British Airways flight BA 9117 took off from Heathrow on the morning of Sunday October 27 with 200 Very Important Children bound for Florida for the trip of a lifetime. The youngsters, who all have a serious illness or disability are flying to Orlando with the airline and UK-based-charity, Dreamflight.
The children, aged between eight and fourteen and come from all corners of the United Kingdom, were joined by Paralympic gold-medallist Liz Johnson and a team of volunteers on their very special flight.
For the last 32 years, Dreamflight has been raising funds to enable a specially chartered British Airways jumbo jet to fly nearly 200 children to the sunshine state every year, getting them away for a ten-day trip without their parents. The adventure is only made possible with support from the airline’s crew and Dreamflight doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and non-medical staff who care for the children around the clock during the trip.
Paralympic gold-medal swimmer and Dreamflight patron, Liz Johnson started her journey with the charity in the late 1990s having travelled as a child herself. She said: “As an 11 year old with cerebral palsy, my Dreamflight experience empowered me to embrace difference and opportunity with increased confidence and removed a subconscious dependence that I had on my immediate support network. This enabled me to unlock my potential and follow my dreams – I can’t wait to support this year’s young people in their quest to do the same with the added bonus of developing their swimming abilities.”
Ahead of the flight’s departure, fifteen volunteers were dressed in superhero outfits, while the Air Cadet National Marching Band put on a show-stopping performance. British Airways cabin crew and pilots were also at Heathrow as the children boarded the Boeing 747 through a magical castle.
Captain Andy Raynes, who operated this flight to Orlando, said: “It’s an absolute honour and privilege to be flying Dreamflight for the tenth year running. I leave London as a pilot and arrive as a helper and chaperone, it’s a truly humbling experience. What’s even more special is to see how far the children come in such a short space of time – that’s what drives me to come back each year.”
Dreamflight is a UK charity, co-founded by former British Airways cabin crew member, Patricia Pearce MBE. British Airways staff donate their time to support the departure from Heathrow each year.
Images: British Airways