Women pilots create a buzz at Hot Springs City Airport

Photo Eric Boyd/Fall River County Herald

Pictured above is an aerial perspective of ‘The 99’s’ compass rose. The airmarking volunteers completed the painting on Saturday, June 8, 2019. Their efforts are the first time ‘The 99’s ‘had visited the Hot Springs Municipal Airport and represents an on-going dedication to general aviation by the local community.

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By Eric Boyd

HOT SPRINGS - Chapter members from the Ninety-Nines: International Organization of Women Pilots (The 99’s) arrived on Friday, June 7 to paint a compass rose on the central tarmac of the Hot Springs Municipal Airport. The effort was supported by airport management and local aviation enthusiasts and completed early Saturday afternoon.

The group is part of The 99’s Airmarking Program. This all-volunteer group works to paint compass rose symbols with the airport name and other identification on runways across America.

Today, modern GPS and tracking information is available for aeronautical navigation, but traditional methods still apply when all else fails, making physical identification of direction and location a must for pilots in need of a reporting point for orientation.

The 99’s organization started in 1929 as an invitation for female aviators to assemble for mutual support and to archive information on female flyers. In 1931, Amelia Earhart was elected the first President of The 99’s. The name “99’s”, a nod to the organization’s first ninety-nine charter members.

Montana members were joined by the Wyoming Chapter, invited by Airport Manager Ed Jensen and Maintenance Operator Gordon Brooks, to airmark the municipal runway and to be recognized for their long standing contribution to the aviation community.

Montana Chapter Member, Charity Fechter, is traveling with the group to airmark the Hot Springs Municipal Airport and other locations throughout Montana and Wyoming.

“This is a continuation of the airmarking that started in the 30s, so that pilots could identify where they were. [Pilots] would see them on barns and roofs with an arrow saying, ‘airport this way.’ This was all part of their navigation system,” Fechter says.

“What the compass rose is used for, and you can see we spent a lot of time on the north arrow. You have a magnetic compass in your aircraft, you set it [the aircraft compass] on the center of it [compass rose].

“You can adjust what the variation on your aircraft compass is compared to what true north actually is. Especially when going long distances, if I know that I’m going a certain direction, I need to adjust my heading by a few degrees every so often. That’s how much my magnetic compass is off,” Fechter continues.

The 99’s Airmarking Program mark more than compass roses. The group has been busy in parts of Montana and Wyoming, marking airport names and elevation. These markings help local aircraft check their location and approach information.

When asked about the Hot Springs Airport and managing staff, Fechter states, “We have been treated like queens. They have set a very high bar for hospitality. I have nothing but good things to say about our time here.”

The 99’s were impressed with the Hot Springs Municipal Airport and their dedication to quality General Aviation (GA). One member added, “I’m from Wyoming. This is the first time I’ve been in your airport. It’s really nice to see small GA going forward, and not just for women, but keeping small GA alive in these little communities. Projects like this, it’s a lot of work to keep us all flying safe, so thank you.”

This event marks two weeks of events open to the public at the Hot Springs Municipal Airport. Last weekend, the airport hosted a Fly-In event, inviting families to enjoy general aviation up-close and personal. For more information about the Hot Springs Municipal Airport, call 605-645-3555.

Fall River County Herald

EDGEMONT OFFICE: PO Box 660 Edgemont, SD  57735-0660   |   605.662.7201
HOT SPRINGS OFFICE: 334 S. Chicago St. Hot Springs, SD 57747 | 605.745.3930
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