This wasn’t an ordinary day for one of our student helicopter pilots, and it wasn’t an ordinary day at St. Johns Prep in Danvers, just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Erik is one of our helicopter students at our Lawrence Airport helicopter school, and he is also a member of the Aviation Club at the school. With permission from the school and our instructor Chris Ramsey accompanying him in, our Robinson helicopter landed inside the football field. Over 150 students and faculty were on hand for the event. Great job Erik and Chris – here is the article from the Salem Mass newspaper.
DANVERS — Something much larger than an eagle landed at the home of the St. John’s Prep Eagles yesterday afternoon when Cronin Stadium became a helicopter landing pad for one of its students.
Around 2:50 p.m., senior Erik Slettehaugh of Groveland circled a two-seater R-22 helicopter twice around the stadium.
In the stands stood his parents, grandparents, a cousin, the school’s principal, members of the St. John’s Aviation Club led by Brother Tim Paul and curious student onlookers.
With a Danvers Fire Department engine on hand just in case, Slettehaugh, with North Andover Flight Academy flight instructor Chris Ramsey by his side, flew into view and ducked down behind the treeline at the far end of the stadium.
The helicopter then rose above the trees and came in for a soft landing smack-dab in the middle of the stadium.
“It seems a little smaller from up there,” Slettehaugh, whose middle name is Blades, said about his view of his school from the air.
“He was flying the aircraft all the way in,” Ramsey said.
As the two got out of the cockpit, they were greeted by applause of those gathered in the stands.
“How many schools do you know who have a helicopter land at their field?” asked sophomore Mike Viviano of Middleton.
The helicopter had arrived several minutes later than expected from Lawrence Municipal Airport in North Andover. Slettehaugh explained that was a result of a last-minute oil change, so the flight was a little faster than he expected to make up for the lost time.
“It went well,” he said.
As they got out of the aircraft, Slettehaugh and Ramsey were greeted by Paul and Principal Ed Hardiman, who was enthusiastic about what was the first time a student had ever landed a helicopter at the stadium.
A couple of years ago, an alumnus, Scott Sanborn, the nephew of Athletic Director Jim O’Leary, landed a Coast Guard “Dolphin” helicopter at the field, Hardiman said.
Yesterday’s landing also coincided with the school’s annual auction, and with the flight academy donating lessons, the landing was meant to generate some excitement for that item. Hardiman said the landing was a great learning experience for all.
“It’s a great way for the guys to get an up-close look at something they are passionate about,” Hardiman said about the landing. “It’s something new and different and gives them a unique experience.”
Before landing at his school, Slettehaugh had amassed 10 hours of flight time over the past five months, paying about $270 per hour for lessons. He works at the Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Danvers to pay for those lessons.
“He just got really interested in helicopters,” said Paul, who is also an aviation enthusiast. Paul was bitten by the flying bug since he began as moderator of the Aviation Club about four years ago and has been flying for 21/2 years.
Slettehaugh first wanted to fly a helicopter after taking a flight above glaciers during a family cruise in Alaska.
On hand to watch Slettehaugh’s landing were his grandparents Robert and Claire Blades of Groveland, cousin Sheila Smith of Reading, mom Doreen Blades, and dad Peter Slettehaugh.
Doreen Blades said she loves her son’s desire to become a helicopter pilot.
“It’s what he wants to do,” she said. Her son plans to study aerospace engineering in college, so the flight lessons fit with his interests. “He just loves it, and you want to follow your passion, and St. John’s, they are so wonderful, they do so much for him.”
“I think it’s wonderful,” Peter Slettehaugh said. (The family name is Norwegian; there is even a fjord with that name, Peter Slettehaugh said). “It’s something he really enjoys. He’s already hitting me up to buy him a helicopter,” he joked. (The suggested retail price of a Robinson 22 Beta II is $250,000, according to the company’s Web site.)
Slettehaugh is not the only St. John’s Prep student to pass an aviation milestone recently.
On Sunday, senior Ryan McCarthy of Ipswich passed a test with a Federal Aviation Administration examiner to earn his pilot’s license, Paul and McCarthy said.
McCarthy, co-president of the Aviation Club with Slettehaugh, was on hand yesterday with a radio in hand, listening to Slettehaugh’s progress.
“I love flying,” McCarthy said. “I would love to make it a career.”
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673 or by e-mail at eforman@salem news.com.