By Garth Calitz Photos by Trevor Cohen, Dian Townsend and Tim Homan
Orient Airfield located just south of the quaint Northwest town of Magaliesburg once again played host to the annual rendition of the ever-popular Children’s Flight. The Children flight brand has now reached a level that no one could have ever imagined all those years ago at its inception at Grand Central Airport, sponsors are actually fighting to be part of this amazing event.
Felix Gosher has been the driving force behind the Children’s Flight since the first one in 2016 and has never lost the core values of the event Fly Feed Love Inspire. The Children, and making their lives better even if it's only for a day, is what it's all about, a day they will hopefully always remember.
The morning started off very early with a tethered balloon flight for some of the children offered by Bill Harrops Balloon Safaris. Once the balloon was safely on the ground the children made their way to the main event area right next to runway 36 left.
Amongst all the other arrivals a SAAF Casa 212 arrived carrying MjGen Lancelot Mathebula, SAAF Chief Director Force Preparation he was there on behalf of the Chief of the Airforce, LtGen Wiseman Mbambo. The SAAF had pledged a SAAB Gripen and a BAE Hawk display, depending on serviceability and operational commitments. Unfortunately, only the Hawk was available on the day.
The day was officially opened with a skydiver drop from an Antonov AN2 accompanied by the national anthem and reciting the Lord's Prayer followed by a Harvard display by the Puma Energy Flying Lions. With all the formalities out of the way, it was time for these wide-eyed youngsters to get their first taste of flight some in helicopters and some in fixed-wing aircraft.
The flights continued throughout the day with many children returning with a massive smile and many pilots returning with a very visible tear in their eye. Offering this kind of experience to extremely underprivileged children is bound to tug at the heartstrings of even the most battle-hardened aviator.
The children were not only treated to flights but food and drinks the whole day with many of the larger restaurant chains and fast food outlets supplying all the food the visitors could consume.
Shortly after 13:00, the events stepped up a gear it was time to treat the kids to the airshow segment of the day. The first on the cards was The promised SAAF BAE Hawk followed by a Gyro display by Andre van Zyl
Next up was a four-ship RV display by Nigel Hopkins, Ryan Beaton, Trevor Warner and Dion Raath, This really got the attention of the young ones.
Not to be outdone by the fixed wings Menno Parsons took to the air in his Bell UH-1H Iroquois the children loved seeing an aircraft they had earlier flown in dancing in the perfect blue sky.
The air was once again filled with the sound of jet engines, Mike Weingartz flew a very gracious display in the Aero L-39 Albatros
Nigel and Trevor had headed off directly after their initial to the coves to change aircraft and returned a while later in the Goodyear Eagles Pitts Specials they were joined by Jason Beamish and Johan von Solms.
Andrew Blackwood-Murray then entered the airspace in his Nashua-sponsored Extra 300LX, The airshow segment of the day proved to be a massive hit with the children many of them were almost mesmerised by the manoeuvres they were watching.
Johan “Juba” Joubert was next up in the Aérospatiale Gazelle, Juba effortlessly threw this rather large helicopter around the sky and many of the kids were seen telling their friends they had flown the same way earlier in the day.
Jason Beamish and Nigel Hopkins returned once again this time in their Extra 330s, for some reason Nigel and Jason had swapped aircraft for the display. Their display started with a massive heart drawn in the sky with the smoke from their aircraft, this brought a mighty cheer from the children. The display was concluded with their signature double knife-edge pass.
The Airshow was the last flying on the programme and it was now time to get all the children loaded onto the buses and back to their respective children’s homes, hopefully with a feeling that they are loved well fed and inspired to reach new heights in their lives.
Felix, Belinda and the Children’s Flight Team deserve a massive accolade for once again organising a brilliant day for the children. A conman question seems to always come to light at these events, “Where does Felix get his energy from?” My guess is that he has so much love to give and this is one way he gets to share it around.
To all the pilots, helpers, volunteers and of course sponsors you guys are the backbone of these events and this year was a bumper with over 100 aircraft arriving to fly the children, Well Done and see you next year.
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