A former Cromwell College head boy made a dramatic return as captain of a Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90 helicopter on Monday.

Flight Lieutenant Tom McDowell landed the aircraft on the college cricket grounds in front of an appreciative group of pupils and teachers, plus members of his family.

He is a member of No 3 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force at Base Ohakea, located near Bulls, in Manawatu.

He was able to make the memorable entry as he and his crew were returning from supporting a search and rescue exercise in the Catlins.

Fl Lt McDowell, who was head boy at the college 10 years ago, said his visit was inspired by a childhood memory of a Seasprite Helicopter landing at the college when he was in year 11 or 12.

‘‘And that kind of sparked my interest in the air force.’’

He began pilot training at Wanaka Airport and after leaving school joined the air force. He had now been a helicopter pilot for about five or six years.

He hoped the visit would be a source of inspiration for other pupils to see what could be achieved when you set your sights on your goals, he said.

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