Rand Airport became a “Field of Dreams” on Saturday 30 November when Felix Gosher and his team of dedicated helping hands enriched the lives of one hundred and twenty elderly members of our community. Early in 2018 Ana Luis contacted Felix and pitched the idea of having an Elders flight, in much the same format as the very popular Children’s Flight, Felix immediately agreed and later that year the first Elders Flight took place at Rand Airport this led to the second edition.
The dedicated team started preparing the venue on Friday evening and some came very close to working throughout the night to make sure everything was ready for the very important visitors the following day. The morning kicked off with a champagne breakfast for all the elderly, served in the Texan Hall at the Harvard Café, accompanied by some wonderful music supplied by Trinity house’s Marimba Band. The scrumptious breakfast was followed by a short safety briefing and then it was time for Elders to make their way to the waiting aircraft.
Elders enjoying breakfast
Trinity house’s Marimba band
For the next two hours Rand probably become the busiest airport with aircraft coming and going, sometimes up to five aircraft on approach while helicopters operated from the apron. All the pilots that took the elders for the first flight of their lives, did so at their own cost the outpouring of love and generosity at these events tends to leave one slightly breathless at times. In addition to the pilots making their aircraft and time available each and every Elder was sponsored to the tune of R1500 and the bulk of these sponsorship coming from within the aviation industry.
Bell UH-1 "Huey"
Elders returning from a flight
Once all the elders and the band members were flown it was time for a treat for a very special person. Captain Alistair Sinclair Rae, one of only two surviving SAAF P51 Mustang pilots from the Korean War was offered the opportunity to join Menno Parsons in his P51. The Captain was welcomed back by Lieutenant General Michal Muller who happens to be the other surviving Korean War P51 pilot. Lt-Gen. Muller later went on to become the Chief of the Airforce and after retirement from the SAAF served South Africa as the Ambassador to Chile. The Jeppe Pipe band lined the path and accompanied them with some amazing bagpipe music.
Capt Sinclair Rae on his way to the P51 with Menno Parsons
Mounting the Steed
The Puma Energy Flying Lions kept the excitement levels up with a brilliant two ship Harvard display, Scully Lavin and Arnie Meneghelli not only gave their time to fly the display they also raffled of a flight in a Harvard as part of the massive fund raising effort to make this day possible for the elders.
Puma Energy Flying Lions
The last order of business for the day was the awarding of Elders Flight wings to all the participating pilots, ironically when the safety officer for the day, Col François “Hosepipe” Hanekom went to collect his wings he remarked that forty years ago he was awarded his SAAF wings by the same Gen Muller. After all the pilots had received their wings it was time to board the buses and head home, I believe each and every elder went home taking the love of aviation and the aviation community with them.
Stuart Coetzee, Derek Hopkins and François Hanekom
Menno Parsons with Lieutenant General Muller