Students receieved a generous gift from the Oregon International Air Show before school let out Friday afternoon.

Students at J.W. Poynter Middle School in Hillsboro were in for a sweet surprise Friday afternoon, Sept. 21. A surprise that came from up above.

Gazing up into the sky with amazement, students cheered as a massive Oregon National Guard Black Hawk helicopter landed right in the school's very own backyard.STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - A US Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter prepares to land at J.W. Poynter Middle School on Friday, Sept. 21.

Military personnel stepped out of the helicopter, allowing students to come take a peek inside the impressive aircraft and announcing they had brought a gift for each student — tickets to this year's Oregon International Air Show, enough for each student and two of their family members to attend. Staff at the school also received tickets.

"The air show has been very gracious," said Sonta Thompson, Poynter's assistant principal, who had a big hand in organizing the surprise. "This is a very big thing for us. To the students, I think it means a fun time to just come and have a social gathering, to get to see something cool and look at future career opportunities. For the school, it's something fun for us to connect with the community."STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Assistant principal Sonta Thompson and principal Jon Pede got to sit in the cockpit of a US Army Black Hawk helicopter during Friday's event.

Thompson, and other faculty members, spent a year organizing Friday's surprise event, which even required approval from the Pentagon to land the helicopter at the school, she said. Students sat in formation on the grass to spell out "Poynter" which could be visible from the sky, for an aerial shot from the Black Hawk.

Poynter is one of two area schools to have been chosen to receive free tickets to the show this year — the other is Rosa Parks Elementary School in Portland — all in an effort to expose more children to the world of aviation.

This year, more than 10,000 kids from 25 different youth programs were given free tickets to the air show this year, said Oregon International Air Show President Bill Braack, who was at Friday's event. The nonprofit airshow has reached out to youth groups across the metro area, including Royal Family Kids, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Boys & Girls Club to offer free tickets.STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL  - Poynter principal Jon Pede and assistant principal Sonta Thompson hold up tickets for each student and two of their family members, as well as every staff member, to attend the upcoming Oregon International Airshow.

"We are super excited," Braack said. "We want youngsters. We don't care what their backstory is. We are excited to introduce a whole lot of kids to the (science, technology, engineering and math) arena focusing around aviation. That's definitely new for us to be able to reach that many youngsters."

A new generation of airline pilots and technicians is badly needed. More than 637,000 new airline pilots and more than 839,000 new cabin crew will be needed globally over the next 20 years, according to a report released by aircraft manufacturer Boeing last year.

"There are no limitations in the world of aviation," Braack said. "It has rapidly become a very diversified career path. There have been a lot of wonderful people of color, women that broke some ceilings in years past and decades past. Now, young ladies, young boys of all backgrounds, if they (want to) work on an airplane, design an airplane, fly an airplane, the sky is really not even the limit anymore."

The Oregon International Air Show begins this Friday, Sept. 28, and continues until Sunday, Sept. 30, at the Hillsboro Airport.STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Students got a quick tour of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during its visit.STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Students, who sat in formation to spell 'Poynter' for an aerial shot, wave as the helicopter takes off.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Two US Army Humvees arrived at Poynter Middle School for the surprise on Friday, Sept. 21.STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - After delivering the surprise, students watched and waved as the US Army UH-60 Black Hawk took off into the air.

By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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