Tulsa International Airport may have a claim to fame no other civilian airport in the country can match.
TIA may be the military touch-and-go capital of America. The airport gets a lot of visits from large military airplanes which come to Tulsa to practice landings and takeoffs, called touch-and-goes.
The airport has had two such visitors just in the last week. On Tuesday, a U.S. Air Force AWACS E-3 Sentry jet came to town to perform several touch-and-goes. Last week it was a U.S. Navy E-6B doing the same thing.
The crews who fly the military jets have to perform a minimum number of landings and takeoffs every month in order to "stay current" with their skills honed to a fine edge. When the jets fly long training missions for the personnel who operate the sophisticated electronics on board, the flight crews look for an airport where they can do several touch-and-goes as quickly as possible.
Tulsa is a strong candidate because it has a 10,000-foot runway and its airspace is uncrowded. There's no way to know for sure if it's at the top of the list, because the military isn't saying.
Alexis Higgins, deputy director for the Tulsa Airport Authority, said the Air Force and the Navy don't bother talking to the airport about the training. The only communication is the routine conversations when the crews of the specific jets talk to ground controllers during the touch-and-goes.
While there may not be any official recognition, the touch-and-goes are popular among people in the Tulsa area who love aviation.
"It's a free airshow," Higgins said with a laugh.
The jet that came to Tulsa on Tuesday was an E-3 AWACS, which stands for Airborne Warning and Control System. The E-3 is based on the Boeing 707 airframe.
The Navy E-6B that visited last week is also based on the 707.
The most mysterious military jet to visit TIA is the so-called Nightwatch.
The Nightwatch, a Boeing 747, is part of the Pentagon's system for controlling the county's strategic forces in the event of a major attack on the U.S. Because it is a national security asset, the military won't say a word about its operations, adding an air of mystery to its Tulsa visits