Montana Aeronautics Commission Operation Historic District

Shortly before the end of World War II, Governor Sam Ford urged the Montana State Legislature to create a commission to regulate the state’s private and commercial aviation industry. The 1945 legislature subsequently formed the Montana Aeronautics Commission to encourage, foster, and assist in the development of aeronautics and encourage the establishment of airports and other air navigation facilities. Its first action was licensing commercial and private pilots operating in Montana. The commission was also responsible for the design, construction, leasing, and operation of small community airports throughout the state. It worked closely with the Civil Air Patrol, conducted search and rescue operations in conjunction with local authorities, kept statistics for the aviation industry in Montana, and aggressively sought to regulate commercial air traffic in the state per federal law. As the importance of aviation increased, so did the commission’s responsibilities. In 1957, commission director Frank Wiley, himself a pilot, lobbied the state legislature to authorize construction of a commission operations building adjacent to what was then the Helena Municipal Airport. Helena architects Ostheimer & Campeau designed the Modernist style administrative building in 1958. As commission responsibilities increased, in 1965 the same architects designed an addition and garage to complement the original building. The Modernist style, featuring natural colors and textures, large windows, and lack of ornamentation, characterizes government construction of the period. The Montana Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division illustrates the maturing of Montana’s aeronautical and aviation industries in the wake of World War II. It continues to play a critical role in Montana’s aviation industry.

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2630 Airport Road, Helena, Montana ~ Public