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The Children’s Flight 2021 “Less Cheese more G’s”

By Garth Calitz, Photos by Andre Venter and Trevor Cohen

In 2016 a musician, Michael Ferguson and 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 2021 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”.

“Field of Dreams”

Friday morning arrived and it was an early start for all involved whether, a pilot, helping hand or one of the 80 odd children that were about to experience something that they will never forget. At 6:30 the team were hard at work adding final touches to the amazing venue before the very important young ones arrived. Francois “Hosepipe” Hanekom, the safety director for the day, gathered all the pilots for one final safety briefing to ensure that all the flying was done in the safest manner possible.

Once the children arrived the event was officially opened by Felix Gosher, the man with the energy levels that would make the “Energizer Bunny” blush in embarrassment. The legend that is Brian Emmenis took up his familiar place behind the mic, Brian’s commentary always seems to add magic to any aviation event and creates that “Airshow Feel” that everyone is sorely missing due to the effects of the Covid Pandemic.

Brian Emmenis

The first aircraft to get airborne was the Antonov AN2 belonging to Michelle and Heystek Pretorius, they carried a team of skydivers from adventure skydives. 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 five-ship Vans RV flypast, The formation then returned for a second pass, 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 were 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.

During the break, the Kids were entertained by the Puma Energy Flying Lions. Scully Levin, Arnie Meneghelli, Sean Thackwray and Elis Levin performed a flawless display of formation aerobatics in their 1940's Harvard T6 trainer aircraft.

In a very short time, all the children had had their first taste of fixed-wing flight but the excitement was far from over. After lunch and some entertainment, it was time to experience their first Rotar-wing flight. A fleet of privately owned helicopters, ranging from Alouette ex-military helicopters to ultra-luxurious Bell 407’s, were standing by to complete the young ones flying experience.

With all the flying complete it was time to present every child with their own set of Children Flight 2021 wings. Deputy Chief of the South African Airforce, Major GeneralInnocent Buthelezi who had arrived earlier in a SAAF Agusta A109, did the honours a gesture that was greatly appreciated by all the kids. The pilots and crew then received their wings, the very successful day was then concluded with a speech by Gawie Bestbier from the South African Civil Aviation Authority.

Without the Sponsors events like these could never take place, unfortunately, we don't have the space to publish the names of each and every individual and company that contributed to the success of the day, the list is far too long.

Please browse our gallery of this event