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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Austin Watson

Friday's Fabulous Flyer!

Austin: "I like to fly airplanes."

Each week, I write about a fabulous person in Aviation. Today, Christmas Eve, I wanted to write about Austin because he is the essence of giving.  The man who heard about our Fly-It-Forward challenge to take women into the sky, and embraced it as a mission of love. He's coordinated, communicated, and gathered people to fly-- and donated his time and plane, too! He's given so much.

Today, he gave me the greatest gift. He wrote his fabulous flyer for me! And I can sleep before I fly tonight. This amazing man shares his incredible story of how the strength and power of the women in his life have helped make him who he is today.

Thank you for sharing your story Austin. You are a gift, and an inspiration to all!

"I am the youngest in my family, including the youngest of all the cousins. Dad was a Greatest Generation Soldier, gone a lot, and I was brought up for the most part by some great women, my Mom, Gramma, and Sister. Mom built ships in WW-II and was military wife to dad who spent time in three wars. Gramma was military wife of US Marine General and I spent many a summer at her house being shown the way, also tiptoeing past grampa and the dog either of whom might bite you at the least provocation. When Mom & Gramma weren't working on me, sister, Josie (we call her the sergeant-major) was keeping me in line.

Austin at 19 with Patti and Mary

Part of what I learned from them is how amazingly hard workers women are, and how high of standards women have, something we men certainly need to appreciate, celebrate, respect and strive to live up to. Eventually, I married amazing woman number four in my life, Mary, was inspired to get on with it, retire from rock and roll, and become an Engineer. Mary is truly is the balance in my life that keeps my standards of excellence motivated and high.

I was a child of the space age and never missed a NASA launch. I even watched the first space walk on a TV in a Tent at the Boy Scout National Jamboree in Idaho. Later on my passion for Space meant setting alarm clocks for 2AM so as not to miss a launch. If it flew, I was interested. I built every airplane and rocket model at the Base Exchange when I was a kid and budgeted my allowance carefully to do so. I built real rockets that really flew. Back in the 1960’s that meant making your own rocket fuel in your bedroom and loading it into metal pipes fitted with crude nozzles.  We built hot air balloons that were flammable paper or plastic bags with a burning source of heat suspended below. Scary stuff and not what any kid wants to get “caught” doing these days.

When I was 16 and we moved to Fort Sill Oklahoma where there was a flying club, Dad asked if I wanted to learn to fly. I said, “Yes”, but nothing ever came of it. I think I had discovered girls and he was certainly busy as commandant of the officer candidate school making lieutenants to send to back Viet Nam. I did learn to rappel down a cliff with Dad which was kind of like flying.

We moved to Washington State where Boeing, the people who made the 747, was located during the employment crash of the early 1970’s. This is when I met Mary, decided to get with it and become an engineer. By the time I graduated, Boeing was on the upswing and I went to work there hoping to become part of the Space Program.

When I went to work for Boeing, I said to myself, “If you want to be the best Boeing engineer you can be, then you have to learn to fly.” But I didn’t. The space program collapsed. We saved our money and traveled around the world for two years. Upon returning, we started a family and priorities changed. Certainly, spending hours at the airport flying and risking a growing family were not on my list. My son and I did sneak a ride around the pattern at Boeing Field during a father’s day air show. We still argue about if it was a plane or a helicopter. During family raising years, I hopped around between jobs in Aerospace, Biotech, and the PC Semiconductor industry as markets in the NW ebbed and flowed. 

Life went on and when I was 47 years old, just 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with Colon Cancer. I call it my message from God. I felt fine one day, then the next was thinking “Me, the youngest in the family about to be the first to die.” I thought. “Oh My God! This is all backwards. I’m not done yet.” Well, I was lucky, an amazing woman surgeon, Dr Debbie Wechter, did her magic along with a lot of other great folks at Virginia Mason. I "retired" for two years, not knowing what was to be my future. Mary held the family together through all this, doing an amazing job while I was going through the post-cancer crazies.  Eventually the doctors convinced me and  I decided I was most likely going to stick around a while and off I went back to work at Boeing.

Having a new vision of what was important, and recalling what I had said to myself in 1977 (To be the Best Boeing Engineer you can be, you must learn to fly), I vigorously took up pursuit of that lifelong desire in April 2004 in a tired old Cessna 150. First few flights scared the hell out of me. Time went on. I got re-labeled "cured" which means that you are as statistically likely to get cancer as anyone else.

The FAA asked for stacks of doctor reports and paperwork to prove I wouldn’t have a “cancer attack” and fall out of the sky I guess. That really slowed things down but on I flew getting more and more training and hoping for the day I’d get cleared to solo and license. It all happened eventually.  I worked hard and got my private, commercial, float, and instrument ratings, logging 800 hours in the air over a six year period. It was hard work for a 50-something, but I did what Mom taught me, stick with it and persevere. Three of my four best instructors during that period were women, Karen, Darlene, and Liz. Liz taught me to land. Karen, an artist on floats taught me to read the air made me get comfortable in the mountains and Darlene taught me to fly over glaciers in Alaska".

