Friday, June 06, 2014

Stevensville Airport (32S) to host open house fly-in Saturday

STEVENSVILLE - In an age of passenger aircraft that carry hundreds of passengers for thousands of miles, it’s easy to forget that there are still people building aircraft in their garages.

It’s also easy to forget what a local airport can mean to a community, and that’s why the Stevensville Airport is holding its second annual fly-in and open house this Saturday, June 7, showcasing airport facilities and giving people a chance to “kick the tires” on some unusual homebuilt aircraft.

To get things started out right, Chapter 517 of the Experimental Aircraft Association will host a free pancake breakfast from 8-11 a.m. at their Stevensville Airport hangar. Chapter President Sherry Rossiter said they consider it their chance to give back to the community, and to remind people that their local airport produces revenue for the community.

The Stevensville airport is one of a few city-owned airports in Montana, according to Airport Manager Steve Knopp, but the general operating costs are funded by local airport users, hangar rents, and grants from the FAA and the Montana Aeronautics Division.

Knopp would like to see more people aware of what the airport has to offer, and of what it contributes to the community. He’s hoping to arrange some activities for the day, but currently it’s just a chance to visit with local pilots, and to admire the aircraft on display.

Those aircraft may include some surprises. Local EAA members keep numerous classic and homebuilt aircraft in Stevensville hangars, and many of those will be on display, along with more aircraft expected to fly in for the open house. Some are single-seaters, others may carry up to four persons; some are sleek speedsters, and others are improbable eye-catchers, but all are capable of taking to the sky to satisfy mankind’s dream of flight.

According to Knopp, about 70 aircraft are based in Stevensville, and last year another 40 flew in for the event. Knopp gets inquiries from pilots all over the U.S. interested in basing their aircraft in Stevensville, and a taxiway expansion last year provided access to more hangars to meet that demand.

The airport is also used for flight training by student pilots from Missoula and Hamilton, wanting practice landing at a small airstrip with a moderately challenging location atop a bluff.

The EAA Chapter, with 45 current members, serves much of western Montana, providing technical resources to those who want to build their own aircraft, but also providing free “Young Eagle” flights and aviation education for kids aged 8-17, according to Rossiter.

For more information about the fly-in, call Knopp at the Stevensville Airport, (406) 777-5271; Rossiter can be reached at (406) 777-3705, with a website at that lists members and the aircraft they have built.


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