The Children's Flight for young orphans -Grand Central Airport

By Willie Bodenstein

Friday and Saturday, 31 August and 1 September 2018 the Children's Flight for young orphans organised by Felix Gosher together with tremendous support by the aviation community and others was again held at Grand Central Airport in Midrand.

In 2016, the first year of the imitative there were only sixty children experiencing flight for the first time. In 2017 more than 400 children were taken aloft for the first flight of their young lives. This year almost eight hundred flew over the two days.

Felix Gosher, organiser of the Children's Flight

Originally planned to be held at AFB Waterkloof the SAAF declined to host the event which is strange since the South African Government is continuously complaining about the disparity between black and white pilots. (Currently approximately only 7% of the almost 17,000 licensed pilots in the country are black). By not allowing the SAAF to host the event it has lost a golden opportunity to install a love for aviation in many a young hearts as well as to promote the SAAF as a viable career option.

Sarah Thepa, Grand Central Airport Manager

Fortunately Grand Central Airport came to the rescue and Sarah Thepa, Airport Manager and Gary Renault CEO were too happy to host the event. “Grand Central,” Sarah Thepa said. “Is the home of the Children's Flight and we are happy to have them back where they belong.”

Children expectantly waiting to be led to their flight.

Children boarding a Cemair Dash 8 for their first ever flight.

And boarding the Allo III.

Disembarking from a flight in the Caravan.

Children being led back after their flight.

The idea of the Children's Flight is to prove to these orphans that anything is possible and that dreams can come true. The children, some of whom have faced tremendous adversity in their short lives, were chosen through word of mouth in the community and nominated by various children's homes.

Boys from the Pretoria Boys High School and Master John Illsley who assisted with getting the youngster to and from their flights.

From left to right Felix with Hugo Visser who flew almost 20 circuits in his Allo III, Fred Morrison of Superior Pilot Service whose aircraft flew countless more with Vernon Howell who assisted with marshalling.

Derek Hopkins who flew Menno Parsons's DC3 Delany during the day with Grand Central Fire Chief Tiaan Joseph.

Delany taking off with another load of children.

The success of the Children's Flight is made possible through the support from the aviation industry, including sponsorships from the South African Civil Aviation Authority, various aviation companies, members of the public and a handful of pilots based across the world that have kindly sponsored their airplanes to be flown on their behalf.

Nigel Hopkins in the Extra 330SC.

Ivan van der Schaar in the Boeing Stearman.

Patrick Davidson who finished second in the Challenger Class at the last Red Bull Air Race in the MX2.

Glen Warden in the L-29.

Juba Joubert in the Allo II.

The Raptors RV Team.

The Raptors in formation with the DC3 and Caravan.

In addition to the airplane flips, the day's activities included a host of special spoils for the children such as face painting, paper jet making and colouring in, before being treated to a buffet lunch and aerobatic display that featured some of the most well know airshow performers. At the end of the day, each child was presented with a Flight Certificate signed by their pilots and a gift with lovely sponsored treats.

Some of the helicopters that were used flying the children.

Felix Gosher who pioneered The Children's Flight said "
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 the 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. We wanted to bring home aviation to the children and to promote the idea that anyone can be whatever they dream of. If we manage to inspire even one of the children to reach for their dreams, then we will have been successful.”

Judging not only by the quantum leap in the number of children attending but also by the looks on the children's faces after their flights and the gasps of amazement when they watched the aerobatics afterwards. Felix has without a doubt succeeded. Your vision Felix has not only brought joy to these orphans but has also ignited a spark for the love of aviation in many a young heart.

However, an event of this magnitude is only made possible by those individuals who gave freely of their time on the Friday and Saturday as well as the numerous contributions and sponsorships that made it a success.

Events 2018

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