Unlike our Boeing 737 or Bombardier Q400 NextGen aircraft, our latest acquisition did not come from Seattle or Toronto – it was built right here in Calgary.
Born of inspiration and fuelled by passion, this mini plane was assembled by our Tech Ops (maintenance) team and has already brought smiles to the numerous faces found on the little jet’s photo wall of fame. What began as an at-home project became a collaborative, miniature masterpiece, brought to life in the WestJet hangar.
“The whole idea behind this project was that it was for kids from Tech Ops”, said apprentice engineer, Tyler . “There were probably more than 20 people who directly contributed to the project; from structures to B-Check, line maintenance, stores, avionics, shop maintenance, the engine shop and furnishings.”
Using personal time and unusable aircraft materials intercepted on their way to the waste bin, the mini plane was fitted with real aircraft paint, a leather seat, carpet and even a mini seatbelt. Teal and navy blue decals were printed, laminated and fixed onto the winglets also. A real photograph of an engine was shrunk to fit and placed onto the front of the mini plane’s jets and controls were placed on the dashboard.
Long-time WestJetter Don – now dubbed the department’s unofficial creative lead by his Tech Ops peers – added a mouth and eyes to the mini plane’s nose so the aircraft’s eager expression matched the heart and soul of the 10,000 plus WestJetters it represents. Kids who come to take the mini plane for a spin can even sport a pilot costume, an out-of-pocket purchase the Tech Ops gang made at the WestJet store, to make the experience even more authentic. “It was a true group effort and we all agreed that helping kids have a bit more fun was a worthy cause,” said Tyler.
The mini plane made its first official appearance at a summer party for employees and their families, where aspiring young aviation enthusiasts had the chance to try it on for size. Following the event, the mini plane returned to the hangar where some finishing touches were added and it has since been stirring up smiles among WestJetters young and old. The mini plane has been safety tested to hold up to 200 pounds, so the maintenance guys proudly invite hangar guests to hop on and let them snap a photo for the photo wall whenever the opportunity arises. A photo wall in the office displays countless WestJetters who have, as Tyler puts it, “let their inner child loose for a moment!”
The mini plane truly earned its wings when it had the opportunity to welcome five-year-old Captain Curtis aboard. Curtis Kellar, one of the many children assisted by our WestJet Cares for Kids partner, the David Foster Foundation, recently received a new heart after waiting more than two years for a transplant. A short time before his major operation, he got to hop aboard the mini plane at the David Foster Foundation Miracle Gala & Concert media launch event at the Calgary campus and he loved it! Suffice it to say, he won the hearts of everyone in the room and Tech Ops has since named the mini plane Captain Curtis in his honour.
A mere two weeks after his surgery, Curtis made an appearance at the Gala concert – this time wearing a tux rather than a pilot uniform.
Captain Curtis remains in the hangar, creating a remarkable experience for young WestJetters who come to visit or tour the campus. This mini aircraft provides an on-the-ground opportunity to let spirits soar.
Guest post written by Hilary, WestJet Guest Relations Specialist