidated.” In the coming days, Principal Chief David Hill Muscogee (Creek) Nation will be upgrading a road that leads to the airport.
Although the cloudy skies hampered the scheduled skydivers from making their appearance, it did not dampen the crowd’s spirit. Everyone present was excited for the future of Oklahoma as we position our community to welcome economic growth.