Pupils land extra special guest as helicopter drops in

HUNDREDS of pupils got that Top Gun feeling when a multi-million euro helicopter landed in their schoolyard yesterday.

It’s not everyday that the Royal Navy drops by to show off one of its Sea King search and rescue helicopters, and the pupils of a Cork school were given a VIP tour by its crew.

The unusual visit to St Mary’s on the Hill NS, Knocknaheeny, was organised by Superintendent Con Cadogan and community garda Brian McCarthy, who knew the helicopter would be in Kinsale for search and rescue exercises this weekend.

As the impressive machine circled over the school, two pipers played the Boys of Fairhill and A Scottish Soldier.

The wind generated by the massive rotor blades sent the children wild and they clapped with delight.

Deputy Lord Mayor Cllr Tony Fitzgerald welcomed the helicopter’s crew of 12, led by Lieutenant Commander Steve Hopkins.

“On behalf of 711 squadron I look forward to enjoying your famous Irish hospitality,” said Lt Cmdr Hopkins.

School principal Kevin O’Callaghan presented the crew with a picture of the city’s northside and in turn Lt Cmdr Hopkins presented Mr O’Callaghan with a large picture of the helicopter.

“We cover the sea off the south of Ireland and last year we had to drop off three injured people at Cork University Hospital,” said Lt Cmdr Hopkins.

Later all the children got a tour of the inside of the helicopter, which is normally stationed at Culdrose, Cornwall.

Clodagh Lynch, 5, said she’d love to be a pilot and was especially impressed with all the buttons on the helicopter.

Fellow pupil Daniel Wyse was equally impressed. “I really want to be in the army though,” he added. “I like my feet on the ground.”

The helicopter’s chief engineer, Sean Memory — who had an Irish great grandmother — was inundated with questions about the winch.

“The children seemed to like that the most. It’s capable of lowering somebody 220ft, but we would rarely do that,” he said.

The crew also visited sick children at CUH and attended a reception in city hall.

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