Rescued from Siberia, Little Annie now brings smiles to the faces of children
Designed more than 70 years ago for use in Soviet agriculture, the Antonov AN-2 now flies for the Just Love Mission, started by a small group of entrepreneurs who want to give back to the community.
The Antonov AN-2 was designed in 1947 when the Soviet Ministry of Forestry commissioned an aircraft for agricultural and utility roles.
Fast forward to 2018 and one example of this large fixed-wing is being put to use for more joyous pursuits: to inspire the ambitions of less fortunate children and bring smiles to their faces.
Dubbed Little Annie after the 1924 comic series by Harold Grey, the plane languished in Siberia, Russia, before being adopted by a nonprofit organisation for youth development. It now flies under the banner of the Just Love Mission, started by a small group of entrepreneurs who love flying and want to give something back.
Throughout the year Little Annie ferries orphaned children from Gauteng, Free State, Western Cape as well as Botswana and Namibia.
“At present we host monthly outreaches, but we are aiming to have weekly programmes,” said Sophia Hill, spokesman for the charity.
About 80 youngsters were in attendance when Lifestyle Motoring visited an event earlier this month at Brakpan Benoni Airfield.
“It is a special privilege to see the cheer Little Annie brings — we are building dreams here and one day, when these youngsters are in a position to enjoy such experiences on their own, they will pay it forward and make a difference in others’ lives too,” explained pilot Hilton Wolff.
Hill says the logistics involved in bringing Little Annie over were tricky. “It took about two-and-a-half months to fly her here, a journey that should have taken three weeks.”
The red tape involved in getting past some countries, in addition to the high fuel consumption of the Antonov, were among the reasons for the difficulty.
It journeyed through Europe and over Africa, stopping in Algeria, Niger, Nigeria and Angola before touching down in Cape Town.
A few more plans are on the horizon in the Little Annie outreach story.
An illustrated storybook is on the cards, chronicling the adventures of the personified plane. Hill believes children will find the story somewhat relatable: from standing forlorn in a cold Siberian hangar to being rescued and given a shot at soaring in the skies again, bringing happiness to people around her.
Children gather around the AN-2 ‘Little Annie’.