The photo at the left shows Guy Watson, a friend of mine, with his P38 which he flew in the Pacific theater during World War II. The one below shows him two days ago with Charlie, his perfectly restored MG. The P38 went faster, and was more aerobatic, but the MG uses less gas and is cheaper to maintain.
After World War II Watson resigned from the Air Force, finished his engineering degree at U.C.Berkeley, worked as an engineer for the Coleman company , served as President of Midwest Plastic for three years, and then spent 25 years with the Lockheed Missiles and Space Division. I met him during these Lockheed years because he completed an M.S. and an Engineers Degree at Stanford, and took one of my courses—the kind of student you dream about.
At Lockheed he met Ole Fahlin , who was one of the world’s experts at making wooden propellers, and in the early 1970’s he began to work with Ole on a Lockheed project, and also to learn the skills and the knowledge necessary to be a propeller expert. I met Fahlin while visiting Guy at Ole’s propeller shop, which was then in Morgan Hill, California, in a round glass building at the entrance to an extremely airplane-oriented golf and country club which featured a restaurant called the Flying Lady (the wife of the owner) in which large models of airplanes continually flew over one's head on an endless chain as one ate one’s meal., several barns full of collections including a Ford Tri-Motor, and a runway down the middle of the golf course,
Ole by then had become not only a legend, but a very amusing character. Once I tried to find out from him how he had learned so much about propellers, and he informed me that he tested them after he built them, and had been learning since he had begun his business (by the time he died in his 90’s he had been building them for over 65 years). But when I asked him what he learned by testing them, he simply would reply “whether they were right”, or “how to improve them”. He not only had all the data, but clearly unprecedented “feel”.
When Ole retired, Guy took over the business and began manufacturing and repairing propellers for experimental and antique airplanes. When the Flying Lady went out of business, the Wings of History Museum in San Martin California offered Guy and his crew space, and the result is now the Ole Fahlin Memorial Propeller shop, the only one of its kind licensed by the F.F.A.on the west coast.
In the time that he has spent building propellers, Guy has replaced Ole as the go-to-man in the field. Although he retired last year, he now consults for the group, and is often found in the shop. The Photographs at the bottom of the post show a Watson propeller he built for the man on the left, who owns a Fokker D-VII. The second shows one he built for a Jenny. The third shows one that is on a Sopwith Snipe that hangs in the World War I area in the National Aerospace Museum in Washington D.C.
Not only are these propellers extremely technically sophisticated products, but they are beautifully made and not only functional, but beautiful forms. This is craftsmanship of the highest level. In my next post I will tell you a bit more about Watson and the making of wooden propellers, and my narrow escape from dropping my professor job, my consulting, and my income, and going to work as a beginning apprentice with him. As I have mentioned, I love working with my hands, and what he does is the ultimate, with high level technology thrown in for good measure.