SAAF headlines Children’s Flight 2023

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A South African Air Force (SAAF) Hawk lead-in fighter-trainer was one of the highlights of the latest edition of The Children’s Flight, which was held on 1 September at Orient Airfield outside Magaliesburg.

The Hawk, fitted with drop tanks and a 30 mm cannon pod, was one of two SAAF aircraft that participated in the event, along with a C212 light transport. They joined approximately 110 other aircraft at Orient, which together flew 500 children, giving them their first taste of flight.

In addition to the Hawk and C212, the SAAF contributed a static display of various Air Force exhibits, including an Impala jet simulator. Major General Lancelot Mathebula, Chief Director: Force Preparation of the South African Air Force, was there to represent SAAF Chief, Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo. Mathebula said he hoped the Air Force’s presence would inspire the youngsters present and provide them with vision and motivation.

The Children’s Flight is the brainchild of pilot Felix Gosher, who most recently organised a similar event in Zambia, hosted by the Zambia Air Force in Lusaka on 23 July. Gosher started The Children’s Flight in South Africa in 2016 and this has since been expanded to other African countries – it has also evolved into The Elders’ Flight, which takes elderly people and military veterans into the sky. The first Elders’ Flight was held at Rand Airport in November 2018 and the most recent edition took place in April this year at Brakpan Airfield.

Since The Children’s Flight was established, approximately 4 000 children have had their lives touched by aviation. Many of these children are disadvantaged, underprivileged or differently abled.

Under the theme “Fly, Feed, Love, Inspire,” The Children’s Flight 2023 enjoyed significant support from pilots, who donated their aircraft, time and fuel, as well as an ever-growing list of sponsors and supporters who provided the children with food, drink, toys and other goodies. Entertainment for the children included face painting, a clown, jumping castle, playground etc. Over 100 different companies supported The Children’s Flight 2023 in some way.

Orient Airfield was a hive of activity on Friday morning, with opening highlights including a Flying Lions Harvards aerobatic display, Chipmunk two-ship formation display, and SA flag parachute drop from an Antonov An-2. The Children’s Flight 2023 marked the first time hot air balloons have taken part.

Throughout the course of the morning, air traffic control quickly and efficiently dispatched fixed wing aircraft and helicopters to carry hundreds of children aloft aboard aircraft ranging from the two-seat Piper Cub to the Cessna Grand Caravan, capable of taking over a dozen passengers. Once the children had all had a turn in an aircraft, the programme moved over to a mini-air show, kicked off with flypasts by the Hawk. This was followed by the Raptors aerobatic team display, Huey display, L-39 jet display, Good Year Eagles Pitts Specials aerobatic team, Magni gyrocopter display, Gazelle helicopter display, and two-ship Extra display.

The Children’s Flight 2023 concluded smoothly and safely and Gosher expects even greater things from next year’s event in South Africa.

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