Surrey Schools Spectacular

Two Surrey schools were in for a treat on Friday 13th of May when they were visited by a team from the Historic Army Aircraft Flight and Boeing to talk about careers in engineering and aerospace.

St. Mary’s School, Chiddingfold

Chiddingfold cricket pitch found itself surrounded by eager children and excited villagers when at 9am the sound of helicopter rotor blades were heard above the trees.  Marshallers were posted in hi-visibility jackets and the Bell 47 Sioux of the Historic Army Aircraft Flight descended from the east to hover right outside the school, while everyone watched in wonder.

After landing and stopping the engine, Rich (the pilot) and Alice (an engineer), who both work for Boeing, greeted the pupils with big smiles and after jokingly asking whether they had landed in London, the pupils quickly educated them that this was beautiful Chiddingfold.  Each class was treated to a closer look at the helicopter to learn more about it. 

Rich described the marvels of aircraft engineering and explained how flying a helicopter is just like riding a bike… it takes a bit of getting used to, but with perseverance you can learn almost anything! Mark, the Historic Army Aircraft Flight Engagement Lead, was on the other side of the helicopter and explained how the Bell 47 Sioux has been used all over the world, since it was built nearly 60 years ago. 

Meanwhile, Alice and Katy, two early career Boeing engineers, spoke in the school hall to classes in turn about how they love Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM).  Their enthusiasm was inspiring for all the pupils, from reception to Year 6, and reinforced how engineering careers are rewarding for all. 

The pupils also heard from professional Air Traffic Controllers about how aircraft are kept safe as they fly around the skies!

The pupils loved the opportunity to see the helicopter up close and to be inspired about engineering and Air Traffic Control.

Alas, time flies when everyone is having fun and all too soon it was time for the team to depart.  Once again the pupils lined the edge of the cricket pitch, this time to see the helicopter depart vertically upwards and accelerate gracefully away, treating all on-lookers to how helicopters defy the laws of gravity!  It wasn’t long before the helicopter was at the next Surrey destination… Rodborough School just up the road!

Mrs Buckley, St. Mary’s School Headteacher

Rodborough School, Milford

It was a pleasure to welcome two STEM Ambassadors from Boeing to the Year 9 assembly this morning. Alex, an Aircraft Maintenance Apprentice, and Bianca, an Engineering Graduate, were able to talk to Year 9 students about their career pathways. Later in the morning, Year 9 were invited out to the school’s front field where they waited eagerly for the arrival of the final members of the team.

Right on schedule, pilot Rich Pillans arrived in an historic Army Bell 47 Sioux helicopter. After the students got to see the helicopter hovering on the field, Rich landed safely in front of the students and initiated shutdown procedures.

Rich and Mark (Flight Engagement Lead), gave a talk about the aircraft while the Boeing STEM Ambassadors answered questions from the eager students.

Rich and the rest of the team stayed across lunch to allow more students to view the aircraft before assisting the Headteacher, Matthew Armstrong-Harris, and his Reading class from Year 8 to take their ‘Reading Challenge’ to another level.

All students at Rodborough are challenged to photograph themselves reading in unusual places, so Rich helped Mr Armstrong-Harris to raise the bar by taking him for a tour of Witley in the Sioux, where he could take a moment to read a very brief extract from Mary Beard’s ‘Twelve Caesars’ before continuing back to school.

8E were then treated to a look at the helicopter and a brief talk from Rich about the importance of reading in his role as a helicopter pilot.

After the short flight Headteacher, Matthew Armstrong-Harris, said “It was amazing to have the opportunity to fly in such an iconic aircraft. What the flight did more than anything was to highlight what an incredibly beautiful area this is. As we flew back towards Rodborough it was so clear to see how lucky we are to be located here.”

He added: “The team from the Historic Army Aircraft Flight and Boeing have done a fantastic job of bringing engineering to life for our students today. It has also been great fun to look at reading in a different way. It is such an important skill and central to our curriculum, so to have a bit of fun with our Reading Challenge today has been fabulous, my thanks go to Rich, Mark and the Boeing STEM Ambassadors for helping us do that.”

At the end of the day Rich and the team departed to their base in Middle Wallop after having inspired students from Rodborough and, earlier in the day, from St Mary’s in Chiddingfold.

Matthew Armstrong-Harris, Rodborough School Headteacher

Year 9 students, flanked by Boeing STEM Ambassadors and Rich Pillans

Photo credits: Hannah Shroot and each school