BOZEMAN — Things are taking off for student pilots at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport. The ground just broke for a brand-new complex to help students spread their wings.
“The very first time I flew a plane, I remember being so scared and anxious as I was taxying up to the runway but once i was up in the air, all that anxiety was gone,” said William Solberg.
Solberg is just one of many people who gathered to watch the groundbreaking for Summit Aviation, the training provider for Gallatin College and Montana State University's aviation program.
“It’s got an awesome curriculum and it was an added bonus to know that almost all the instructors have been through the program themselves,” said Solberg.
One person who’s taken classes through Summit Aviation is Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport President and CEO, Brian Sprenger. He says this is just one of many building projects that will be taking place at the airport, including:
“A 170-million-dollar terminal project that's in the design process and about $70 million worth of airfield projects,” said Sprenger.
Sprenger began his classes at Summit Aviation in 2009 and remembers the program had a humble beginning. But now?
“It’s a big operation that will require a big facility,” said Sprenger.
A 14,000 square-foot facility that will sit on the north side of the airport.
Ben Walton, president of Summit Aviation, says the facility will hold a Departure Lounge for private customers. And office space that will house the company’s award-winning flight school, aircraft sales personnel, a simulation lab for the flight school’s multiple simulators, an additional 37,000 sq. ft. of hangar space, and more.
“We basically get our own runway over here,” said Solberg.
Walton says this will improve safety and efficiency for their students.
“For the last 20 years we’ve been sharing the runway with all the airlines and the private jet traffic,” said Walton.
But for the next 20 years, Walton is expecting a smoother ride with even more student pilots in the cockpit.
102 students currently train at Summit Aviation.
“It continues to grow and becomes more popular, so this allows us to accommodate even more students and really contribute to this pilot shortage right now—because it's real,” said Walton.
The complex will be open in January 2024. Until then, Summit will continue giving students the confidence they need to spread their wings, like Solberg.
“In the future, I want to be flying jets back in my home state of Alaska,” he said.