NATICK - The importance of a good night's rest will not be lost upon Steve Watson who was honored Monday by the National Aeronautic Association for his record-setting flight in an open cockpit biplane last year.
The importance of a good night's rest will not be lost upon Steve Watson who was honored Monday by the National Aeronautic Association for his record-setting flight in an open cockpit biplane last year.
Watson, who flew the 2,577-mile journey from Norwood to San Diego in a record 40 hours and 31 minutes last year, credits the sleep he got in Paducah, Ky., while waiting out a storm, for his accomplishment.
"I was exhausted," said Watson, who got only about four hours of sleep the day before his flight. "I got a good night's sleep in Paducah when I was waiting for the storm to pass and that made all the difference in me finishing the final two-thirds of the trip. It was still a really long day, but I was more refreshed."
Watson, a private pilot for 47 years, had been planning the trip for a long time. He used an online flight planning program and watched the weather and wind patterns closely for weeks before deciding on the optimal time to take off.
"I was watching the weather conditions and the weather was going to be perfect on the 27th, so I left work Tuesday night and flew out the next morning," he said.
Watson, 66, took off on Sept. 27, 2006, from Norwood Airport at 7:48 a.m. and arrived in San Diego at about 9 p.m. the next day, after making fuel stops in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Although he spent time in many states around the country, Watson says there was no time to enjoy the sights and sounds where he landed.
"I must say I did not do much sightseeing," he said. "It was a pretty intense trip because you're fighting against the clock. There is a minimum speed needed to break the record so you can't lollygag across the country."
He was able to complete his cross-country flight about two hours before the minimum time requirement.
Although many pilots have crossed from west to east in the same aircraft - a WACO Classic YMF-5 open cockpit biplane - Watson is the first to complete the journey going from east to west and, as such, is the record holder.
One of the more difficult aspects of the trip for Watson was dealing with the cold temperatures at night. He wore multiple pairs of pants, shirts, gloves and headwear.
"It was very chilly at night," said Watson. "I looked like the Michelin man with all that gear on."
This was not the first time Watson has traveled across the country. A few years ago he road a Harley-Davidson motorcycle from the East Coast to the West Coast on what he calls "a personal quest," because he was "driven by curiosity and a cautious sense of adventure."
The recently retired technology industry executive said he hopes to take a barnstorming trip next summer where he will try to land in every state except Hawaii.
"It is pretty exciting to receive this honor, but at the age of 66 I think it might be time for me to slow down," he said.