Excitement in Heysham as dad-of-two flies in Puma helicopters to visit schoolchildren
Two RAF Puma helicopters made a flying visit to St Peter’s School in Heysham last week to the delight of the children and staff.
The pilot of one of the helicopters is a school parent, Flight Lieutenant Nathe Sharples of 33 Squadron, RAF Benson, Oxfordshire, who wanted to make his two sons’ day by visiting their school and providing an unforgettable experience for all the children.
He was able to do so as part of a routine training sortie during which the crews practice landing in an unfamiliar environment with variables that they are unable to control and have to account for during their landing.
Timed to military precision, the day was supported by Heysham Cricket Club, the police and Heysham Power Station and was a great community event, with many residents reporting sightings of the helicopters on social media.
The children watched in awe from the school grounds as the huge helicopters came into view over the horizon, circled over the village and made their way down over the cricket club which borders the school.
The two choppers then co-ordinated so that one landed while the other hovered slightly above the ground.
Year 5 pupil Jasmine said: “I really liked it. I loved how close they came, and it was great to wave to them.”
“I loved how quickly they came in and did manoeuvres,” said fellow Year 5 pupil Beyla. “I liked how polite they were by waving at us.”
Cameron, also in Year 5, said: “I really liked that it was so quick, it was a surprise. I liked that they were so loud. I think everyone enjoyed it, no sad face, lots of smiles!”
And another Year 5 pupil, Cole, added: “It was so exciting. It filled me with joy and the loudness was awesome!”
Headteacher Nicola Gomersall said the event was “an unforgettable experience for all our children” made possible by Flight Lieutenant Sharples, dad of Jack, eight, and Joseph, five.
“We have a few service children in school but we have never had the offer of two huge helicopters visiting our school!” she added.
“It was great for our village of Heysham and provided an afternoon highlight for villagers, local childminders and parents, definitely one of our term’s highlights.
“A huge thank you to all involved who made this possible including all the engineers and ops personnel from RAF Benson. Amazing – thank you.”
RAF Benson station engagement officer Nikki Gasan said: “We’re really glad the children enjoyed the visit. It’s fantastic for us to be able to show off the Puma helicopter and help the non-service children in schools understand what it is the parents of service children do!”