Five Valleys Flyers is now the assumed business name for EAA Chapter 517, Inc., which was originally founded in Missoula in 1976 as the "Experimental Aircraft Association, Inc., Western Montana Chapter 517, Missoula, Montana." After a few years of operation, EAA Chapter 517 went dormant until 1995, when 14 members reactivated Chapter 517. In 1999, Chapter 517 was incorporated in the State of Montana as EAA Chapter 517, Inc. At that time, the Chapter applied for and was later granted 501(c)(3), tax exempt status as a non-profit educational organization.
Over the years the Chapter has conducted various educational activities including providing scholarships to aspiring pilots and other aviation professionals. The Chapter has always recognized that it takes more than just pilots for general aviation to be a successful and healthy community.
Chapter 517's Stevensville Hangar
In 2002, EAA Chapter 517, Inc. had the opportunity to purchase a hangar at the Stevensville Airport and Chapter Headquarters remained there until 2017. With the establishment of the Chapter HQ in Stevensville, the Chapter instituted an unusual meeting schedule by alternating the monthly meeting location between Stevensville and Missoula. That decision allowed for a sharing of the travel burden by the Bitterroot Valley members and the Missoula members.
For the first several years the Chapter met its hangar mortgage obligation by renting space to members for their airplanes in the Chapter hangar and by our monthly pancake breakfasts. It took a lot of hard work to generate enough money to make our mortgage payment each month, but our members stepped up and made it work.
In 2006, the Chapter invested in the establishment of a specialty vehicle license plate, "Fly The Big Sky," as a long term income generator, which eased the financial pressure considerably. The license plate revenue allowed the Chapter to pay off the Stevensville hangar mortgage several years ahead of schedule.
In 2016, the Chapter voted to invest in a new hangar on the Missoula International Airport with the intent to re-establish the Chapter HQ in Missoula. The Chapter leased land from the Missoula Airport and began the planning process for a standalone hangar. We later learned of a hangar condominium project being built near the approach end of Runway 30. After evaluating our original plan and checking into the condo project, the Board of Directors elected to go with the condo project. The result is that the Chapter ended up with a far better facility at a significantly lower price. The Chapter moved into the new facility in June 2017.
In 2018, there were two significant events: the Chapter sold the Stevensville hangar and made a significant pay down on the Missoula hangar mortgage and the Chapter had a name change. There was concern that too many people in the aviation community misunderstood what EAA Chapter 517, Inc. was about so filing for an assumed business name now allows the Chapter to operate under the name Five Valleys Flyers. Too many people thought if you were not an aircraft homebuilder, you were not welcome to EAA. So, though our corporate name remains the same, the Chapter will be known as Five Valleys Flyers.