In the run up to our Helping Wings Day for younger children, the weather forecast looked really promising. But as Saturday, 7th October drew closer, the picture changed with the prospect of cloudy conditions with showers. Still, it didn’t look too bad and we’ve had successful events in the past when no flying has been possible.
That later forecast proved to be fairly accurate. Our team convened at the Jersey Aero Club on the Saturday morning and agreed that we would probably complete the morning programme of around 15 flights but that we would probably not be able to fly in the afternoon, so leaving another 15 or so flights to be re-arranged for another day.
Our young guests and their families started to arrive in good time for their flights so we started early in an effort to maximise on the morning’s good weather. As always, Jersey ATC were very accommodating, requiring nothing more from us than our previously published schedule. We were due to fly around 100 people throughout the day and the more we could do before the weather closed in, the better.
Our volunteer teams at reception and dispatch were quickly into the swing of things. Our ground crew on the apron was all set up ready to ensure security around the aircraft and our pilots were briefed and their aircraft checked over.
We were off to a good start. Newly formed air charter operator, Isle Fly, had made the very generous offer of two flights in their 8 seat Cessna 406, allowing larger families to fly together taking mum, dad, brothers and sisters.
Our patron, H.E. Sir Stephen Dalton, accompanied by Lady Dalton, their daughter Elizabeth, and Air Commodore Dawn McCafferty, paid us a visit during the morning and stayed for two hours talking to the families and the children as well as our own volunteers. We even managed to get Elizabeth on one of the Isle Fly flights.
The airport’s fire service came down with two of their trucks. This is always a highlight of the day as the children are allowed to climb up into the cabs, put on jackets and helmets and operate the controls.
Chicano, the magician kept the children spell-bound in the club house whilst our super efficient kitchen team prepared the lunches - and more families continued to check in, some familiar faces, some new to Helping Wings.
Lunchtime came and went and still the weather held. Just as we were thinking that we might even finish the entire programme of flights, the cloud and visibility came down forcing us to stop flying. But, at the end of the day, only the last four flights couldn’t be flown.
There are so many” thank you” s to be said but perhaps, most important is a huge thank you to the children. Many of them live with significant problems. Some degree of frustration, from time to time, might easily be anticipated. But there was no hint of it.
Helping Wings Day for younger children is always a highlight of our year. It’s also where we started and next year will be our 10th year. Some of the children who took part in that very first event still join in and we’ll look forward to seeing them, and all our newer Helping Wings guests in 2018.