Monday, May 3, 2010

The Compass Rose

You may not be familiar with the term ‘compass rose’ but you have most certainly have seen one on a map in your lifetime. It is basically a depiction of a compass featured on most navigational charts; which always shows at least the cardinal direction points of North, South, East, and West. Today the St. Louis Ninety Nines and about 20 other members of local aviation groups worked all day to paint a 70 foot diameter compass rose on asphalt instead of a map. Yes, students and alumni from St. Louis University’s Park’s college aviation program, as well as members of the St. Louis Women with Wings converged on the airport tarmac in Greenville, Illinois to leave their ‘mark’ literally.

Due to the many ‘points’ on a typical map rose, painting a huge blue and white compass on an active airport takes quite a bit of planning as well an awful lot of logistics and paint. Keeping dozens of people from stepping on each other, or out of the way of moving airplanes, while line-chalking, taping, and painting is the fun part of the organized chaos. Fortunately the host airport in Greenville helped out with the feeding of the crew, and provided the paint, as well as, lots of general support to make the process smooth even if the asphalt WASN’T!

We used about 15 gallons of white paint and 8 gallons of blue traffic marking paint to make our rose. Amazingly for the Midwest, somehow we received the benefits of cloud cover yet did not suffer rain to delay our progress. The world’s largest compass rose ever is located a NASA’s Dryden Flight Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. That rose is painted on the desert lake bed and is a staggering 4000 feet ( over 3/4 of a mile across) in diameter. Can you imagine the amount of taxpayer paint that is required to lay down that enormous rose some 58 times the basic diameter of ours?

This does not include the fact that NASA’s marked points, though far simpler than our 70 foot rose, represent a lane of paint that is better than 20 feet in width as compared to our 4 inch basic line. By my estimate, that is well over a half million SQUARE FEET of paint just to paint those basic lines, NOT including the numbers. Given our experience, the Dryden rose would require over 13,000 gallons of traffic paint – now that’s what I REALLY call ‘MARKING’ your way up in the world!

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