A rose blooms at the airport

Friday, April 24, 2009
Photo courtesy of Clay Derryberry Members of The Ninety-Nines, an historic group of women pilots, apply the last rolls of paint for a compass rose at Lewisburg's Ellington Airport. The center of the design that points to the four major compass headings, is a cubist depiction of the number 99.

A compass rose was painted on the tarmac at Lewisburg's Ellington Airport last weekend by an historic group of pilots, their husbands, children and airport supporters.

The huge marking gives pilots a visual orientation on which way is north or other compass headings and it distinguishes the general aviation field from others, according to Airport Manager Clay Derryberry.

The historic group of pilots is The Ninety-Nines, the International Organization of Women Pilots, founded in 1929 by 99 licensed women pilots for the mutual support and advancement of aviation. Amelia Earheart was the group's first president.

Members of the local Civil Air Patrol and the Experimental Aircraft Association also arrived at Ellington Airport for the painting project that was completed between 9 a.m. and about 2:30 p.m. on April 18.

The compass rose here is similar to other markings the organization has painted at other airports, displaying bright white and a blue similar to the colors of Middle Tennessee State University.

Some of the 99s flew in, some drove. All were in good spirits and their banter started immediately as they introduced their husbands.

Sherry Rhodes, an art teacher in Greene County, proudly said she's a member of the 99s and she introduced her husband, John, as a 49 and a half.

"He flies, but he doesn't have a license yet," Rhodes said. "He's a wannabe pilot."

The group's members reflect the age of the organization and are planning for a big birthday celebration in Morristown, Tenn., during November when one of their members, Evelyn Johnson, celebrates her 100th birthday.

"She's kind of a hero," Rhodes said. "She gave me my check ride."

That's one of the requirements before someone is licensed to be a pilot.

"She's still an FAA licensed pilot," Rhodes said of Johnson.

The compass rose painted here on Saturday measures about 90 feet in diameter.

Placement of masking before painting started took about two hours.

The tape was placed along chalk line markings put down with string pulled taught from the middle of the compass rose.

Everything was done within about 5-1/2 hours, Derryberry said. A total of about 18 volunteers showed up and helped.A