Our home airport is Stevensville Airport (32S) located just slightly north east of the small town of Stevensville Montana. Stevi rests in the heart of what is called the Bitterroot valley in Western Montana. It is a beautiful part of the world and a great place to just go out and fly for the fun of it. Stevi is about 35 miles south of Missoula International Airport (MSO) which is one of the few class D airports in Montana. But MSO is not actually the closest airport to Stevi, rather, the next closest airport (with a paved runway) is the Ravalli County Airport and it lies just south of Stevensville.
Ravalli County Airport (6S5) is just east of the town of Hamilton and it is actually a little larger airport than Stevensville. The runway measures 4200′ long which makes it just long enough for many business jets to use, which is not uncommon since there are some more affluent visitors to the Hamilton area. The runway has a more north-south orientation than does the east-west runway up at Stevi, which means that if you need some crosswind practice, you can usually get it at one of the two airports.
Hamilton is only about 20 miles south of Stevi so it is an easy hop down the valley and it makes it a good place to fly if I only have a few minutes but want to land somewhere else than just our home airport. Of course, the flight down provides excellent opportunities for beautiful scenery as you can see in the picture above. The Bitterroot mountain range has some remarkable canyons that are great for hiking and fishing.
The airport is level, unlike Stevi, but you never really know which way the wind is blowing. It is also not a busy airport, except for maybe Saturday mornings, so you usually have to do an overflight to get any sort of idea what runway is best on that day. If you are using Runway 16, be aware there is a hill just off the approach end of the runway, which actually makes it fun and another good practice location for landing over obstacles but yet with a long enough runway to give you plenty of margin of safety while you practice. The picture below is of us turning onto final for runway 34, which does not have any of the issues with the hill and is a pretty wide open approach.
The airport has some nice hangers and Choice Aviation is located there as well and they are a full service FBO with a pilots lounge with some water and vending machines and they have some cool planes for rent as well, such as a Piper super cub. There sometimes is a restaurant located on the field, but it has been changing owners so I am not sure if it is still open right now. There are not a lot of planes on the ramp either, so if you are a plane gawker and love walking the flight-line looking at airplanes like I do, you might be disappointed… but then again, due to the weather, there are not a lot of planes that park permanently on the ramps anywhere in Montana.
The runway has recently been repaved so it is in very good condition and the field as a whole is a nice one to visit. There is beautiful scenery all around it, especially south and west… oh and east. Well, then again, north is nice as well.
If it wasn’t for the fact that the airport is so close to our home airport and that I’ve been there a lot, it would probably rate higher as a cool place to fly into. It certainly is a great place to get some practice and its plenty long for most all types of moderately sized aircraft. Hamilton itself is a thriving large town at the south end of the valley so if you want to stop overnight, this is a great location with great fishing, good golf, and many nice amenities for a longer than average stay.