Whanganui Intermediate School students sat with their heads tilted skyward as an Air Force helicopter landed on their grounds yesterday.

The only sounds louder than the machine-gun hum of rotating propellers might have been their shrill screams of excitement and exclamations of awe.

That is until the black sky beast began its descent, blowing debris into faces and even folding the cricket pitch back over itself as it touched down.

Teacher Nicki Hennessy said the helicopter and Defence Force personnel would spend an hour at the Dublin St school.

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Lieutenant Luke Godsell answers the questions of intrigued and excited Whanganui Intermediate School students. Photo / Stuart Munro
Lieutenant Luke Godsell answers the questions of intrigued and excited Whanganui Intermediate School students. Photo / Stuart Munro

"It's an amazing opportunity for the kids to actually see the capability that the Defence Force has in New Zealand and it's a cool thrill for them as well," Hennessy said.

"[The Defence Force has] never landed a helicopter at a school in Whanganui before."

While at the school, Defence Force personnel such as Lieutenant Luke Godsell of the Royal New Zealand Navy shared information about their roles to students and answered their questions.

The visit came about through Corporal Steve Collins, who is a refueller.

"He's about to leave and join the police force, so his final hurrah was to see if he could get one of the Defence helicopters to come and land at school," Hennessy said.

"He started the process and then passed it over to me."

Hennessy lives in Bulls and her husband works at Defence headquarters for the Air Force, so naturally she had an advantage in getting the arrangements made.

The A109LUH blew debris at the awestruck students and even folded the cricket pitch backwards as it descended to land. Photo / Stuart Munro
The A109LUH blew debris at the awestruck students and even folded the cricket pitch backwards as it descended to land. Photo / Stuart Munro

The chopper is an A109 Light Utility Helicopter. They are a lightweight, twin-engine aircraft operated by RNZAF's No 3 Squadron.

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Manufactured in Italy, the A109 is operated by a crew of two pilots and one loadmaster. The RNZAF has a fleet of five.

Hennessy said it was a heck of an experience for the students.

"Seeing the kids interacting with them was awesome.

"The look on their faces as the helicopter flew over and as it landed was amazing. It was something that a lot of these kids would have never seen before."