Old Missoula

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3 Missoula Air Fields

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The article below is taken from the Centennial Edition of the Missoulian-Sentinel in 1960:


Airplane Landing Field Laid Out In Southeast Missoula in 1923

The first airplane landing field in Missoula was laid out on a direct line and about midway between the main University building and the old Country clubhouse* in May 1923.

Lime for markings was donated by the Interstate Lumber Co. and placed by Lon Brennan, early pilot.

It was from this first field that A. W. Stephenson took many Missoula people on their first plane rides. One of these trips was that of the Rev. H. S. Gateley and J. M. Keith who flew to Kalispell and back without mishap. Dr. C. H. Clapp, president of Montana State University, flew over Mount Jumbo and Bonner on his first ride, starting and landing at the field.

In 1927, 80 acres of land east of the county fairgrounds were secured for a landing field. Walter Beck, Missoula’s first aviator, obtained a 60 day option on the land from J. L. Humble. The strip was L-shaped and H. O. Bell, first president of the local chapter of the National Aeronautical Association, was instrumental in acquiring it. The Chamber of Commerce and both the Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs recommended that the field be purchased.

The field served Missoula until 1954 when the land was earmarked as a place for a high school building. From 1929 to the 1940s the airport, known as Hale Field, became known nationally as the seat of aerial fire control – the smoke jumping and aerial supply.

Hale Field was named for R. J. Hale May 3, 1935, in recognition of his contributions in the beginnings of local aviation and as thanks for sacrifices in Missoula air development.

In 1940 the Missoula County Airport was constructed at a cost of more than a million dollars. The Works Progress Administration project was located northwest of the city on 1,120 acres of land. It was rated a Class 4 airport by the Civil Aeronautics Administration because it had runways 4,500 feet or more in length and would accommodate safely the largest and fastest civil and military aircraft in use. Missoula’s runways included one 200 feet wide and 7,050 feet long, the longest in the CAA program. A second Missoula runway was constructed to be 150 feet by 5,900 feet and a third 150 by 6,411 feet.


*This would have been what is now the U of M golf course. This was Missoula’s original Country Club.  So it can be said Missoula has had 3 separate landing fields.