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

By Cheryl Smit. Photographs by Cheryl Smit and Willie Bodenstein

Spring Day on Friday, 1 September 2017 the SA Aviation community brought to life The Children's Flight for young orphans, over 35 aircraft, ranging from a Dash 8 to a Stinson, and local pilots took to the skies over Grand Central Airport in Gauteng to allow 400 orphaned children to experience flying for the first time. What began as an idea in 2016 with just over 60 children experiencing flight for the first time, quickly gathered momentum to become The Children's Flight - a heartening demonstration of the great generosity, spirit and enthusiasm of the aviation community.

The children, some of whom, have all faced tremendous adversity in their short lives, were chosen through word of mouth in the community and nominated by various children's homes.

The Children's Flight was made possible through the support from the aviation industry, including sponsorships from the South African Civil Aviation Authority, South African Air Force, 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.

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

The Children's Flight was inspired by a song, Paper Plane, which Felix Gosher co-wrote with musician Michael Ferguson. Paper Plane is about a child with a dream to fly. "The song is symbolic of my own aviation story" said Felix Gosher. The music video for Paper Plane was shot in the rolling hills beyond Mogale City, in the Magaliesberg, in December 2015 and captures the way this young boy's dream unfolds before his eyes - from playing out his dream of flying with a paper plane to becoming a pilot and living out that dream. "We want to bring the true spirit of aviation to a diverse group of South African orphans who may otherwise never have had the opportunity to fly and the response and enthusiasm from the aviation community to this project has been overwhelming" said Felix Gosher.

The day began with the arrival of the Children from all of the invited Charities.

The Children were then escourted by the Helping Hands team to the hangar which had been set up with tables and chairs and special treats for them to eat before breakfast.

Photographs were taken of the Children with their sponsored t-shirt's and caps before the opening performance song.

Then the highlight for the children was when the Children's Circuit flying commenced in the designated aircraft of all types and sizes by professional pilots.

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. This year with 400 children and well over 150 support staff, the Children's Flight hired the services of a Professional Chef Double D Catering headed by Chef Daniel Dias.

The children were also treated to an aerobatic display by Jason Beamish.

A three ship formation display.

A Glider display by Gary Whitecross.

An aerobatic display by Neville Ferreira in his Slick 540.

A formation display with the L39 flown by Pierre Gouws and the Harvard flown by Larry Beamish.

At the end of the day, each child was presented with a Flight Certificate signed by their pilots and a backpack, packed with lovely sponsored treats.

It is almost an impossible task to name all the sponsors and Helping Hands that gave freely of their time on Friday to make this event the success it was, so please visit the website below for a comprehensive list of all the Pilots, Crew and Sponsors at:

Events 2017

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