November 2, 2020 – For the first time in many years, pilots can be confident they have arrived overhead the Scappoose Industrial Airpark, thanks to a freshly painted airmarking near the runway.
On Saturday, Oct. 31, 20 volunteers from the Columbia Cascade Chapter of the Ninety-Nines spelled out “SCAPPOOSE” in 20-foot white letters on the west side ramp near Taxiway B.
The Ninety-Nines is an international organization of women pilots that promotes the advancement of aviation through education, scholarships, and support. Ninety-Nines members have been volunteering to paint airport names and other identifiers on airfields or rooftops – known as “airmarking” – since the 1930s, and it’s a tradition that they continue to uphold.
“Airmarking has historically been important because pre-GPS it was very difficult sometimes for pilots to find airfields and airstrips,” said Columbia Cascade Chapter Chairwoman Michelle Girts.
These days, airmarking continues to be valuable for visual navigation purposes. Pilots look for the numbers or indicators near the runway to confirm that they have reached the airport they are looking for.
“You can GPS to it, and you can look around for it, but it really helps to have those identifying letters or numbers there on the ground,” said Girts.
Port of Columbia County Operations Manager Craig Allison approached the Ninety-Nines a couple of years ago at the suggestion of the Port’s Scappoose Industrial Airpark Advisory Committee.
“The Port has had some significant construction projects at the Airpark over the last few years, with the Taxiway-B relocation and 2019-2020 State Pavement Maintenance Project, and we needed to get those complete before we could move forward with the airmarking,” said Allison.
A lot of other factors are also involved in the planning of these projects, including good weather, the coordination of volunteers and funding for supplies.
Since funding for airmarking no longer comes from the federal government, the non-profit organization must secure financial support from airports or other civic groups. The Port of Columbia County supplied the paint for this project.
“It’s a pleasure to have the Port partner with the Ninety-Nine’s to have the airport marked again,” said Airpark Advisory Committee member and owner of TransWestern Aviation John Helm.
While airmarking was a widespread activity in the 20th century, the number of projects has slowed down over the last couple of decades. The airmarking at Scappoose is the first one the Columbia Cascade chapter has done in several years, but they are starting to grow again in popularity.
“There’s a lot of interest in it,” said Girts. “It’s good for the general aviation community, it’s good for camaraderie and team building in the chapter, and it’s just a lot of fun.”