Airports in Oklahoma are only going up.

Oklahoma’s travels options are soaring with upgrades and additional routes at the state’s two major airfields – Tulsa International Airport and Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers World Airport.

Will Rogers needs more airline gates and has launched a $89 million expansion as animated renderings, engineering and other plans are finalized by the airport trust, says Karen Carney, the airport’s public information and marketing manager.

Flying Private

Billionaires and rock stars aren’t the only folks who need private planes or rented jets.

From medical emergencies to once-in-a-lifetime indulgences, private use of an aircraft – and the personnel to fly and service it – can be as easy as contacting a local airport to explore options.

“For those without the ability to fly their own or a rented aircraft, there are many options for aircraft charter or member services,” says Alex Higgins, Tulsa Airport Authority’s deputy director of marketing and air service development. “Tulsa International’s six fixed-base operators (FBOs) and the two FBOs at R.L. Jones Jr. Airport each offer a unique product to … travelers looking for … schedule flexibility and first-class comfort.”

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Those clamoring for space include low-cost Frontier Airlines, based in Denver and returning to OKC, and Alaska Airlines, a new carrier to the city. Recently added nonstop routes include Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, Charlotte and Reagan Washington National, the last of which has been long-sought by Oklahoma Citians.

Carney says the expansion gives a good first impression of Oklahoma, meets the community’s needs and reflects “all the many good things happening in the metro area.”

She adds that airlines offering additional routes need more gates. One flex gate accommodates various operations; with anticipated growth, four new gates – with the ability to add more – are in expansion plans. Competition among airports to entice carriers for the same routes means big carriers want to know a city can support the market with continuing growth, improved infrastructure and new businesses.

OKC’s expansion falls under Transportation Security Administration guidelines for airport design, a result of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. There will be a single, streamlined, centralized check point to transform the existing space, which was never intended for doffing shoes and standing in long lines.

“Right now, there isn’t a good space for meeting and greeting and no room to sit when you wait for your passengers,” Carney says. “The expansion turns the existing checkpoints into comfortable waiting areas. Previous expansions were mostly aesthetic updates to the 1967-built terminal and eliminated an observation tower once open to the public.

“The new updates include a higher level observation area for looking onto the airfield and the concourse. This way, someone with or without a ticket to travel can watch planes and get excited about aviation.”

Tulsa International has also added nonstop flights the past two years, including Charlotte, N.C., and Orlando, Florida. In October, American Airlines announced it would resume daily nonstops to Los Angeles in April.

In the past seven years, Tulsa International has spent more than $100 million in renovations, including “complete reconstruction of our two concourses [and the] overhaul of our concession program,” says Alexis Higgins, deputy director of marketing and air service development for the Tulsa Airport Authority. “Passengers enjoy expanded gate areas, new seating with [3,600] integrated power outlets, added restrooms, business centers and an entirely new shopping and dining experience.

“Demand created the need for 500 additional parking spaces and the addition of a deck to the garage … across from baggage claim, which offers three circulation hubs with elevators and stairs and canopies that cover the walkway leading to the terminal.”

Under construction, Higgins says, are more parking canopies to the garage roof and an $18 million project in the terminal’s central hall to create a corridor with skylights, clerestory windows and a new roof. Upcoming, she says, are renovated restrooms outside secured areas and repositioned counters to open space in the ticketing lobby.

1. Wiley Post (Bethany)

Will Rogers Airport

Also owned by the city of Oklahoma City, Wiley Post provides relief for Will Rogers World Airport, Carney says. The facility is a vibrant center for corporate and business aviation with three paved runways and about 70,000 annual operations. It offers corporate jet maintenance and repair, and extensive hangar facilities.

2. Clarence E. Page Municipal (OKC)

Since opening in 1941, city-owned Page Municipal continues as a general aviation airport with two paved runways and full facilities for aviation gasoline and jet fuel, says Karen Carney, public information and marketing manager for OKC airports. The wartime airfield was built for basic flight training in the U.S. Army Air Forces; today, it serves an average of about 70 aircraft operations per day and has community events. It hosted the World Aerobatic Championship in 1996.

3. Max Westheimer (Norman)

Owned and operated by the University of Oklahoma, this airport has more than 50,000 takeoffs and landings per year, according to its website. It can handle executive jets and supports law-enforcement agencies, including the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. In addition to a staffed control tower, the facility has an Automated Weather Observation Station with storm-detection capabilities. The airport, its support infrastructure and community activities have an estimated $34.7 million yearly impact on the economy. About 20,000 visitors arrive annually in the state via Westheimer Airport.

4. Lawton-Fort Sill Regional

Built in 1950, Southwest Oklahoma’s main airport has military and commercial aviation with an average of 75-plus daily flights, according the airport’s website. Owned by the city of Lawton, the airport is used by both Fort Sill and Sheppard Air Force Base, across the Red River near Wichita Falls. Civilian travelers can use American Eagle and Allegiant Air flights to some destinations in the western United States.

5. Guthrie-Edmond Regional

Director Schellon Stanley says this general aviation airport, 30 miles north of downtown OKC in Guthrie, accommodates aircraft from business jets to single-engine propeller planes. With quick access to Interstate 35, the airport “provides a convenient alternative to the more-congested airports in Oklahoma City for no-hassle business and private travel,” Stanley says. Activities include a summer aviation program for children, airport tours, an annual pancake Breakfast and Fly-In, a Santa Fly-In and its signature event of the year – the Annual Fly-In Community Day.

6. Okmulgee Regional

Also part of the Tulsa Airport Authority, this general aviation field accommodates many flyers from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, which has its headquarters in Okmulgee. The nearly mile-long runway can handle dual-tandem aircraft up to 300,000 pounds.

7. R.L. Jones Jr. (Jenks)

Commonly called Riverside Airport, it provides relief to Tulsa International. Its website says the facility, part of the Tulsa Airport Authority, has 350 employees. It is ranked as the sixth busiest airport in the state and one of the 100 busiest airports nationally with more than 140,000 takeoffs and landings each year. Flight schools at R.L. Jones include those run by the Spartan College of Aeronautics and Tulsa Community College.

Built as a U.S. Ground Air Support Base, Muskogee-Davis has provided military and civilian services since 1942, spokeswoman Kimbra Scott says. Released to the city of Muskogee in 1967, the airport accommodates general aviation and generates $7.7 million in annual economic impact to the region, airport representative Drew Saffell says. More than 12,000 aircraft – including the occasional Lockheed C-5A military transport – utilize the three runways. More than 5,000 out-of-state visitors arrive in Oklahoma via this airport every year.