Flying visit to school
‘‘When I wrote that letter I hoped to give everyone in school a surprise.’’
Ten-year-old Alex Bowmar and about 220 schoolmates clapped, waved and cheered with delight as a helicopter turned their playground into an airfield.
The New Zealand Air Force’s visit to Kelson Primary School in Lower Hutt on September 8 was arranged after Alex wrote a letter to Air Vice-Marshal Tony Davies asking for a helicopter to stop by his school.
He wrote to Davies after seeing a TV news report about the air force delivering aid to and evacuating residents from earthquake-stricken Kaiko¯ura.
‘‘When I wrote that letter I hoped to give everyone in school a surprise. I wished so much that they would read my letter and have one of the helicopters drop by for a visit. So I am very happy that they did,’’ Alex said.
The New Zealand Defence Force sent an NH90 helicopter, which was on a scheduled training flight in the area, to make a surprise visit to the school.
The visit was originally scheduled in March but was postponed because of poor weather.
Principal Judy Pemberton said staff members were thrilled when the NZDF contacted them to arrange the visit and struggled to keep it a secret from the pupils.
‘‘It is a highlight for our year and something the children, staff and wider school community will never forget. We are very proud of Alex for his initiative to write the letter.’’
Air Commodore Darryn Webb, who was on the NH90, hoped the visit would encourage some of the students to consider joining the air force some day.
‘‘It’s great to inspire others and help to make people’s wishes come true.
‘‘My earliest memories are of aeroplanes and the excitement of living on an air force base, because my dad was also a pilot. It’s great to be able to showcase the air force of today to the next generation and hopefully ignite the same aviation spark.’’
Alex said he and his younger brother James, 8, dreamed of becoming air force pilots some day.
‘‘I’d like to fly planes and help people like they did in Kaikoura.’’
Kelson Primary School pupils wave goodbye to the crew of the helicopter. Alex Bowmar, right, and his brother James in the NH90.