BOZEMAN — Thursday marked another milestone at Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport, with the first Southwest Airlines flight in the entire history of the state of Montana.
That first flight also flew in a unique story of friendship.
It was a reception at BZN (the call letters for the airport) that the director described as a victory, not just for the airport but for the surrounding area.
The blue, yellow and red plane that landed and docked at Gate B7 was the first Southwest Airlines plane to land at Bozeman Yellowstone International after more than a decade’s effort to bring it here.
Brian Sprenger, the director of the airport, told MTN News that this is one of the fastest-growing airports in the entire country, now with Southwest’s addition here.
There are now currently two Southwest flights until June 6, where they will then upgrade to four: Bozeman to Denver and Bozeman to Las Vegas.
According to Sprenger, this flight makes a big difference to this airport.
“Right now, we are seeing incredible growth,” Sprenger says. “We are one of the fastest growing in the nation and it’s not in small part to additions like this one today. More than a decade in the making trying to get Southwest to Montana. We are happy to have them in Bozeman.”
To greet the plane and its crew, representatives included Montana State University as well as the cheer squad made an appearance on the tarmac, along with Champ the Bobcat.
They were greeting the plane for a special reason.
Inside that cockpit, and holding two different flags (the MSU flag and Montana’s state flag) out of those windows were two MSU grads with quite the story and history of their own.
“It’s been a dream for both of us for years,” says Captain Dan Moe with Southwest Airlines. “Sometimes I didn’t think it would ever happen but I guess dreams do come true.”
A dream involving parallel lives and the same tarmac. For Captain Moe and First Officer Kurt Klewin, it’s almost like looking in the mirror seven years apart.
“It just feels fantastic,” Klewin says. “It’s kind of been full circle for us. We both learned to fly out here at this airport and then we both did our first solo flights in the mid-80’s out here on the same runway.”
“It’s like a homecoming, in a sense,” Moe says.
A homecoming for both.
Their lives leading to this moment, with a Montana flag and an MSU flag flying out of their open windows on the runway—well, you just have to hear it from them.
“Dan and I found out that we flew together several years ago and Dan’s wife also flies here as a pilot,” Klewin says.
“It was amazing,” Moe says. “My wife first flew with Kurt. She goes, ‘You gotta meet this guy. He’s from Bozeman.’ I say, ‘What?’”
“We got to talking and we realized that we grew up four blocks apart in Bozeman and we went to all of the same schools,” Klewin says. “We graduated from Bozeman High seven years apart.”
But wait, there’s more.
“We went to MSU,” Klewin says. “Both graduated from MSU and both graduated from ROTC up there and got commissioned with the Air Force.”
Even in the same detachment, while Dan served in Desert Storm and Kurt in Iraqi Freedom.
All tying both Kurt and Dan to the same airfield nearly 40 years ago.
“We’re both Eagle Scouts in town,” Klewin says. “So pretty much everything we did in town, we did exactly the same, just over a seven-year period. We never knew each other here in town.”
“Very few people that you meet that go through a whole career and end up in the same place, flying for the same company, with the same interests, same background,” Moe says. “It’s little weird, but it all works out and look, we’re both back here.”
Kurt adds it’s a message: spread your wings and it might be the best way to catch the wind and fly.
In this case, Kurt and Dan did in exactly the same way, again, seven years apart.
“We can come back at some point but sometimes we have to go out and make our way in the world and then come back to town,” Klewin says. “If this is the place that you want to be then—this is the only place that I want to be.”
“You hope, you dream a little bit but really to see it come out on a great day, great weather, people representing our great company, it’s the best thing out there,” Moe says.