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.

Sunday Times - - Motoring - By Bren­win Naidu

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.

Pic­ture: Waldo Swiegers

Chil­dren gather around the AN-2 ‘Lit­tle Annie’.

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