Missoula has a rich and fascinating aviation history, dating back to the early 1900’s when the previous airport, Hale Field, was located on the other side of town. Aviation enthusiasts and savvy businessmen at the time recognized the need for a newer and bigger airport with plenty of room to grow, and how such a facility could put Missoula on the map. In 1938, President Roosevelt authorized funding for the construction of the new Missoula County Airport near an undeveloped prairie northwest of Missoula. Upon its completion in 1941, the 1300 acre airfield boasted some of the longest runways in the region, capable of handling just about any aircraft in operation at the time. The first passenger terminal was constructed in the mid-1950’s, and in 1961, a new air traffic control tower began providing ATC services to aircraft flying in and out of the Missoula valley. In 1968, the Missoula County Airport was officially christened “Johnson-Bell Field”, a tribute to local aviator Bob Johnson, and Missoula businessman Harry Bell, two of the early pioneers who were instrumental in bringing the new airport to Western Montana.
Today, Missoula International Airport has grown into the facility these two men envisioned all those decades ago. Each day, thousands of people from all over the US and abroad pass through our doors, mail and cargo planes transport letters and packages to and from destinations all over the world, and gleaming corporate jets arrive every day carrying business leaders and entrepreneurs who recognize Missoula to be an exceptional place in which to live, work, and raise their families.
Missoula International Airport is also the home to the largest aerial fire fighting depot in the U.S., as well as being a base of operations for the legendary “Smokejumpers”. Each summer, the airport buzzes with activity as people, planes, and helicopters help battle wildfires throughout the region. None of this would be possible without pilots; Missoula has a long-standing history of being a prominent fixed-wing and helicopter flight training hub. Last, but not least, we invite you to take some time to visit the Museum of Mountain Flying. Located in a spacious new building on the east side of the airport, the Museum chronicles Missoula’s storied aviation history through photographs, artifacts, static displays, and even complete aircraft, including a fully restored Douglas DC-3 that once belonged to Johnson Flying Service.
MSO continues to experience significant growth in passenger statistics. To help accommodate these increasing passenger numbers, the Missoula County Airport Authority has embarked on an ambitious, long-term expansion program. To date, expansion efforts at MSO have yielded increased parking, new taxiways and ramps, advanced lighting and navigation systems, and a new terminal roadway. In 1994, the main passenger terminal was renovated and doubled in size, and in 1998, the Airway Boulevard interchange was completed, providing a direct link from Interstate 90 to the airport.
What does tomorrow hold? In order to provide the best aviation services to travelers, MSO is looking to the future. The most recent Master Plan Update recognizes the potential need for additional services and facilities, including expanded public parking, a larger passenger terminal capable of accommodating additional aircraft, new approach lighting systems and instrument procedures to allow for even better all-weather capabilities, and the preservation of land for both aviation and non-aviation development, as well as a potential third runway when the need arises.
Once again, welcome to Missoula International Airport. We hope you’ll take some time to learn more about the history of our airport, as well as our plans for the future. We would also like to hear from you. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Missoula International Airport
5225 Highway 10 West
Missoula, Montana 59808 | (406) 728-4381