Children's Flight 2021 - 2021-11-05

By Russell Dixon-Paver

I was privileged to attend the Children's Flight 2021 for the first time this year. It was hosted by Magalies Gliding Club at Orient Airfield again. Due to covid regulations, it was a reduced scale event and covid compliance requirements featured prominently, with numbers of children and supporting participants limited and controlled, so it was a "Limited Edition". Each aircraft was also sprayed between sorties. There is obviously a huge amount of planning, organization and hard work behind the scenes and the final set-ups were well underway early in the day, as the participating aircraft started arriving.

Weather predictions showed a high probability of rain by about 13:00 with strong winds and indeed there was a strong Easterly crosswind all morning. Fortunately, it did not rain, but the wind swung around to Westerly later in the day as the clouds built up. At one stage, a gust picked up the SAAF gazebo before it could be secured and lifted it over the safety barriers, but it was quickly caught and returned without any damage or injury.

Each of the participating role-players - air safety, ramp control, marshals, emergency services, flight control, covid compliance, media and pilots each received a goodie-bag containing sanitizer, face mask, sun-screen, buff, T-shirt and cap branded with the 2021 Children's Flight logos. Each group had personalised colour-coded hi-visibility vests, with most having their favourite inspirational quote on them. There was a general briefing for all participating parties that included the pilot's briefing. Each group then had a briefing specific to their roles. Helicopter pilots had a separate briefing for the smooth and safe handling of the embarkation and disembarkation of the children, because, in most cases, helicopters did not shut down between passenger loads.

The children also received a goodie-bag and mini back-pack and additional items, such as colouring books and various toys. Pop-corn, slushi drinks and candy-floss were in good supply. Each child also received a "breakfast bag" on arrival and then they were seated in the VIP tent, with tables in a U-configuration, facing inward towards the stage, where Pieter Koen provided music and entertainment and Brian Emmenis, from Capital Sounds, provided commentary around the aviation aspects of the event. Various food and coffee stalls were available for everyone and branded bottled water was available to deal with the heat of the day.

Each child, or group of children, depending on aircraft type, were escorted out to the aircraft and back after the flight by "Flight Control" ladies in pink safety vests and the respective pilots in their yellow safety vests. For the bigger aircraft, a responsible adult, either parent, guardian, trained cabin-crew or assisting pilot accompanied the children on the flight.

Jet-A1 and AVGas bowsers moved amongst the aircraft at various time to refuel.

Formation with Bosbok and RV's lead by a Navion arrived quite early.

Rob Osner, having brought in his Alouette III, is a Children's Flight veteran.

The fixed-wing flight line was quite impressive and also including some aircraft on static display.

Retired SAAF Colonels in conference - Jeff Earle brought this immaculate Tiger Moth for static display and FranÁois Hanekom was the Flight Safety Officer on the day.

Safety briefing and pilot's briefing in progress.

The children, with faces of anticipation and perhaps some apprehension await the flypast of the RV formation.

There was an opening of the proceedings in prayer after the children arrived.

The Flight Control ladies in pink safety vests helped distribute the breakfast packets to the children.

Excited children awaiting the RV formation with some of the static display aircraft including the South African developed AHRLAC and a beautifully restored Waco in the photo.

RV Formation perform their break and in formation overhead.

ARHLAC pilots - two of only five in the world brought the locally developed machine in for static display.

ER 24 team were fully prepared for any eventuality, but fortunately their service was not needed due to a safely run event.

Colonel Keith Andrew with the lady from the parachute team.

The parachute team formally opened the event, with one team member bringing in the National Flag, while the National Anthem was played and sung.

Antonov ANII, "Anushka" brought back to earth after dropping the parachutists.

The South African Airforce (SAAF) supported the event with their gazebo with mementos and information.

The children wait their turn to be called for their fixed-wing flight. Each child had the opportunity to fly in both fixed-wing and helicopter type aircraft. Some children were too nervous to fly.

Some of the children taxi out for take-off with their pilots - Navion and RV aircraft.

Many willing hands help this youngster, who has to walk with crutches, board an RV aircraft for his flight.

A look of mixed excitement and apprehension as this young person awaits their flight.

Some of the children were ready to demonstrate how they were going to fly.

In line to fly, faces painted, reassuring hands.

The Grand Caravan taxis out for another sortie with eight children and a responsible adult. A group that have just flown on the Grand Caravan pose for a group photograph.

More flying demostrations and another group return from their flight.

There was a pause in the fixed-wing flying program for the children to experience the Puma Energy Flying Lions Harvard aerobatic team.

Flying Lions perform their display - the children were enthralled!

Fixed-wing flights resume.

The children demonstrating how they are going to fly even got the Flight Control ladies to join in.

The last few children board the Grand Caravan for the flight.

The Tiger Moth gets a hand-start and the Beech 18 with Captain Flippie Vermuelen at the controls, departs.

Helicopter sorties gave the children a different flight experience.

The Deputy Chief of the SAAF, Major General Innocent Buthelezi arrived by A109 helicopter.

Presentations, encouraging the children to reach for their dreams were made by General Buthelezi and Mr Gawie Bestbier on behalf of the Director of the Civil Aviation Authority. Felix Gosher announced that the colouring in competition would be replaced by a dancing contest, due to the wind blowing so strongly, the winner of which would be chosen by General Buthelizi and would win a glider flight.

This young man was chosen by General Buthelezi as the most enthusiastic dancer and he goes with Karl von Seylitz for what must be a record - such a young man, flying fixed-wing, Helicopter and glider for the first time, all on the same day!

Karl and the youngster return from his historic glider flight.

The children all received their Children's Flight 2021 wings from General Buthelezi, assisted by Brian Emmenis.

To round off, all the supporting crew were also given their 2021 wings.

Pilots Post thanks Felix Gosher, the sponsors and the teams of people who did the huge work of planning, organising and running, for the opportunity to be involved in this worthy event.

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