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Going up in a whirlybird

Kindergarten students take a thrilling sight-seeing tour

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Jan 02/03) - Good behaviour literally took the Bompas elementary school kindergarten class to new heights in December.

As part of a contest sponsored by Great Slave Helicopters, students were encouraged to earn "Gotcha" awards.

The distinctions are given to those who exemplify safety, teamwork and caring behaviour.

For every 10 Gotcha awards, a class got an entry in a draw for the prize. The school's youngest class had not only good behaviour on its side, but luck too.

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, they were shuttled to the helicopter base where they eagerly boarded a chopper in groups of five. A staff member and the pilot, of course, accompanied them.

Freshly fallen snow flew as the helicopter's rotor blade whirred loudly. While the first group took off, their classmates covered their ears and watched from a nearby snow bank, where they amused themselves until it was their turn.

Pilot Colin Munro took the junior tour groups on 20-minute rides. They viewed the airport, the ice bridge, Wild Rose Acres subdivision and Fort Simpson island from about 500 feet above the ground.

"Every one of them said, 'Oh! This is fun,' " Munro noted after he returned with the last group. "They like that low flying."

Some of the excited students had plenty to talk about afterwards.

"(I saw) trees. I saw the ferry. I saw the truck. I saw the houses. I saw downtown," Tia Hardisty reported.

Classmate Ivor Cli-Norwegian added, "I saw the river and then we saw Fort Simpson, lots of houses." A few of the youngsters were actually able to pick out their own houses from the air.

It was also a delight for staff -- even principal Terry Jaffray, who admitted she usually can't trust her stomach in small aircraft.

"I thought it was pretty good," she said, smiling after she was safely back on the ground.