EXCITEMENT levels were sky high when students landed a special visit from a Royal Navy helicopter.

Hundreds of students at The King’s Academy, in Coulby Newham, turned out to welcome the crew, who had flown from the Culdrose naval air station in Cornwall.

The visit by the Merlin Mark II was the academy’s prize following a competition run by the Royal Navy in partnership with Middlesbrough Achievement Partnership (MAP) to inspire young people in engineering and to introduce them to naval careers.

Students from schools across Middlesbrough were challenged to design a new aircraft and The King’s Academy was chosen as the best secondary school.

The 14.6 tonne helicopter landed on the academy’s sports fields and the crew was greeted by Principal David Dawes, the academy’s Royal Marines Combined Cadet Force, the competition-winning designers and primary age children from nearby Viewley Hill Academy.

Mr Dawes said: “It has been a huge privilege to have the helicopter land on our fields and to welcome the crew, who have flown all the way from Cornwall to bring us this spectacle that makes us proud to be British. The visit generated a huge amount of excitement among our staff and students, who will always remember the experience.

“It has been wonderful to see the dedication and professionalism of the crew, who set a great example to our students. They have asked questions and learned about the aircraft, its role and life in the Royal Navy, and we are very grateful to the pilots and crew and the MAP for the visit.”

The whole of Year 7, sixth formers and some of the academy’s students with higher learning needs were able to climb aboard the aircraft and meet the crew, as well as have their pictures taken alongside the helicopter.

The aircraft normally carries anti-submarine warfare, using 750m sonar to identify enemy vessels beneath the surface.

The helicopter also dropped in on Unity City Academy during its visit to Teesside.

Karyn Vose, schools support coordinator for the MAP, who attended with colleague Claire Risker, said: “One young girl from Viewley Hill told me that the visit has inspired her to want to be a pilot. If it has that sort of impact on just one child, then it’s a tremendous achievement.”