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Connecting Skies Bridging Continents


The 2024 edition of the Elders Flight, held at the South African Air Force (SAAF) Mobile Deployment Wing in Centurion, marked a historic and record-breaking event, flying nearly 500 elders and military veterans in over 100 different aircraft. This year’s event, on Saturday 6 July, was particularly noteworthy as it was the first time the flight took place at a military facility, due to new air traffic control regulations at smaller airfields.

Organised by Felix Gosher, in collaboration with the South African Air Force, the event successfully utilized the former Air Force Base Swartkop, now known as the SAAF Mobile Deployment Wing. Chief of the South African Air Force, Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo, in his opening speech, emphasized the importance of honoring the elders as custodians of history. He praised the volunteer aircrews for their willingness to ‘pay it forward’ and provide many elders with their first experience of flight.


The event was held in conjunction with the SAAF Museum’s monthly flying day. Mbambo expressed gratitude to the organisers and revealed plans to expand the Elders Flight to SAAF Museum branches in Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) and Cape Town.


The Elders Flight first took to the skies in 2018 at Germiston’s Rand Airport and continued in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic put it on hold. Last year, Brakpan Airfield hosted the event, where over 40 aircraft provided flights to 300 underprivileged elders and military veterans. This year, the number of aircraft increased to 140, flying around 450 elderly people from local townships, care centres, and churches, along with 50 military veterans.


Among the notable attendees was Captain (ret) Ivan Holshausen, a 94-year-old veteran who flew Mustangs and Sabres in Korea. He experienced the thrill of flying once again, this time in the back seat of Menno Parsons’ P-51 Mustang ‘Mustang Sally’.


The day began with a South African flag drop from an Antonov An-2, followed by aerobatic displays from the Flying Lions team and other performers, including the Goodyear Eagles. A Rooivalk attack helicopter also made a surprise appearance. The event concluded with a formation flypast by two North American Harvards from the Harvard Club.


Lieutenant General Mbambo awarded replica wings insignia to all participants, including the elderly, military veterans, and volunteers. Among the attendees were former Chiefs of the SAAF, Lieutenants General Carlo Gagiano and Fabian Msimang, as well as former Zambia Air Force commander, Lieutenant General Colin Barry.


The event was supported by around 100 sponsors providing essentials such as high-visibility jackets, food, fuel, and gift bags. Volunteers contributed aircraft, piloting skills, fuel, and transportation, with entertainment provided by the Jeppe’s Boy High bagpipers.


Looking ahead, Gosher is organizing the related Children’s Flight, set for 6 September at Bloemfontein’s New Tempe Airfield. The success of the Elders Flight 2024 highlights the potential for future events to continue honoring and celebrating the contributions of elders and military veterans in the aviation community.

IMAGE BY : Guy Martin – View Guy’s Images of the Event here:  Defence Web.

SOURCE: Defence Web

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