Traveling Montana’s Big Skies
If you ask us, Montana is the place to be—but if you decide to venture outside of Big Sky Country or plan to travel back and forth, there are a number of conveniently located airports in Montana for both public and private aircraft.
Many people are familiar with Montana’s larger airports including Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN), Billings-Logan International Airport (BIL), Missoula International Airport (MSO), Glacier International Airport (FCA), and Great Falls International Airport (GTF). These major Montana travel hubs, although smaller in comparison to airports in cities like Los Angeles or New York, provide easy access to most areas of the state through both major and regional commercial airlines. Bert Mooney Airport (BTM) in Butte, Helena Regional Airport (HLN) in Helena, and Yellowstone Airport (WYS) in West Yellowstone, are smaller but also provide commercial air service. Sidney-Richland Airport (SDY) in Eastern Montana is home to a regional airline with 5 daily flights between Billings and Sidney.
Airport traffic in Montana has been steadily increasing over the last several years. As reported by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, more than 2 million passengers traveled through the Bozeman Yellowstone airport in 2022, up 16.7% from the previous year.
In total, Montana has more than 120 public airports, most of which are general aviation airports, with no regularly scheduled commercial air service. These general aviation airports are used for a variety of other types of aviation including private flights, business or corporate travel, sightseeing and recreational flights as well as for agricultural purposes.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to travel via private aircraft, there are a large number of FBOs or fixed-based operator companies located at both primary and general aviation airports across the state. The term fixed-based operator originated in the 1920s when pilots and mechanics who previously traveled with their aircraft from place to place were required to establish a fixed location and to abide by new regulations.
Today, an FBO refers to an airport terminal for private aircraft, usually offering fuel, hangar space and other services such as maintenance and amenities for passengers and crew. Some of the larger airports like Bozeman Yellowstone International offer more than one FBO, and private aviation customers or their charter companies can choose the FBO they prefer based on fuel prices or amenities. All of Montana’s primary airports provide FBO service for private aircraft in addition to their commercial airline flights.
In the annual survey from Aviation International News (AIN) that ranks FBOs based on customer feedback, two of the FBOs at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport were noted as exceptional—Yellowstone Jet Center by Signature with a score of 4.51/5 and Jet Aviation with 4.28/5. The Glacier Jet Center at Glacier International Airport also scored a 4.51/5. The scores are calculated based on experiences with line services (cleaning, catering, parking, hangaring, etc.), passenger amenities, pilot amenities, facilities, and on site customer service. The Bozeman airport has recently added another FBO, Million Air, that is currently undergoing renovations and will feature an indoor/outdoor patio with mountain views and a speakeasy style interior.
FBOs are not limited to large airports and many of the smaller general aviation airports around Montana offer accommodations for private aircraft as well, making it convenient to fly direct to even more remote locations. Airnav.com is a reliable resource for researching which airports have FBO services and the website provides detailed information about each airport such as runway conditions and operating hours. Bringing passengers closer to the great outdoors, these FBOs make it convenient to fly private and avoid hours of road travel. Some of the most popular FBOs at smaller airports include:
While a road trip through Montana is an adventure not to be missed, Montana’s airports help make the 147,000 square miles of the state (the fourth largest in the US) accessible for travelers both near and far. To learn more about the best places in Montana for busy travelers and available ranch properties, contact Western Ranch Brokers to get the conversation started.