The sky’s the limit

2014-09-15 00:00

TWENTY-FIVE planes lined up to take 40 children on chauffeur-piloted tours of the sky over Durban yesterday.

But last-minute cancellations by five of those children — too sick to enjoy the thrill of the mass air armada — revealed just what it meant for those who soared over the beaches; each with a pilot all to themselves.

All three dozen children, from Durban and Pietermaritzburg, are living with life-threatening illnesses, and almost none of them had ever flown before.

Pinetown clerk Nivera Maharaj said the illnesses — like the brain tumour afflicting her daughter — “can make these wonderful kids feel like there is something wrong with them; that they are not beautiful”.

But as 12-year-old Shaynisia bounded from the airfield to hug her mother, grinning and clutching her aviator’s certificate, Maharaj said: “Today, she knows she’s a queen.”

Shaynisia gushed about the sight of beaches and the waves from above — and even holding the controls — and said: “I was a bit scared, but it was very nice.”

Organised by the Durban Aviation Centre flying school and Reach For A Dream Foundation, the charity air outing at Virginia was one of the largest of its kind, and the first to include children from both Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

More than a dozen private aircraft owners also donated their planes for the day, and others thrilled the picnicking families with formation fly-past manoeuvres.

Asked what she knew about flying, 10-year-old Andile Sibisi, from Pinetown, said, “I know you can die from it”.

However, a moment later, the beaming girl, who is living with leukaemia, declared: “I can’t wait to be in [the cockpit]”.

Tandi Ciaglia, project co-ordinator for Reach for a Dream, said: “They inspire us all the time. When we take these kids camping for the weekend, they never complain — even when there’s pain or there are injections and medications to take.”

Kiyan Sukdeo (6) proudly told an air marshal: “I never cried on my first time in the air! I even was steering the plane [myself]. I saw six ships and four boats.”

But the top-gun junior aviator was clearly Darian Naicker, (10) who strode off the airfield in a pilot’s outfit — including epaulettes and “wings” he had already earned. He said he could be a pilot if he could log another 199 hours in the air. He hopes to become an astronaut.

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