Weather Forecast


Women fliers group to paint compass rose at Willmar, Minn., Airport

WILLMAR - Preparation began Monday for painting a compass rose on the concrete apron at the Willmar Municipal Airport. The compass rose will be painted Friday and Saturday by members of the Minnesota Ninety-Nines, an organization of women pilots founded in 1949.

The compass rose doesn't actually resemble a rose, but is a small circle with points emanating from the middle to show direction expressed in degrees. A compass rose points to magnetic north and is used by airport fixed-base operators to verify the accuracy of an aircraft's magnetic compass.

Monday morning, Francis DeSchepper, of the engineering firm of Bolton and Menk in Willmar, used a GPS receiver to stake the location of magnetic north with a spot of white spray paint.

The compass rose will be visible from the terminal.

Pat Curry, chairman of the Willmar Airport Commission, has been instrumental in bringing the Minnesota Ninety-Nines to Willmar to paint the compass rose. Curry said the old airport had a compass rose, but it was just an X in the tarmac.

He said the idea of painting a compass rose was raised after the airport opened in the fall of 2006, but there was no money for the project.

Curry says the cost of the compass rose project is the same as the cost of bringing the retired F-14 Tomcat jet fighter to display at the airport: "The compass rose will not cost the city a dime.''

In July 2012, Curry said he learned about the Ninety-Nines' work in painting compass roses and air markings at airports. Curry was referred to the Minnesota Ninety-Nines chapter and has been making arrangements through the group's treasurer, Tracy Davenport.

Davenport said the group is excited to come to Willmar. She expects to have six to 10 people participate over the two days, with a few members staying overnight at a local hotel.

"We paint air markings and/or compass roses as requested at airports across the state,'' said Davenport. "This year we did a compass rose at Albert Lea in June and will be doing a compass rose and air marking at Princeton in August.''

Davenport said the Ninety-Nines have done the majority of compass roses in the state and no two of them are exactly alike.

"We do something different for each, be it the number of points on the rose, the rings on the rose, or the directional markings. A few airports have smaller, simpler roses done by their local pilot organizations but most ask us to do them,'' Davenport said.

Curry said the Minnesota Department of Transportation is providing the epoxy paint, valued at $400 to $700. Mayor Frank Yanish has offered financial assistance. Other assistance and hospitality will be provided by The Oaks at Eagle Creek, Hardware Hank Express, Pizza Ranch, and Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission. The Public Works Department will be making sure the concrete surface is clean.

The compass rose will be 70 feet in diameter. The colors will be blue and white, and yellow for the Willmar Airport. The symbol of the Minnesota Ninety-Nines - 99 - will be in the center of the rose.

Eric Rudningen, airport operations supervisor and owner of Eric's Aviation Services Inc., said fixed-base operators like himself are the biggest users of a compass rose as part of an aircraft's annual inspection and maintenance.

If pilots using the Willmar Airport needed to have their compasses checked, they had to go to an airport that had a compass rose, said Rudningen. He said the compass rose will be a service to pilots here.

"It will be definitely a benefit to all the pilots who use the airport,'' he said. "Beyond that, it will be a beautiful addition to the airport and the Ninety-Nines do a great job doing that.''

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150