 Austin with Darlene

Recently I bought my own floatplane, a beautifully restored 1979 Cessna R172K XP-II. Its tail number is N758LM. Most aviation folks call it Lima Mike. Some of the guys teasingly call it Little Man, but I secretly call it Love Mom.

So, to try and bring this little private blog to a close, let me say if you haven't figured it out already, I am passionate about the amazing power, strength and quality women bring to life, and also about flying, especially in floatplanes, and being up there a little closer to God. And I am passionate about while I am here on this earth passing along to the next generation some bits of inspiration and knowledge from my life."

The Fly it Forward event at Renton on Dec 5th brought all of my passions together on one awesome day and into focus in a very sharp way."

Austin, you truly are a gift to the world. I am so thankful to know you. You've touched many lives, and will continue to do so.

Not only did Austin fly LM for our December 5th Fly In Event, but he is flying again! Look what Austin is doing now: 

Celebrate 100th Anniversary of first Licensed Women Pilot

Help make Renton Airport the Most Female Friendly Airport in the world!

We were in 1st place until a Canadian airport passed us up last week. We have until the 31st to get back into 1st place and we are almost there but we need some more un-pilot-licensed women/girls to fly from Renton this year.

I (Austin Watson, Commercial Seaplane Pilot) am flying women/girls on Sunday the 26th in my floatplane. Free, zero cost to you!  I will take two at a time on a 15 minute circuit around Mercer Island. Maximum combined weight of two passengers is 300 lb. Call, text or email me if you are at all interested.

I can fly you on other days if that helps

Austin Watson          206-979-4654

An amazing woman pilot (Delta Airlines), Karlene Petitt is organizing this. Please also contact her as she has other opportunities including a larger Beaver floatplane, several Cessnas, and a Helicopter available between now and the 31st.

Go to Karlene’s blog to sign up: Http:// (No contact information will be released to anyone.) Pilots can click on the $100 bill and enter a chance to win $100. Drawing Announced New Years Day!

Mireille Goyer is the national organizer. Go to her website to learn more too:

Austin Watson 
You are an amazing man. Thank You!

Merry Christmas Everyone... to all a good night, and a very safe flight!

XOXO  Karlene

~ Enjoy the Journey


  1. What a great story and so appreciative of the woman who have made an impact in his life!

  2. Students put their life into their instructor's hands to learn to fly, literally. If they choose a woman flight instructor, it changes their perceptions forever. One of my mentors, a retired military helicopter pilot and a corporate jet pilot was taught by a WASP. He would say about women flying, "Women have the delicate touch". With that attitude, he has mentored many women pilots.

    Austin, men like him and you, are making a huge difference into transforming piloting into a more balanced field and as result, I believe, a more enjoyable activity.

    Thank you so much for your support.

  3. Austin truly is amazing. It humbles me that he holds women in such high regard and has done so much for them. Thank you so much Austin! You are a gift!

  4. Oh good. I'm glad to see I wasn't the only kid trying to make hot air balloons also. Mine were always too heavy, or burned up also!


  5. Vic, he is very appreciative! And such a kind and caring man. He's so excited to support the young ladies flying. Gratitude goes a long way. One day you'll have to come out and visit me and you can meet the amazing men at Renton Airport!

  6. Mireille, you couldn't have said it better. He is making a huge difference. I do believe those women in his life made a huge difference in him too. Life going full circle. He is truly Flying it Forward!
    Thank you for your comment! Happy Holidays!

  7. Heather, He humbles me too. Such an outstanding man. Thank you for your comment. I know he'll appreciate it. Happy Holidays!

  8. Tom, you are still a kid. Playing with the stars and flying your plane... you are a superstar too! Thank you for your support too.
    Happy Holidays.

  9. Hi, Karlene

    Nice blog!

    Have a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2011.

    Greedings from Greece.

  10. Ionn, Thank you very much!!! A very Merry Christmas and a joyous and prosperous New Year to you, too!
    Greetings from Honolulu!
    XOX Karlene

  11. Austin, hope you had a Merry Christmas, and yes, it is awesome to still be here :) after the cancer scare (s). It was great meeting you in Seattle - and ditto on the Karlene compliments. Do you think Delta has a clue how lucky they are to have her???

  12. Oh Kathy... you are too sweet! And, I am so glad you are here too!!!

  13. I got to fly with Austin today, and now, after reading this blog, I feel even more the privilege that it was.

    Austin - you inspire me to know that it's not too late to consider getting my pilot's license "one day".


    Heather M, Issaquah

  14. Heather, Thank you for an incredible message. I know Austin will appreciate it. Remember--- It's Never too late! Just do it!

    Happy New Year!


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