Butte’s Fascination with Aviation

Butte has an impressive history of aviation from as early as 1908 when George Lowry took a hot air balloon to the sky.  In 1910, Jack Dawson built the first airplane in Butte and eventually crashed the plane. On July 4, 1912, Barney Oldfield held a racing demonstration at the Race Track and set a record driving 53 miles a minute.  This event was to have an air show at the same time, however, the weather conditions preempted the flight.

Jack Dawson’s descendants would also take up his love of airplanes and built a plane here as well.  The C. Owen Smithers Collection holds some very wonderful images of early aviation in Butte and the construction of these planes.

Given the acclimatization Butte citizens have with aviation it’s no wonder we hosted Charles Lindberg and Amelia Earhart, as well as other famous pilots.

One influential man notably assisted in the development of aviation in Butte–John D. Ryan.  Ryan, a great fan of Aviation, served the country during World War I as a special charge of the emerging air force.  Ryan was also one of the trustees of the Guggenheim Foundation for the Promotion of Aviation, the foremost non-commercial organization in the country accelerating scientific and practical air transportation.  Ryan donated the funds to establish the airport and to construct the facilities which consisted mainly of a hanger.



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