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SPOTLIGHT
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A tradition of aviation excellence

Published on -8/8/2012, 9:36 AM

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Kansas has a long and remarkable history of supporting the world's aviation industry. More than 90 years ago, innovators converged on an oil center called Wichita with dreams of building airplanes for a budding industry.

From Kansas son Clyde Cessna, a car salesman who found his calling during a visit to a "flying circus" at age 32, to Florida's Emil "Matty" Laird, who turned his bicycle into a glider at age 15, pioneers from around the country migrated to Wichita -- a city that would soon become the birthplace of the companies known today as Hawker Beechcraft, Cessna and Bombardier  Learjet.

Wichitans are proud of their heritage, and are right to be proud. According to the Kansas Aviation Museum, Kansas aviation workers have supplied 75 percent of all general aviation aircraft since the Wright Brother's first flight at Kitty Hawk. This pioneering spirit continues today as workers in the "Air Capital of the World" are designing and building the next generation of general aviation and military aircraft to be flown around the globe.

Today, roughly 32,000 Kansans support more than 450 aerospace companies and contribute more than $7 billion to our state's economy each year. General aviation is our largest industry and generates nearly $2.9 billion annually in exports from our state. Exports are vital to Kansas' economy and Kansas jobs -- our state must continue to build quality products in order to stay competitive in the global marketplace.

Kansas is not only a leader in aircraft manufacturing. Our state also supplies the workforce the aviation industry needs through education and training facilities like the National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT) and Wichita State University. Wichita also boasts the WSU-based National Institute for Aviation Research, which tests aircraft components for structural safety. These facilities make Wichita a hub for future generations of aviation manufacturers and engineers -- and help solidify Kansas' aerospace reputation around the world.

The fact is, Kansas builds world-class airplanes and builds them well. The quality of our products and suppliers keeps global aviation manufacturers like Airbus -- the largest export customer of the U.S. aerospace industry -- coming back. A decade ago, Airbus built its first U.S.-based engineering center in Wichita because the talent pool of aviation experts is among the richest in the world. Today, their employment is growing, and Airbus' payroll exceeds $34 million a year in Kansas.

Airbus recently delivered some good news: not only does it intend to continue its partnership with Kansas, but it will expand its purchase of American-made components and services. Since 1990, Airbus has spent $127 billion with U.S. suppliers -- $12 billion in 2011 alone. Now the company is set to double its American investment over the next 10 years.

Airbus already contracts with many Kansas companies including Spirit Aerosystems in Wichita, Alcoa in Hutchinson, B/E Aerospace Interiors in Lenexa and Honeywell in Olathe. We must make certain that as Airbus looks to contract with new U.S. suppliers, it looks to Kansas companies.

To meet that goal, Airbus Americas Chairman Allan McArtor and I have announced a partnership between Airbus and Kansas suppliers aimed at growing the aviation industry in Kansas through more contracts with Airbus. This week I am co-hosting Kansas' first-ever Airbus Air Capital Supplier Summit at NCAT in Wichita. The conference will help facilitate more business between Kansas companies and Airbus, and will enable more than 200 representatives from around the state to meet one-on-one with representatives from Airbus and other suppliers.

Wichita is the only place in the world that offers 90-years of experience in aviation manufacturing, access to the world's largest supplier base, and aircraft workers and training second to none. It's no wonder global aviation manufacturers like Airbus are eager to tap into the talents of Kansans. The suppliers' summit brings together the high-skilled workers, innovations and tradition of aviation excellence that continue to define Wichita as the "Air Capital of the World."

Sen. Jerry Moran is a Republican representing Kansas in the U.S. Senate.

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