Pilots taxi to the shelter at Gallatin Field in Bozeman, Mont., to have lunch or camp overnight.
Watching the sun slip behind the Bridger Mountains near Bozeman, Mont., is a serene cap to a long day of travel. Add to that a lush lawn to park an aircraft and ample picnic areas for a cookout with traveling companions, and the pilot shelter at Gallatin Field becomes an alluring mid-flight stop or overnight campout, both for the view and the facilities.
The stone-and-block shelter, built in 2007 at the home base of the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF), features two showers and restrooms nice enough for an FBO, a grill, an outdoor sink and counter, and pine patio furniture and picnic tables. The irrigated lawn has three tiedowns for aircraft and plenty of room to pitch some tents. And it’s free, although there is a donation can at the shelter (funds are used to resupply paper towels, toilet paper, etc.).
It’s the perfect stop, according to RAF President John McKenna, for pilots flying in the Northwest, and especially those traveling eastbound.
The RAF, a volunteer-based organization that works to preserve recreational and backcountry strips across the United States, raised funds for the shelter and received full support from Gallatin Field officials. The airport donated the land for the facility, which sits on airport property, and funds to help with its completion.
“It can be done. They can co-exist,” McKenna said of pilot shelters at general aviation airports—even airports with air carrier operations such as Gallatin Field. The shelter is within the airport perimeter fencing, but pilots can access it from within the airport or from the outside by a walk-through gate that has a coded lock.
Someday, McKenna said, he hopes shelters will be built at airports across Montana. His ultimate dream is for a network of shelters to extend across the United States. But for now, pilots can start with campouts, cookouts, or lunch breaks at Gallatin Field.
Local pilots gather almost every Friday during the summer to enjoy potluck dinners.