Bundaberg man Ian Watson has had an extensive career as a pilot and aircraft engineer which has taken him across Australia and the world.
As part of Bundaberg Regional Council's Our People Our Stories project, Ian has been recognised for his work at his former business Watson's Aviation.
It was established in 1997 at a hangar at the Bundaberg Airport and focused on aircraft repairs and rebuilds.
“In that time, we also used to build the wings and centre section for the replica spit fire fighters,” Ian said.
“Some were pretty extensive rebuilds from age, corrosion, neglect, fatigue.
“On the side we built 33 sets of spitfire wings, and each was about 200-man hours… it kept my staff in jobs.
“We had between six to eight people employed for about 10 years.”
Before his Bundaberg business was established, Ian said he got his start in the aviation industry after becoming a diesel fitter mechanic.
“I went to Papua New Guinea as a mechanic in the Sepik River area and got involved in building air strips in remote areas,” he said.
“I worked as both a mechanic and on improving existing airstrips and while I was doing that, I had the opportunity to have a go at flying which is where I first started to learn to become a pilot.”
Before locating to the region, Ian said he worked on many different locations with planes and was even employed as a pilot mechanic on a cattle station during 1980 and 1986.
“I did a small amount of crop work spreading and dropping fertiliser over crops,” he said.
After moving to Bundaberg and operating Watson's Aviation for more than a decade, Ian went mobile as an aircraft engineer.
“I also got involved in a research and development project for an overseas military developing a drone engine in partnership with the Australian Government and a small team,” he said.
“We spent nearly 12 months converting a Jabiru engine for use as a drone engine for the military.
“We had lots of failures; we had more failures than we had successes but you learn a lot from failures.
“Eventually we got some pretty smart stuff that worked and, in the end, it was relatively simple.”
Nowadays, Ian has put his pilot licence away and spends his time teaching backpackers the English language and the “Aussie way of life”.
He said while he had achieved some amazing and technical things in the world of aircraft engineering, he would always be old fashioned at heart.
“I’ve lived most of my life without ever having a phone,” Ian said.
“Same with flying, I don’t even use a GPS, I just turn that off and use the old DRD system, which is Deduced Reckoning Navigation.
“My motto in life is just do the very best you can with what you’ve got and if you haven’t got much, just do the very best you can,” Ian Watson said.