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Work underway on Willmar, Minn., Airport compass rose

Willmar Airport Commission Chairman Pat Curry, from left, holds the center post as Tracy Davenport and Patti Sandusky of the Minnesota Ninety-Nines use a marked length of chain and a scooter on wheels Friday to mark off the circles for a compass rose at the Willmar Airport. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams) 1 / 2
Patti Sandusky of the Minnesota Ninety-Nines Women Pilots paints the blue portions of a compass rose pattern on the tarmac Friday at the Willmar Airport. The 70-foot-diameter design points to magnetic north and is used by an airport’s fixed-base operator to verify the accuracy of an aircraft’s magnetic compass. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams) 2 / 2

WILLMAR - Members of the Minnesota Ninety-Nines Women Pilots began work Friday afternoon and will finish today taping and painting a compass rose on the concrete apron at the Willmar Municipal Airport.

The 70-foot-diameter design doesn't actually resemble a rose, but consists of rings with points emanating from the middle to show direction expressed in degrees. A compass rose points to magnetic north and is used by an airport's fixed-base operator to verify the accuracy of an aircraft's magnetic compass.

The Minnesota Ninety-Nines paint the blue and white compass roses at most Minnesota airports.

"We've been doing this for many years. It started during World War II. Most other chapters do the same design at all their airports. I think the Minnesota Chapter is the only one that does them all unique,'' said Patti Sandusky of Maple Lake, president of the Minnesota Ninety-Nines Chapter.

She said every design is unique.

"This is a new compass rose we will be doing,'' said Sandusky. "We've been wanting to do this style for a while now and thankfully we can do it here.''

She said the design will have the four cardinal directions of north, south, east and west, with the letter for each direction measuring 5 feet in length, and 8 minor directions. What's different will be the addition of a number of short directional arrows.

"We kind of develop things as we go along. We offer different designs that we've done and tell them we'll tweak it however they want. But sometimes we do what you think works best,'' she said.

Sandusky and Tracy Davenport of Champlin, airmarking chair and treasurer, were the first members at the airport terminal by 2 p.m. Friday. They changed into their painting clothes and soon set to work with a marker laying out rings of the compass rose. Between 6 and 10 members were expected Friday to tape the design and apply the blue paint first.

Today, they'll tape and apply the white paint. All materials are donated. Airport Commission Chair Pat Curry spearheaded the effort to get the compass rose painted.

Sandusky said she likes the Willmar airport location on state Highway 40 west. The airport opened in 2006.

"It's beautiful. It's a nice new airport. We've always liked coming down to Willmar,'' she said.

The Ninety-Nines is the international organization of women pilots that promotes advancement of aviation through education, scholarships, and mutual support while honoring its unique history and sharing a passion for flight.

Established in 1929 by 99 women pilots, members of The Ninety-Nines Inc. International Organization of Women Pilots represent all areas of aviation today.

One of the earlier members of the Ninety-Nines is Mary Jane Rice of Willmar. She joined the Minnesota Ninety-Nines in 1939 as a junior member. The chapter folded during World War II but was reactivated in 1949.

Mary Jane Rice and her late husband, John, started a fixed-base operation at Willmar, which they managed for many years until retirement. She said the former airport never had a compass rose like this.

"I think the idea of the compass rose is great. I've had it in my mind we should have that at the new airport,'' she said. "It's very special.''

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