The ending of WWI in November of 1918 brought forth a new era in Civil Aviation as a large number of trained aviators were released from the military back into civilian life. Their military careers may have ended, but their love of and desire to fly stayed with them.
They soon started to appear all across the country. Some referred to as "Barnstormers," mainly due to their daring and quite often reckless antics and others were aware of the many potential commercial and profitable uses for their talents. The biggest problem at the time was that there was no laws or regulations in place at either the federal or state levels to control or protect the aviators and or the public.
Western Airlines Inaugural Flight - June 1st, 1941
It took approximately ten years, in 1929, before Montana enacted any laws to control flying. Dr. C. H. Minette from Cut Bank was elected to the state legislature and served on the first aviation committee. He was also a recently discharged veteran and was a member of the newly formed American Legion. This gave him opportunities to come in contact with many of the new civilian aviators and gain knowledge of their problems and needs.
Dr. Minette was able to foresee huge benefits for the aviation industry and the area surrounding Cut Bank. He started a campaign towards getting us an established airport. It would be a difficult battle to win such recognition for a small community in Montana, but it would be a battle worth waging.
Many obstacles would be encountered along the way but Dr. Minette was able to gain support from many influential parties from around the state. Around 1930 a site south west of town was selected and Tip O'Neil, who had his own private plane, was able to obtain a lease on this land from the John Hunsberger family. This remained as a private airstrip for several more years, until early 1941, when all the legal roadblocks were cleared to allow the City of Cut Bank and Glacier County to purchase the land, 760 acres, to be used as a municipal airport.
Celebrating - June 1st, 1941
Negotiations were also underway with Western Airlines to provide commercial air service into the newly established airport and another battle was underway with the federal government asking that we could be designated as a "Port of Entry" which would give us the ability to provide "Customs" service and also serve as a stopping off point for flights going to and from Alaska and providing connections into Canada.
All the pieces seemed to come together and on June 1st, 1941 the "Western Airlines Inaugural Flight" landed at the Cut Bank Airport.
After the United States entered WWII the airport was offered to the government for any possible use. The offer was soon accepted and in June 1942 plans were implemented for the construction of the "Cut Bank Army Air Force Base." The new base was activated on November 11th, 1942.
The airport was leased to the united states government and remained under their control until July 1st, 1948. The lease was then terminated and additional land purchased for expansion and runway extensions, along with several remaining buildings and various equipment and tools were deeded back to the City of Cut Bank and Glacier County. The total land area now was 1780 acres.
For more information on the "Cut Bank Army Air Force Base" check out the "Airmen's Museum" section of this website. During this period the commercial airlines service at the airport continued to operate. For additional information on the airport history, check tabs for airport brochure and airport of the year application under the "about" tab on our home page.