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.

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