In 1929, just 26 years after the Wright Brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk, a national airway beacon system was christened to safely guide pilots across America in all kinds of weather. This modest but practical network blazed the trail for today’s sophisticated modern airliners that almost fly themselves with previously unheard-of levels of safety. Today, that system exists in only one place in the entire United States: Montana. Seventeen beacons stand silent sentry on craggy passes from Bozeman to Great Falls, from Helena to Missoula, and on to the Idaho border. When operational, they provide safe nighttime guideposts for pilots flying through the mountains of western Montana. The annual cost for keeping them operating is about $35,000, supported through an aviation fuel tax…