A former Hardenhuish School student made a dramatic return last week.

Instead of arriving in a car or walking to the school gates, Flying Officer David Rawson, who is stationed at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire, flew a Merlin helicopter and landed on the school field.

Fg Off Rawson, 26, joined the Royal Air Force 18 months after his A- levels, and has been a serving officer for five years.

His parents still live in Derriads Lane, Chippenham.

He said: “I’m due to deploy to Afghanistan early next year. It’ll be my first deployment, but this is what I’ve trained for, so I am looking forward to serving my country.”

Fg Off Rawson took part in the trip to his old school as part of a five-hour routine squadron training flight.

The servicemen fly as a four person crew in the Merlin, with two pilots in the front and two crewmen in the rear.

He said: “Landing a 23-metre helicopter that can weigh up to 14 and a half tonnes in a confined area demands concentration, skill but, most importantly, good crew co-operation, and teamwork is key.”

Landing on the school’s field was a chance for Fg Off Rawson to further improve his skills touching down and taking off on difficult terrain.

The pilot, who is married to Danielle, has fond memories of his time at Hardenhuish, and said he was happy to be back in Chippenham.

“We were greeted by a huge crowd of pupils, teachers and members of the community who were all waving and cheering,” he said.

“It was such a wonderful sight. I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a pupil at Hardenhuish School.

“Since joining the RAF, I’ve always wanted to go back to Hardenhuish and give my thanks and inspire the younger generations to chase their dreams but, rather than talking in an assembly, a visual display of gratitude seemed more appropriate.”

Fg Off Rawson said he was grateful to everyone who had been in touch to say thanks for his flight.