MIKE MONRONEY AERONAUTICAL CENTER
The Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center (MMAC) in Oklahoma City provides service and support to the U.S. Department of Transportation in general and in particular, training, logistics, research, and data services for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). MMAC offers a stable employment base with more than five thousand jobs and a weekly influx of approximately 370 trainees in every phase of aviation operations. The annual payroll exceeds $356 million, while the itinerant clientele spend more than $178 million each year on goods and services. Every civilian air traffic controller, flight inspector, and airways technician in the United States has received training at MMAC.
In 1941 Bennett Griffin established the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) Standardization Center in Houston, Texas, initiating standardized training of airplane licensing instructors. Called to active military service in 1942, Griffin began corresponding with Stanley Draper, Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce managing director. They shared a goal of moving the center to Oklahoma City at the end of World War II. Late in 1945 L. E. Shedenhelm, acting director of the standardization center, examined six locations that had expressed an interest in securing the CAA activity. Draper and Fred Jones, the Oklahoma City Aviation Committee chair, led the city's offer of services, which Shedenhelm found more enticing than those of other competing cities. The move from Houston to Oklahoma City began in March 1946, and within two weeks the first class was in session in surplus war assets administration buildings at the former Will Rogers Field. Discharged from active duty, Griffin was appointed as the first director of the CAA academy or "aviation brain center," as he called it.
By 1948 the center occupied all the buildings at Will Rogers Field and sought an additional eighty thousand square feet of warehousing. A new CAA director told Oklahoma City Council members he would recommend relocation unless they provided the needed space. The chamber purchased surplus war assets warehouses in Detroit, Michigan, and arranged for their dismantling and reassembling in Oklahoma City. In 1953 the CAA developed a ten-year plan and asked the city council for cooperation in implementing it. During three years of negotiations the city created the Oklahoma City Airport Trust, investing it with the authority to purchase land, to construct, maintain, and lease buildings, and to issue bonds for financing. The trust agreed to build to suit CAA needs, and the CAA reciprocated by renting the completed facilities.
In 1956 two commercial airliners collided over the Grand Canyon in Arizona, killing all on board both planes. Congressional investigations revealed a need for additional and better trained aviation controllers, inspectors, and technicians. Oklahoma's junior senator, A. S. "Mike" Monroney, chaired the Senate Aviation Committee. He wrote the Federal Aviation Act (1958) creating the Federal Aviation Agency, which replaced the CAA. The Oklahoma City installation became known as the FAA Aeronautical Center and experienced a steady growth in mission, employment, and construction. In 1978, nine years after Monroney retired from the senate, Pres. Jimmy Carter signed a bill renaming the facility the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center. In the mid-1980s the organization began contracting some jobs with private industry. By 1990 there were four thousand FAA employees and ninety contract employees. In 2004 there were thirty-six hundred FAA employees and two thousand contract employees. Following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers in New York City on September 11, 2001, federal legislation created the Transportation Security Administration, which should provide continued impetus for expansion at MMAC.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Academy History," Vertical File, Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center Library, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 17 August 1975, 13 October 1988, and 28 April 1991. Keith Tolman, "Printing Ink and Flyingwires: Oklahoma Journalism and the Promotion of Aviation," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 72 (Spring 1994).
Thomas L. Hedglen
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