Zambia Air Force hosts successful Children’s Flight 2023

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The Zambia Air Force generously made its facilities and aircraft available for the second edition of Kumbululuka Kwa Bafana – the Children’s Flight – in Lusaka last weekend, when more than 400 underprivileged children were given the chance to fly for the first time.

Organised by South African pilot Felix Gosher, this year’s event followed a similar format to the first edition at the Zambia Air Force (ZAF) base in Lusaka on 23 July 2022. Gosher started the Children’s Flight in South Africa in 2016 and this has since been expanded to other African countries – it 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). Since the Childrens Flight was established, nearly 4 000 children have had their lives touched by aviation.

Kumbululuka Kwa Bafana 2023 brought together children from orphanages across Zambia under the theme of “Fly, Feed, Love, Inspire”. Kickstarting proceedings on the morning of 10 June was a ZAF parachute team that dropped from a Y-12 carrying a Zambian flag. With the parachutists safely on the ground, children were throughout the day flown in groups, until the sun set.

Large and small aircraft took children up on flights, with the largest being ProFlight Zambia’s Boeing 737-500. The Zambia Air Force used its Y-12, Caravan, MA60, and Beechcraft 1900D transport aircraft as well as a Mi-171 helicopter to get children airborne for the first time, while over a dozen private pilots contributed their own aircraft.

Jason Beamish brought his Extra 330 aerobatic aircraft all the way from South Africa to Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in support of Kumbululuka Kwa Bafana 2023, flying spirited displays that wowed children, spectators and veteran ZAF pilots alike.

Some of the highlights of the day included jet formation displays by a three-ship ZAF team of L-15 Falcon light fighters, and the Zambia Air Force’s Golden Eagles aerobatic display team flying K-8P trainers.

The Chief of the Zambia Air Force, Lieutenant General Colin Barry, was the main functionary at the event, and was joined by a delegation of senior officers as well as defence permanent secretary Norman Chipakupaku. The ZAF co-hosted an open day for members of the public, with a public area set up next to the Kumbululuka Kwa Bafana hangar.

Dozens of sponsors gave their time, money and resources to make the event happen, providing everything from food and gifts to aircraft, fuel and transport. Entertainment in the form of a live DJ, funfair with rides and of course lots of food and drink were provided for the children. Over 120 sponsors and supporters worked together to ensure a successful event that was even bigger than last year’s edition.

A special thanks to ProFlight Zambia for sponsoring hugely discounted media flights to the event, and for Southern Sun Ridgeway hotel for providing accommodation.

Zambia Air Force on display

As the host and provider of many of the aircraft for Kumbululuka Kwa Bafana 2023, the Zambia Air Force had a conspicuous presence at the event, and was kept busy flying throughout the day, with no apparent shortage of pilots or flight hours.

Much of the ZAF’s equipment seen at its base next to Kenneth Kaunda International Airport was relatively modern machines acquired in recent years. Most notable among these are its six L-15 close air support/trainer jets, which were delivered from 2016 – Zambia was the first export customer for the Hongdu-built aircraft.

Chinese manufactured aircraft make up a significant portion of the ZAF’s fleet, and include two MA-60, seven Y-12-II and Y-12-4 transport aircraft, six Z-9 VIP and armed helicopters and 16 K-8P jet trainers. Russia has supplied half a dozen Mi-171Sh and Mi-171E troop transport and assault helicopters. Other important types in ZAF service include ten SF-260TW Warrior basic trainers, two C-27J Spartan transports, and three Hermes 450 and an unknown number of CH-3 unmanned aerial vehicles.

New aircraft in the form of Enstrom 480B helicopters will soon be delivered – in February, Zambia’s defence ministry ordered two of the helicopters for training pilots and personnel. Enstrom said the 480B will be a lot more efficient than some of the other light helicopters the ZAF has been using. And in March, Barry said the ZAF had concluded procurement procedures for a medium utility helicopter, which would be delivered in the coming months. It will be used to move troops, for search and rescue, disaster relief, and other tasks.

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