The Derby High School marching band looked to the skies for inspiration for the theme of this season’s show. The theme “Heavy Metal” highlighted the aviation history in the area. The show featured a prop aircraft that flew at the pinnacle of the performance.
Retired Derby High School teacher Marty Hunt was the man behind the airplane design and production.
Hunt had no ties with the Derby marching band before the project, but he is no stranger to designing and building creative props. He has used his talents for projects around the city, including South Rock Christian Church.
“I’ve always done some arts and crafty stuff, but until I retired, I haven’t had a lot of time to do a lot of that,” Hunt said. “It is one of those things you just discover that God has built your brain to be able to look at a picture of something and see what needs to be done to make it come to life. It has been fun to use those gifts to help out different groups in town.”
Whether it was a locomotive that puffed steam or an inflatable whale for Vacation Bible School, Hunt is always ready to get creative and build. But this project was a new challenge.
For starters, the plane would need to have the ability to be disassembled and reassembled multiple times throughout the year but would also have to be light enough to be carried by six members of the band.
The inspiration for the plane came from the B-29 Superfortress that was one of the many planes manufactured in this area during World War II. There is a restored aircraft nicknamed “Doc” that is housed in a hanger in Wichita.
“When I was talking with Adam DeVault, he thought it would be cool to have a plane that was built here in Wichita,” Hunt said. “We immediately thought of Doc, so I found pictures of that online and drew up something similar to the scale that we could build.”
Hunt used styrofoam and PVC pipe to create the plane’s skeleton and even found a way to bend the PVC pipe how he wanted using a portable disc golf hole.
“I saw online that you can bend PVC pipe with a heat gun, but when you try to bend it in your hands, it has a tendency to kink, and you get an uneven bend,” Hunt said. “I thought I would let gravity do the work, so I drilled a hole in one end of the pipe, and I could do a pipe about two and a half feet long.”
The rest of the aircraft was supported with PVC pipe, glue and duct tape. Hunt used Tyvak, which was left in his house nearly 30 years ago, that came in handy to create the skin of the plane.
After painting the final touches on the plane, the last part of the project was to name the aircraft. According to Hunt, when he asked members of the flag team they decided on the nickname Big Bird, which was painted on the plane with a drawing of Big Bird.
The plane provides an added dynamic to the show, and Hunt was grateful for the opportunity and the challenge of creating the design.
“When you have been given gifts, it is fun to be able to share them,” Hunt said. “I enjoyed doing it, and it was satisfying to see it come together.”