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A look at the history of airports in Missoula

MSO Airport History
Posted at 12:48 PM, Jun 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-24 14:48:51-04

MISSOULA – The new terminal at the Missoula airport is designed for the present and the future, but airports have a long local history in the city.

The first landing strip in Missoula was laid out in 1923 south of the University of Montana and it began a new era in aviation for the Garden City.

An additional airstrip was built on the land that’s now Sentinel High school in 1927 and would become Missoula’s first true airport. The original Garden City airport was renamed Hale Field in 1935 and operated until it closed in 1954.

It was gradually replaced by the Missoula County Airport which opened in 1941 after President Roosevelt authorized the funds to build it. When it opened, it boasted one of the longest runways in the region and plenty of room for future growth. It was renamed Johnson Bell field on Memorial Day in 1968 after two of Missoula's heralded aviation pioneers — Harry Bell and Bob Johnson.

There have been many upgrades over the years including a new control tower that’s one of the tallest ones in the Pacific Northwest and the tallest in Montana. Missoula International Airport was officially renamed Missoula Montana Airport last September.

The airport is also home to the Museum of Mountain Flying which has a mission to preserve for future generations, the legends, lore and historical legacy of pilots and other individuals whose pioneering aviation exploits helped bring America’s Rocky Mountain West into the Air Age.