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Children's Flight 2022- FLY * FEED * LOVE * INSPIRE

By Garth Calitz, Photos by Andre Venter

In 2016 musician, Michael Ferguson and commercial Pilot Felix Gosher joined forces to offer underprivileged children the opportunity to experience the joys of flight, a privilege that many of us take for granted. The initiative was inspired by a song by Michael, “Paper Plane” it is about a young boy with a dream to fly and through hard work and dedication, this dream is realised.

Since then the Children’s Flight has grown to almost cult status and every year the initiative seems to attract more and more people willing to offer their time and resources. The Children Flight has even gone international and inspired Elders Flight events as well as a Children's NAV flight to Margate.

The 2022 edition of the Children’s Flight was hosted by the Magalies Flying Club, they graciously made Orient airfield available to be temporarily converted into the “Field of Dreams” for the second year running, although in 2021 the numbers were limited due to the pandemic.

Friday morning arrived and it was a cold and early start for all involved, with the mercury settling on the zero mark many wished they had brought warmer clothes, fortunately, the cold weather quickly gave way to what became a very hot day. By the time the 500 odd children arrived everything was in place and ready to go for their big day.

The first aircraft to get airborne was the Antonov AN2 belonging to Michelle and Heystek Pretorius, they carried a team of skydivers. Michelle had to fly through quite a lot of pain as she had been injured in an unfortunate incident in the proceeding week.

Ralph Ridge, the owner of adventure skydives, opened the 82kg South African flag as he drifted through the beautiful Magalies air accompanied by a rendition of the national anthem.

No sooner had the skydivers landed, when the children were treated to a ten-ship Vans RV flypast, The formation then returned for a head-on break and the excitement amongst the kids was busy building as they cheered the aircraft along.

Now it was time to fly, the first batch of children was ushered off to the ER24 medical stand for a quick medical check and then off to the aircraft for an experience of a lifetime. Initially, some of the young 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 after the flight is what makes these pilots come back year after year to share their love of flying. The bulk of the younger children were flown in one of the three Cessna 208 Caravans kindly made available for the owners.

The older children either had an opportunity to fly in one of the close to 100 light aircraft that were brought in by the pilots at their own costs, just to make a difference in a child's life.

The remainder of the Children were flown by the helicopter squadron which comprised a mixture of civilian and ex-military helicopters also made available through the kindness of the owners.

Once each child had flown they were issued their very own set of Children's Flight wings, something that they will cherish for many years to come. The day was by no means only about flying, each child was well fed by the many food sponsors that heeded the call to treat these underprivileged children like kings and queens for the day.

Once all the children had experienced their first, but hopefully not their last, taste of flight they were treated to their very own airshow. Airshow pilots and teams kindly gave up their time to entertain the young ones. The first team to perform was the ever-present Puma Energy Flying Lions, they arrived and had the children in awe while they danced around the cloudless sky.

Immediately after the Good Year Eagles took to the sky and once again the children were mesmerised by the manner in which these pilots threw the tiny Pitts Specials around.

The father and son duo of Ivan and Juandre van der Schaar were next in line, this was incidentally their first public performance after receiving their airshow authorisation only hours before. Ivan flies his 1940s Boeing Stearman and is joined in the air by the radio-controlled Extra 300 flown by Juandre.

Nigel Hopkins and Jason Beamish then flew a magnificent display in their Iveco branded Extra 330s the children really appreciated the massive heart that they drew in the sky.

The Airshow portion of the day was finally closed off with a Bell Huey display by Menno Parsons, the children that had the opportunity to fly in the Huey really enjoyed the display and were telling everyone that would listen that they had just been in that aircraft earlier.

One lucky young lady was treated to a very special flight with a very special pilot, Derek "Pops" Hopkins was asked to take the winner of the colouring competition on a gentle aerobatic flight, needless to say, the young lady loved the flight and I do believe the aviation bug was firmly implanted in her soul. Maybe she will grow up to be a female aviation trailblazer.

Events like this would not be possible without the generosity of the amazing people who so selflessly give of their time and resources expecting nothing in return other than a smile from a happy child. how does one explain Felix Gosher to those who don't know him? He is a bundle of energy that never stops or even runs a bit flat, without the enthusiasm of Felix the Children's Flight would never have started never mind reach its seventh year. Felix has learnt how to surround himself with like-minded people that find reasons why they can do things rather than reasons why things won't work. The list of people to thank is just too long to print here but special mention must go to Rikus Erasmus, Nigel Musgrave and of course Brian Emmenis and his team from Capital Sounds.

Please browse our gallery of this event