Ralph Ridge skydived in with a huge flag. Pic Garth Calitz.

The 2021 edition of the Children’s Flight was hosted by the Magalies Flying Club which made their Orient airfield available to become a ‘Field of Dreams’.

SINCE ITS LAUNCH five years ago the Children’s Flight has grown as more and more people are inspired to offer their time and resources.

The Children’s Flight has, with the infectious enthusiasm of founder Felix Gosher, generated spin-offs such as an ‘Elders Flight’ and a Children’s NAV flight to Margate.

On the Friday morning it was an early start for all involved in making it possible for around 80 children to experience flight. The hugely experienced Francois Hanekom, the Safety Director, gathered all the pilots for the safety briefing to ensure that all the flying was done in the safest manner possible.

Airshow commentator Brian Emmenis made the journey from his home base in Welkom. His commentary always adds magic to any aviation event and creates the ‘Airshow Feel’ that everyone is missing due to Covid restrictions.

The first aircraft to get airborne was the huge Antonov AN2 belonging to Michelle and Heystek Pretorius. It carried a team of skydivers, of which Ralph Ridge flew the 82 kg South African flag, accompanied by the national anthem.

‘HELICOPTERS TOPPED OFF THE FLYING EXPERIENCE’

As the skydivers landed, the children were treated to a five-ship Vans RV flypast. The excitement amongst the children was building as they cheered the aircraft along.

Then it was time to fly. The first batch of children were ushered to the medical stand for a quick check-up and then to the aircraft for an experience of a lifetime. Initially, some of the younger ones looked a bit nervous but after the reassurance of the very professional pilots, they boarded the aircraft. The absolute joy on their young faces is what makes these pilots come back year after year to share their love of flying.

The children were then entertained by the Puma Energy Flying Lions who performed a flawless display of formation aerobatics in their Harvards.

When all the children had had their first taste of fixed-wing flight, the excitement was far from over. After lunch a fleet of privately owned helicopters, ranging from ex-military Alouettes to luxurious Bell 407s topped off the flying experience.

With the flying complete, every child was given a set of Children’s Flight 2021 wings. Deputy Chief of the South African Airforce, Major General Innocent Buthelezi, who had arrived in a SAAF Agusta A109, did the honours, a gesture that was greatly appreciated by all.

The pilots and crew also received wings, and the day was concluded with a speech by Gawie Bestbier from the Civil Aviation Authority. The key to the success of this remarkable outreach is Felix Gosher’s energies and the unstinting support of the many sponsors – who are too numerous to mention here.

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