The businessman cleared for takeoff

For Chicago native Eric Hinton, Oklahoma’s feeling first class.
Eric Hinton smiling in front of a plane.

Eric Hinton is an aerospace professional, father, and husband who calls Goldsby, Oklahoma home. After moving to Oklahoma for work, Eric and his family have settled sweetly into their flyover lives. He joined us to chat about why his life and career are soaring thanks to Oklahoma’s aerospace industry.

You’ve had quite the journey to end up in Oklahoma. Tell us a little about your life here. 

My wife Kili and our three-year-old son Koah live in Goldsby, just south of Norman. We actually moved here the week of Thanksgiving in 2020, which was an adventure. It was the middle of the pandemic and we had just built our dream house in Connecticut when I was presented with the opportunity to relocate to Oklahoma City for work. My wife and I came down on a house hunting trip, which was her first time ever in Oklahoma. We probably looked at over 70 houses, but we kept coming back to our current house in Goldsby. Pretty soon, we were road tripping to Oklahoma with our son, who at the time was only three months old, and our Vizsla dog, Dallas.

Now that we’re settled in, our life is a whirlwind of work and play. My son keeps us busy with all his activities, and we try to find time as a family to explore OKC, try out new restaurants, and get involved in community happenings. Integrating into the Oklahoma community has happened effortlessly, which I think is a testament to the friendly vibe that sets this place apart.

As for what I do for work, I’m the General Manager of Operations at Pratt & Whitney Oklahoma City, where my team is responsible for delivering combat-ready propulsion systems for military aircraft. We partner with Tinker Air Force Base to maintain, overhaul, and repair military engines for the F-35, C-17, F-22, F-15, F-16, B-52, and E-3 AWACS. This past year, my job has also involved leading the new campus project for Pratt & Whitney Oklahoma City. We’re building a new facility to consolidate five of our existing sites into one. This is a massive project and unlike anything I’ve done in my career thus far, but it’s been very fulfilling and exciting to watch the Oklahoma City team rally around this new milestone. 

The aerospace industry is booming in Oklahoma. What excites you most about working in it? 

Since moving to Oklahoma, I’ve been captivated by the energy surrounding the aerospace industry. It’s truly unlike anywhere else I’ve lived. Watching the way the community and state has rallied around this industry is fascinating. 
In the early 2000s, Pratt & Whitney had just a handful of employees in Oklahoma City, but today we have over 500 full-time employees supporting our military engines business. With our new campus project underway and the recent TF33 sustainment contract announcement, we anticipate even more growth in coming years. Now take that rapid expansion and extrapolate it across an entire industry. I think when we look back at Oklahoma’s aerospace industry in just five to ten years, the growth will be astounding.

You’ve lived all over the country. How has life in Oklahoma compared?

I’m originally from Chicago. Since then, I’ve lived in eight different states. Personally, I like that Oklahoma has all four seasons. That’s not something you get in every state. Oklahoma City also has a nice art and theater scene. We loved being able to catch Hamilton while it was at Civic Center Music Hall downtown.

I think it’s all about your perspective. I still know folks back in Chicago that would tell you there’s not much to do or see there, but it’s a major city. Oklahoma City is a vibrant city. You just need to put yourself out there to see what it has to offer.

You’re a proud dad of one. What kinds of things do you do as a family? 

Raising our son here, we appreciate the good values and solid character of people. Koah [Eric’s son] keeps us on our toes. It’s important to me and my wife that he be exposed to different cultures and people, so right now he attends a bilingual daycare where he is learning both English and Spanish. He’s in tae kwon do, and he recently completed swimming lessons too. In our free time, we like to spend time at home making pizzas in our backyard or venturing downtown to Scissortail Park on a nice day.

You mentioned you like exploring Oklahoma City in your free time. What have been some of your favorite discoveries? 

A few of our favorite spots have been the Myriad Botanical Gardens, Scissortail Park, and the Oklahoma City Zoo. My wife and I also like to try new restaurants and go to shows at Bricktown Comedy Club. Sometimes on the weekends, we’ll grab brunch as a family at a spot like Hatch or Neighborhood Jam. Last year, I threw my wife a birthday party at Vast at the Devon Tower, and lots of our out-of-town friends and family came in to surprise her. That was a really cool experience to share with them. 

You’ve been an Okie for a few years now. What do you think people get wrong about life in Oklahoma? 

I think the biggest misconception people have about Oklahoma is that it is a rural state with no urban offerings. You’ve got Oklahoma City and Tulsa here, and I think I read that Oklahoma City is one of the fastest growing cities in America. I can definitely see that. 

I see Oklahoma City as a booming metropolis, and there’s a lot going on here, such as festivals, concerts, and nightlife. When we have out-of-town visitors come for work, they’re always surprised to see how big the city is and everything it has to offer. States are only as much as you make them. You can find the good or bad anywhere you live, but it’s all about your perspective. Don’t live in a bubble and get out there and try something new. 

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