Meet: Walter Watson
Wind Tunnel Engineer
I grew up in a little town in Texas. My dad was an engineer and with his help, I started at 5 or 6 to build model airplanes. First little solid models, then rubber models, them my first gas model! Wow! I was in the big time!
I was so totally hooked on airplanes, I knew from the first what I wanted to do. In high school, I took all the science and math courses I could and then I went to the University of Texas, and majored in mechanical and aeronautical engineering. The courses were really tough, but somehow I made it!
When I finished school, my fist job was with General Dynamics in Fort Worth, Texas, as a wind tunnel model designer. I thought I was in heaven! I was being paid to build and test model airplanes!
I worked there for seven years, then moved to Northrop Aircraft in southern California, as a wind tunnel test engineer. I stayed there until I retired (30 years later!) doing wind tunnel aerodynamics and flight simulator technology. Some of the projects (airplanes) I worked on were the B-58 bomber, the F-111 Fighter, the T-38, F5, F20, YF17, F18, YR23, and the B-2 at Northrop. I also worked on many secret and research projects.
I have been a member of AIAA since school, and monitored school science projects, and served on several national technical committees, including the National Board of Directors as a Technical Director. I was Chairman of the Los Angeles Section of the AIAA, and have worked on the Wright Flyer for about four years. I am one of the test engineers for the NASA Ames Research Center test in the 40 x80 wind tunnel.
After the test, I hope to continue working with the program to build and fly a real, flying version of the Wright Flyer. Hopefully we’ll fly it in 2003, for the centennial!