Grand Central Airport was temporarily converted to “The Field of Dreams” on Friday 1st September, when over four hundred children were treated to their first taste of flight. The aviation community came together, in a way that can only be described as inspiring, to treat children to an unforgettable day of fun flight and most of all an outpouring of love.
Inspired by contract pilot Felix Gosher and musician Michael Ferguson ,the performer of “Paper Plane” ,the Children’s Flight took on a life of its own. The first Children’s flight was held last year and was a huge success, it had barely finished when Felix started planning this year’s event which ended up being almost four times the size of last years.
The day started very early for all the children making their way from far and wide to get to Grand Central for a day of bliss, all the transport for the children was sponsored by generous donors . On arrival the children were treated to a framed photograph of themselves shot, printed and framed in commemorative frames on site by the friendly people from Canon.
Shortly after the opening in prayer the first of the kids were led out to the awaiting aircraft ranging from two seaters to the De Havilland Dash 8 supplied by CemAir. All the pilots gave freely of their time and their aircraft to ensure the children had a day they would never forget. While the Children were flying the rest of the four hundred strong children were kept entertained by live music, colouring books and face painting. Managing to get all the children on a flight was a logistical challenge of massive proportion, but the dedicated volunteers managed to get everyone of the children onto one of the many aircraft.
The South African Air Force paid the children a visit with a quick flypast with four Gripen fighter jets. The sound of the jets had the children running out the hangar to get a glimpse of these amazing machines.
Feeding the children proved to be quite an challenge as the food had to be carried from the kitchen to the hangar where the children waited, but as always the aviation community showed their problem solving, abilities a white board was quickly converted into a massive tray and the food was delivered.
To keep the excitement levels at a high a mini airshow was organised, some of South Africa’s top aerobatic display pilot’s further inspired the young ones with amazing displays. First up was a magnificent display of formation aerobatics, the formation was led by Ryan Beaton in a RV7 with Larry Beamish also in a RV7 and Jason Beamish in an Extra 300.
Gary Whitecross in his Pilatus B4 glider was towed to altitude by Derek Hopkins in a Lombada, Gary released and fired up his wingtip smoke grenades and then continued to leave trails in the sky as he looped and rolled silently through the beautiful blue spring skies.
From the graceful glider to Hi-impact unlimited aerobatic display by Neville Ferreira in his Slick 540, Neville kept the kids gasping with his display, one of the young children asked if he was not scared he would fall out the aircraft.
Larry and Pierre took to the skies again this time in a miss-matched formation consisting of a Harvard and a Aero L-39.
The flying programme was closed off by a parade by the amazing emergency services that spent the day on standby ready to handle any eventuality if it may have arisen. Fortunately they weren’t called upon although it was reassuring to know the guys from Grand Central Fire and Rescue, ER 24 and the SAPD were ready to step up if needed.
Mrs Poppy Khoza the Director Civil Aviation was called upon to address the children and then she handed a set of very special “Children’s Flight” wings to all the participating pilots. The response from the aviation public to this call to action was overwhelming with well over fifty aircraft made available by the owners to realise the dreams of these children that have had to already overcome so much adversity in their short lives.
After watching a flight by massive radio controlled “Paper Planes” all the children were given a blank sheet of paper to create their own paper plane.
While singing Paper Plane the children were encouraged to throw their paper planes in an attempt to set up a new record for the most paper planes to be thrown simultaneously by children.
To mention everyone that played a part in this special day would be almost impossible and I am bound to forget someone along the way so I am not even going to attempt it. That being said a very special mention must be made to Maranda Van Dam who worked tirelessly to coordinate the day, Gary Renault CEO of Grand Central Airport, Sarah Thepa Airport Manager and her entire team of amazing people, Capital sounds that supplied the sound equipment and kept the kids entertained with informative commentary throughout the day.
To close I would like to quote Felix as I don’t believe anyone could sum up the day better than this amazing man “ The Children’s Flight’s origins lie in a music video called ‘Paper Plane’, which is essentially about a child with a Dream to fly, but on a deeper level it’s about anyone with a dream.
Aviation is traditionally about defying great odds and overcoming the laws of nature, the politics of man, the limitations of economy, and technological development…..for so long aviation was an exclusive privilege to supreme military, selected individuals or the super wealthy…
We wanted to bring home aviation to the children, to promote the idea that anyone can be whatever they dream of being… That you can literally ‘take that paper plane to your destiny’…. one day if even one of these kids goes for their dream, then this day may have played a role in that”.
Well Done Felix you are a true inspiration to all of us and hopefully we see you all next year again.
FLY FEED LOVE INSPIRE all boxes ticked
Please browse our gallery of special moments throughout the day