Elderly people and military veterans get a taste of flying at Elders Flight 2023

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Brakpan Airfield was the location for the Elders Flight 2023, an initiative to get hundreds of elderly people and military veterans into the sky.

The first edition of the Elders Flight took place at Rand Airport in November 2018 and was followed by another event in November 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic put paid to it and much other aviation-related activity. The third edition, once again organised by the energetic Felix Gosher, was held on 22 April at Brakpan Airfield, and saw approximately 300 underprivileged elderly people and military veterans fly – many for the first time. In comparison, the 2019 Elders Flight flew just over 100 elders.

Around 90 pilots flew in to Brakpan on Saturday, with dozens of aircraft arriving to fly elders and veterans throughout the morning and into the early afternoon. One of the highlights was Menno Parsons taking up retired Lieutenant Piet Visser in his P-51 Mustang (‘Mustang Sally’) – 70 years after he flew the type in the Korean War.

Other highlights included a display by the Flying Lions in their Puma Energy Harvards, Menno Parsons’ UH-1 Huey, and Captain Richardt Lovett’s L-39.

The South African Air Force (SAAF) was one of the participants, bringing an A109 helicopter to the event. Former Chief, retired Lieutenant General Fabian ‘Zakes’ Msimang, donned his flying suit and took to the skies. Major General Lancelot Mathebula, Chief Director Force Preparation of the South African Air Force, gave a speech to the hundreds of people gathered for the event, saying the SAAF was honoured to be invited and to assist with the Elders Flight 2023. He said the elders laid the foundation for the next generation of pilots and they can now see the fruits of their labour. He said he had high hopes for an even bigger edition next year, and looked forward to seeing people at the upcoming SAAF Museum Ari Show on 6 May.

The Elders Flight 2023 organisers managed to attract a large number of sponsors and supporters – around 60 sponsors provided everything from high-visibility jackets to food, fuel and ablution facilities. Volunteers provided aircraft, pilots, fuel and transport, amongst others while the Jeppe’s Boy High played the bagpipes.

Gosher is also the organiser behind the Childrens Flight, which has been running for a number of years and takes underprivileged children up in aircraft for the first time. This year’s edition is scheduled for September. Since the Childrens Flight was established, around 3 000 children have had their lives touched by aviation – not just in South Africa but in other African countries.

Click here to view the Elders Flight 2023 gallery.