So here’s the infamous airplane (still in a phase of construction). I’ve been telling part of this story for years but here is a bit of proof. I wish I had a picture of it inside the house. You see, my father decided to build an airplane. He did not have a garage or shop of any kind at the time but he did not see this as a problem. He simply built it inside the house. We lived in a big old house that at one time had been divided up into three separate apartments so it had three kitchens, three baths, etc. Bob Watkins decided this house was big enough to live in and build an airplane in at the same time. He took out a wall between one of the kitchens and a bedroom and set up shop. He started from scratch bending sheet metal and drilling holes with a small table top drill press. He took a used motor from an old Volks Wagon and spent every weekend figuring out how a poor man was going to own a plane.
You might think he got his love of flying in the army where they first taught him to jump out of airplanes and later to fly them. The truth is it started much earlier than that when as a child he tied his Momma’s sheet around his neck and jumped off the barn.
For years the UPS man delivered sheet metal, rivets, gauges and such a piece at a time until he finally was able to purchase the propeller. He was like a kid in a candy shop. My Father didn’t smile or talk much so when he did I made a point of remembering it. The airplane was really taking shape by now. The wings were built but could not be attached as it was still inside the house. On the day the propeller arrived Daddy was so excited he got his brother Jerry to come over and they put it on. I remember standing there as they stared at it like little boys. Then they got ideas like little boys. They decided to “prop” it once just to hear it. It wouldn’t start up. No worry of that. Just hit the propeller and dream right? Daddy decided it would be best if I went to the rear of the plane and held down the tail. (I was about 13 and I don’t think I weighed a whole hundred pounds yet at this point.) So I bent over and held on tight to the rear of the plane while Daddy hit the propeller.
From my new vantage point on the ceiling I yelled out “I GOT IT DADDY!” I could feel the ceiling on my head and my feet were dangling in the air. Momma’s curtains were everywhere and Uncle Jerry had a white curtain rod wrapped around his head. The new propeller was embedded in the floor and wooden splinters were cast about.
Momma was a tiny bit displeased. The windows you see in the picture were then removed and the airplane was relocated outside. He did finish the airplane and eventually moved it to a hangar at the local airport.
On July 21st 1984 while flying over the airport the engine cut out. The folks on the ground could hear it. He went into a nose dive but was able to pull it out at about 500 ft. That wasn’t soon enough.