Pretoria - It was all smiles and excitement for the Mdevhane High School children as they made their way for a day of fun at the Air Force Base Swartkop on Saturday.
They were shown around the SA Air Force (SAAF) museum, taught about historical engines and aircraft, explored inside a Boeing 707 320C, and watched a flying display by the SAAF team.
Most of the children, aged from four to 17, attend Kwena Molapo Secondary School in Lanseria, and live in an informal settlement close to Lanseria Airport.
None of them had seen an aircraft up close.
A beaming Neo Monageng, 17, said: “I’m so happy to be here. Today’s trip has been inspiring, and I have learnt so much about aircraft and military forces.
“I am doing pure maths and science at school because I want to be a pilot one day.
“So, today’s trip has really convinced me of my career choice. It got even more real when we were inside the aircraft.
“I could already imagine myself being the one flying it.
Lesego Lebogang said: “When we were told we were coming here, I didn’t expect anything much, but I have since learnt so much today.
“Most of the things we learnt here were so exciting, because some of the things we don’t learn at school.
“My dream was to be a firefighter but after experiencing all of this today, I think I’ll change my mind.”
The trip was organised by Sannah Mashego, alongside her boss Dr Kym Morton and the friends of the SAAF museum.
Mashego said: “I am Dr Kym Morton’s house helper, and we are here because of her.
“She has always liked and been supportive of the kids in my area because most of their parents are not working and they can’t even visit the zoo like other children.
“We came up with the idea of bringing them here so they can learn about planes and be inspired.”
Chairman of the Spitfire Restoration Project steering committee, Ian Grace, hosted the children and showed them around the museum’s Supermarine Spitfire Mk IXe “Spirit of Reutech” aircraft that was badly damaged during an emergency landing in April 2000 and is being restored.
Chief director force preparation of the SAAF, Commander Major-General Lancelot Mathebula, said: “The SAAF base is the air-force museum, basically the heritage of the air force, where all the aircraft that were in operation in the air force retire here and become part of the museum.
“We open the museum to the public every first Saturday of the month for the museum flying day, but they are allowed every day from Monday to Friday from 7am to 3pm to come and learn about aviation and the military as a whole.”