From The Gazette

N.-D.-de-l'Ile-Perrot

Campers get surprise landing

  • Councillors from the Notre-Dame-de-l'Ile-Perrot day camp finish up a song to occupy campers as military personnel wait in the background.
    Councillors from the Notre-Dame-de-l'Ile-Perrot day camp finish up a song to occupy campers as military personnel wait in the background.
    Photo credit: Navneet Pall/ The Gazette

“My dad has a bigger knife than that.”

That was one of several comments Captain Sylvain Tremblay got from campers, as he and his fellow members of the 438th Tactical Helicopter Squadron of the Canadian Forces, landed their helicopter in Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot’s Pointe du Moulin Historical Park on Friday morning.

“This is just my pocket knife,” he answered, while holding a small, red Swiss Army Knife. “We also have bigger knives.”

As a surprise for the 130 or so campers, who were brought by school bus to the park from Carrefour Notre Dame, the helicopter flew overhead a few times before landing in a field about 200 metres from where the campers were assembled in a line.

Then, campers were divided into groups to have question-and-answer sessions with different officers. Campers saw the helicopter’s armaments, the types of tents and survival equipment used by army officers, and they climbed inside the chopper and get a close first-hand look at all its equipment.

Tremblay gave campers the history of the unit, nicknamed the Wildcats, and explained the role of army officers.

The helicopter, stationed in St-Hubert, is used primarily for search-and-rescue operations, both at home and on the battlefield, Tremblay explained, though it is occasionally used for drug bust operations with the RCMP. The Bell Textron Helicopter was assembled in Mirabel with engines from Pratt and Witney Canada. It reaches a top speed of 140 knots, or 260 kilometres per hour.

Tremblay, a reservist, said the squadron likes to visit day camps, schools and airshows, but doesn’t do it very often.

“We don’t have a lot of spare time, so we only do this once in a while,” said Tremblay, whose full-time job is a pilot for Air Canada. “It’s always fun. From Grade 1 to adults, everyone has questions.”

This is the second time in three years the helicopter visited the day camp.

“The town made the request with the army, and had to follow the proper channels,” explained N.D.I.P. Mayor Marie-Claude Nichols. “It’s really interesting for the kids, and a great learning experience. I even learned a lot today.”

Campers learned why it’s important to keep your gun clean at all times (to prevent it from rusting), why the helicopter is camouflaged green (so it can’t be seen well in a forest) and even who designed the mascot of the Wildcats unit (Walt Disney sketched the character, a friendly-looking yellow cat, in 1942).

“It’s really fun, and it was great to ask so many questions; they were really nice,” said Laurie Paquette, 11. “I didn’t think it was going to land. That was a great surprise.”

jmagder@montrealgazette.com
Twitter: OffIslandNews
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