RAF Helicopter Lands on School Playground

As an associate solicitor working in the personal Injury department at Lanyon Bowdler one of my areas of specialism is in military claims. As a firm we actively build relationships with organisations who can assist our military clients and also with local bases. Last year the firm signed the Armed Forces Community Covenant to demonstrate our commitment to the armed forces community.

We have had the privilege of working very closely with RAF Shawbury and as a firm we have had the opportunity to understand more about the work of the No.1 Flying Training School and School of Air Operations Control, having enjoyed a comprehensive tour of the base last autumn.

I was really interested to hear that the Flying Training School offer visits to local primary schools. As a parent governor of my children’s primary school I knew the school would be really keen to arrange a visit. A few emails later, liaising with the corporate engagement relations officer and the head teacher, the date was set for a helicopter to land on the playground at Coalbrookdale Primary on 8 October 2019. 

The head teacher managed to keep the visit a complete surprise from the children. After lunch all the children lined up at the front of the building overlooking a lower playground, they weren’t told why, they were just asked to wait patiently. A few minutes passed with lots of guessing from the children as to what they waiting for, but none of them guessed what happened next. A helicopter appeared, circled the school, and then slowly but surely landed on the playground in front of 216 barely containable, excited, screaming children. The pilot, Mr Nigel Thorpe, was greeted as if a celebrity.

Each class was thrilled to go down to the lower playground to explore the helicopter inside and out, ask questions of the pilot about the helicopter itself and those relating to a military career. The pilot coped brilliantly in answering all sorts of questions, from the more technical: “how do you fly?” to the fanciful: “do you know Tom Cruise…..?” A photographer then had the enviable task of arranging the excitable children calmly for a class photograph in front of the helicopter. The school welcomed the opportunity to use the event as a focus for the week’s lessons from science and technology, to creative writing where students described the landing of the helicopter.

The visit was very much appreciated by pupils, teachers and parents alike and it was a great opportunity to engage the local community and offer information about the Defence Helicopter Flying School at Shawbury. However, there has been an additional unexpected bonus from the visit.

Usually the school would have class photos taken during the summer term so the children have a memento of all their class mates, teachers and teaching assistants from the year. This year has been a strange year for all, with the school forced to close at the beginning of lockdown and has only been able to reopen for the children of key workers and limited class years. Arranging a group photo has just not been possible. So when the head teacher suggested the photos taken from the helicopter would be used in place of the normal school photo I thought this was a brilliant memento for the children, not only of their year at school but of the visit that was enjoyed by all. Of course it also means that the pilot has now made all the school photos this year. 

Squadron Leader Kim Leach from RAF Shawbury said: “The aircrew from Number 1 Flying Training School at RAF Shawbury are always keen to support science, technology, engineering and maths activities in our local schools. It is also important to raise awareness of the history and purpose of the Armed Forces and to show how these essential subjects help to shape our future success. We are glad that the children enjoyed the visit of the helicopter and crew and we are delighted that the photographs taken on the day will provide a lasting memory.”

Mrs Sue Blackburn, Head Teacher at Coalbrookdale and Ironbridge CE Primary School commented: “When Mrs Howard, one of our school governors, mentioned the possibility of having a helicopter from the local RAF base coming to school; I could not have imagined how momentous an occasion this would turn out to be.

We were delighted to be able to work with RAF Shawbury to organise the helicopter visit last October. It was wonderful to see all of the children’s reactions to the event. They were so excited to see the helicopter and could hardly believe their eyes when it landed on the school playground. It was a wonderful opportunity for them to be able to look inside the helicopter and talk with the pilot. It is a memory that will last a lifetime.”

More information about Lanyon Bowdler and our support of the Armed Forces Community Covenant can be found here: https://www.lblaw.co.uk/about-us/our-community