At the beginning of the school year, Tyler ISD Career and Technology Center (CTC) engineering teacher, Durk Watts, gave his aviation students a task: to rebuild a massive model airplane donated to the program by an airliner associated with Tyler Pounds Airport. The model plane was a long way from ‘model’ shape with many rusted and broken parts. The aviation students along with auto collision repair students worked every day to complete the project. However, their work came to a halt this past January when Mr. Watts unexpectedly passed after a sudden illness.
DeAnna Molloy, fellow CTC teacher and good friend of Mr. Watts, said that Mr. Watts intended for the plane to become a mascot for the aviation program and even named the plane the Rocket Express by CTC Airways. “It didn’t take us long to know that we had to all pull together to complete this model plane in his honor,” Molloy stated.
Completing the model plane quickly became a school wide project. Students in the auto paint and collision program fixed up and painted the fiberglass exterior, engineering and aviation students fit the interior with cabin seats and accessories and even printed exhaust fans for the wings using a 3D printer. Next, graphic design and audio visual students created a memorial poster that would become encased in a handmade wooden frame created by construction science students. The framed photo is displayed alongside a metal plaque created by welding students.
“Getting the model finished and dedicated to Mr. Watts became an obsession for all the students and friends who loved him,” Mrs. Molloy said. “Everyone that he touched knows how excited he would be to see the finished plane. We wanted to make sure it was finished for Durk. He was a great teacher, father, husband, son and friend and is sorely missed in our CTC family.”
The CTC Airways model plane is currently on display inside the Tyler ISD Career and Technology Center.