RAF Montana Liaison and Montana Pilots Association past president Scott Newpower has been awarded an RAF grant to help fund a 16×24-ft pavilion at St. Ignatius airport, 52S. Based on the design used at the West Yellowstone airport campground with a fire pit inside, it will be located near the existing pilot lobby where there is wifi, outhouse, and water hydrant. Tie-downs will be placed near the pavilion and, “Underwing camping will be encouraged, and night sky viewing would be excellent on clear nights,” Newpower said. 

St. Ignatius has a tradition of community support for its airport. Its annual EAA pancake breakfast typically hosts over 500 folks. St. Ignatius businessman Mike Kuefler, also an RAF, EAA, and MPA member, is heading up the project, and has commitments from local volunteers, some of whom are donating substantial materials and labor. MPA has contributed funds to the project, as well.

The paved airport has fuel and a courtesy car, making it a convenient staging point for Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness – only 56 miles from Schafer Meadows – as well as Idaho’s Frank Church, and Selway Wilderness. It’s 80 miles from Moose Creek USFS airstrip. 

Visitors can stock up on groceries at Stutzman’s Country Market, literally over the airport fence. Other groceries, restaurants, and services are just a short drive to town. The rural roads around the airport are suitable for biking, very near the base of the Mission Mountains and the Mission Mountain Wilderness Area.

Other things to do nearby include a driving tour of the 19,000 acre Bison Range with its wide variety of wildlife. The 130-year-old St. Ignatius Mission church is on the National Historic Register, and its exceptional painted murals are well worth viewing. The Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana is just a few miles up Highway 93, with an espresso and gift shop adjacent. A few miles farther north brings you to the Miracle of America Museum, and lakeside town of Polson.

“This airport is great for people who prefer pavement but want to be near mountains to get the flavor and feel of the backcountry,” Newpower said, adding, “The mountain scenery is incredible. When you talk to people from the flatlands, this spot is a big deal to them.”

By Carmine Mowbry
Submitted on February 26, 2024.

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