Air Component Commander Air Commodore Darryn Webb and Alex Bowmar, 10, with the letter he wrote to the Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Tony Davies, requesting that one of the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s NH90 helicopters visit his school.
8 September 2017
Ten-year-old Alex Bowmar and about 220 schoolmates clapped, waved and shrieked in delight as one of the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s NH90 helicopters landed on their school’s playground this morning.
“I’m very happy. Dreams really do come true, though I still cannot believe it’s happening,” said Alex, a Year 5 student at Kelson Primary School, who wrote to the Chief of Air Force to ask if one of the NH90s could visit his school.
Alex said he wrote the letter after watching a TV news report about how the NH90s delivered aid to earthquake-stricken Kaikoura and evacuated residents.
“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.”
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) sent one of the NH90 helicopters, which was on a scheduled training sortie in the area, to make a surprise visit to the Lower Hutt school this morning.
The NH90 visit was originally scheduled in March but was postponed because of poor weather conditions at that time.
“While I was unable to come along today, I have asked No.3 Squadron to drop into Kelson School with one of their helicopters to show you and your classmates around it,” Air Vice-Marshal Tony Davies, the Chief of Air Force, said in a letter to Alex.
“I wish you all the best for the future and it would be great to see you and your classmates in the Air Force when you have finished school.”
School principal Judy Pemberton said all the staff members were thrilled when the NZDF contacted them to arrange the visit in early March and struggled to keep it a secret from the pupils.
“We pinched ourselves daily. We couldn’t wait for the visit and witness the delight and wonder on the children’s faces when they hear and see the helicopter land,” Ms Pemberton said.
“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 Component Commander Air Commodore Darryn Webb, who was on the NH90 representing the Chief of Air Force, said he 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,” Air Commodore Webb said.
“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, dream of becoming Air Force pilots some day.
“I’d like to fly planes and help people like they did in Kaikoura.”