"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years" - Abraham Lincoln.
The brainchild of Felix Gosher, the Elders Flight, seeks to give elders the opportunity to go flying and to enjoy the day in the company of others. I have known Felix for a while and I have always admired his enthusiasm to give back to the community be it to children or in this instance to elders.
I arrived at Rand quite early and I was greeted with a spectacular blue-sky summer's day with northerly winds. I could also see that the ramp had quite a few aircraft ready and waiting for the special guests.
Immaculately clean engine compartment of Tiger Moth ZS- BGL
ZU-ALT on static display
As safety is always an important consideration a pilot briefing was held in the "customs hall" before the flying could start. The group of pilots, ground personnel, safety officers and photographers were briefed on the activities of the day by Lt. Col Francois Hanekom, Ricardo Alfonso and Felix Gosher himself. A representative from Netcare 911 also briefed the pilots on what measures they would have available to assist in the case of an emergency.
After the briefing, the action turned to the Harvard Cafť where the marimba band from Trinity House had set up and provided beautiful background music to the gathering crowd.
The excitement steadily grew and finally the flying program could commence.
The elders walked out to a parade of honor presented by the Jeppe Pipe band to the tune of Sarie Marais and Scotland the Brave, which certainly stirred emotions!
With the variety of aircraft, it was a symphony of the whine of turbines, the rumble of Continental and Lycoming engines and the quiet and confident purr of a Rotax engine. I captured these moments before the elders took flight!
Lt Col Hanekom and safety officer Nigel Musgrave was on the apron the entire time along with the airport manager of Rand Airport, Stuart Coetzee.
The flying action was non-stop from 9am through 11am. The priority was the turnaround of flight recipients coupled with high levels of safety.
I must admit the reactions when the flight recipients landed back from their flights made my day! You could see that the experience of flight made their day!
With the Elders having all flown the program wound down with two final special flights, the first was a display from the Flying Lions, specifically Scully Levin and Arnie Meneghelli.
The final flying activity for the day was a special flight for Retired Capt Alistair Sinclair Rae who served the South African Airforce in Korea, flying P51 Mustangs in active duty. Menno Parsons flew his Mustang with the General in the back seat. A sight and sound to behold! I contemplated how he must have felt sitting in a Mustang again, a machine that he flew a very long time ago, over hostile terrain in the most dangerous situations.
The Elders Flight certainly delivered thrills a plenty! It was superbly arranged by Felix and his team. Every detail was attended to and nothing was left to chance.
Finally, these two gentlemen, being Felix Gosher and Menno Parsons, a whole list of charitable sponsors, pilots, ground crew, helping hands and so many others have been instrumental in the success of both the Children's flight and the Elders flight. Their work and involvement can only be commended! A selfless duty of service to the community safely and superbly done!