I am continually amazed by the evangelistic fervour for flying amongst the huge hearted people in general aviation.
The latest case in point, but one of many, is Felix Gosher’s ‘Children’s Flight’. The first Children’s Flight in 2016 flew 130 disadvantaged children who would probably never have had the opportunity to experience the magic of flight.
Not content to rest on the assurance of a job well done, Felix went far bigger and even better this year. With unflagging passion, he arranged for 400 children to be transported from wide and far to Grand Central. And there he rounded up key figures in the aviation industry, from SACAA head Ms Poppy Khoza to airshow stalwart Menno Parsons, to ‘weekend warrior’ enthusiasts happy to give a ride in their aircraft to a single child.
Felix explains that almost any pilot will admit to having dreamed of flying since they were kids. This is the essence of his Children’s Flight initiative. As we report in this issue, he says that it’s not necessarily about encouraging children to become pilots – although that’s a great spin-off – rather, he wants to use flight as a means to encourage children to dream, and to show them that those dreams can be achieved.
Everyone who contributed to the Children’s Flight is to be hugely commended. It really is heart-warming to see how unstintingly people are prepared to give of their time and aircraft to fly disadvantaged children.
But the wonderful thing is that Felix is not just an isolated example. SAA Senior First Officer Fatima Jakoet continues to do great work with her Sakhikamva (Xhosa for ‘building a future’) Foundation. Thanks to Fatima’s unflagging energy, the Foundation continues to grow, with a flight simulator and fund-raising initiatives for promising student pilots, providing unparalleled insights into being a professional pilot.
Fatima established the Foundation in 2010 to create aviation awareness and develop skills amongst learners. To date they have reportedly put an incredible 70,000 learners through more than 12 programmes and projects on an ongoing basis.
The Foundation has also established a scholarship in partnership with Cape Town’s Morningstar Flight Academy, a joint venture between the Western Cape Microlight Club and a private company. Morningstar Airfield is set to become a nucleus of aviation skills development, with a major initiative shortly to be launched to transform a large part of the existing facilities to enable disadvantaged student development, and to ignite passion for flying amongst those who might think it beyond their reach.
Fatima received the Harvard African Scholarship in 2016 and has successfully completed the Programme for Leadership development.
Another SAA pilot who knows about giving back is Moses Tshibalanganda, who approached rural schools in Limpopo to improve matriculants’ maths and science. Moses’s initiative paid off when the pass rate for science and maths improved at the schools with which he engaged. The top students were awarded prizes ranging from trophies, cash, and a simulator ride with SAA to an actual flight in a trainer aircraft.
These, and the many other initiatives, are an important and necessary investment in the long-term future of general aviation in South Africa.