Fly Laurel Montana

Laurel Airport History

In 1920 insterest in flying arose in Laurel. Several fields were located near the City of Laurel over a period of years. One of the first airports was situated just south of Laurel which is now the area occupied by the Laurel Industrial Park. Other air fields were situated south of the Yellowstone River; just north of the cemetery; and three miles west of Laurel. The present location, originally a private airport was donated to the City of Laurel in 1956 when the first Airport Commission was formed. The first Airport Commission members were: Dr. D.A. Nottingham, Chairman; L.A. Rathbum, Secretary; A.E. Leuthold, Clay Greening, Joe Nicholas, and Guy Stormont. After Dr. Nottingham's resignation in January 1960, David K. Powers was appointed Chairman and served in that capacity until May 1971. Dr. John H. Smith has been chairman since that time. Wayne Willis was the first Airport Manager, and Jake Stahley succeeded him in 1964.

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In May of 1981 the Laurel Airport Authority was created. The creation of the Authority transferred the responsibility for management and operation of the airport from the City of Laurel to the Laurel Airport Authority. In February of 1983 ownership of the land was transferred from the City of Laurel to the Laurel Airport Authority.

The airport has grown from its original 57 acres and 1300 foot dirt runway, to it's current 170 acres and an airport that has one of the greatest potentials for a general aviation reliever airport in the State of Montana. The first airport improvements started in 1958 when the Airport Commission built a 2850-foot paved runway that is still in use. In 1961, preliminary engineering was started for the first-stage construction of the present facilities. A 53% federal grant was received for land acquisition, dirt work, seeding, fencing, engineering, the access road, and grading. In addition two 10-year loans were received from the Montana Aeronautics Commission.

A Unicom radio was received from the State Aeronautics Commission in 1964 and put into service at the Laurel Police Department. In 1977 the radio was moved to the airport.

In October, 1965, airport plans for the new 4000-foot runway were developed. In 1966, a beacon was installed, and in 1969, a new primary runway was completed along with low-intensity runway lighting (LIRL).

Keith Fitchett of Upperwest Aviation, Inc., Laurel's first fixed base operator, started operations at the Laurel Municipal Airport in November, 1976. Upperwest Aviation offered charter service; private, commercial, and instrument flight training; and certified airframe and powerplant mechanics. An audio visual ground school was also available in conjunction with the flight training. In ???? Northern Skies Aviation, Inc. became the only FBO located at the airport. Several other aviation related businesses are operated out of the Laurel Airport. (See Airport Services web page for details on Services).

Private construction of an eight T-Hangar building was completed in June of 1977. The apron was extended to include more tie-downs, and a partial parallel taxiway and hangar access taxiways were made as part of an airport improvement project in 1980. A turnaround for Runway 4/22 and additional hangar access taxi lanes were constructed in 1983. The parallel taxiway for Runway 4/22 was completed in 1988.

In 1993 HKM Engineering was hired to complete a Masterplan update. By this date all hangar space was leased. Ten new hangars were built by 1994 and the airport was base to 72 aircraft. During this same year the Montana Tradeport Authority provided funding to the Airport Authority through a grant and loan to build a new North-South taxi lane. During 1995 one additional hangar was built.

The Masterplan was completed in 1996 and from then until 2000 the airport acquired 101 acres at a cost of $500,000, bringing the size of the facility to 254 acres. Bids were let to start construction for the new runway and taxiway. The expansion would include extending the runway 240 feet north of the old surface. Completed, the runway would be 5,200 feet long and 75 feet wide. This project was completed in 2001 and included the addition of a new apron and taxiway.

New hangar areas were built and old taxi lanes replaced in 2002. The development of lots for additional hangars allowed for construction of various sizes of storage facilities. The cost of this project was $1,848,000.

Also during 2002 Rocky Mountain College moved their Flight Operations School to the Laurel Airport. Approximately 100 students would participate in the program. Also a second fueling facility was constructed.

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The laurel Airport Authority held a dedication ceremony for the improvements at the Laurel Manicipal Airport on Saturday, June 8. Dedication speakers were Laurel Mayor Bud Johnson, Dr. John Smith, Laurel Airport Authority, John Rabenberg, Aeronautics Board Chairman, keynote speaker Debbie Alke, Aeronautics Administrator, representatives of Montana's congressional delegations and other local authorities.

The runway which was built 240 feet north of the old runway, expanded from 3,800 feet to 5,200 feet widened from 50 feet to 75 feet. The $5.3 million project was paid with 90 percent federal grant money with the remaining 10 percent split between state and local resources.

The day included young eagle rides, breakfast, lunch and a steak fry and hangar dance at Northern Skies Aviation, congratulations to the city of Laurel for making Laurel Municipal one the the busiest general aviation airports in Montana.

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