Sky's the limit for novel 'school'
IT's a school alright - even though it's only one hour long, is 4,500 feet above sea level, and the classroom is the cabin of a Boeing 747.
For the past 12 years 'Sky School', organised and sponsored by Japan Airlines, has 'educated' more than 2,200 children on the basic steps of going on a flight.
'The children learn to do what every passenger must do on a flight. They actually pick up their tickets at the counter, queue up for immigration, hand over their boarding passes, and take their seats in the plane,' said a JAL spokesman.
Last Sunday, more than 240 children boarded a Boeing 747 JAL aircraft and flew over the territory for an hour, enjoying a bird's eye view of their home districts.
Wong Chung-chuen, seven, could not recognise his neighbourhood of Tsang Kwan O because 'everything looked so tiny from up there'.
'I couldn't spot where I live, but I enjoyed the flight. The plane was so huge. I said hello to the air stewardess and then walked up the stairs to the cabin,' said the Primary Two student of SKH St John's School.
The children, aged between seven and 14, won their flight seats in a public lucky draw. More than 8,300 applications were sent this year, compared with 8,000 last year.
The JAL spokesman said the idea of the Sky School originated in Japan. In the first few years, the 'school' catered only to Japanese children studying in Hong Kong.
Later the school invited Hong Kong students on board, many of them handicapped and underprivileged children who would not easily get a chance to enjoy a ride in a plane, the spokesman added.
This year there were 25 children from the Children's Cancer Foundation, the Home for the Blind and the Student Aid Society, among others.
Tsui Tat-ming, 13, a blind Form Two student at the Ebenezer School, said it was a novel experience. He could feel the 'pressure' in the cabin when the plane was airborne, and was impressed by the roar of the engines when the aircraft took off.
The children seemed confident about travelling alone.
Ryosuka, eight, from Japan said: 'I was not afraid my parents were not with me. I could play with my friends or look out of the window. It was nice.' While the children were having a good time, the flight attendants and the journalists on board were kept busy keeping order and making sure the children were safe and comfortable.
Pilot A. Kamoda and co-pilot M. Fukushi invited the children to the cockpit where they explained the various features of the console and simple principles of flying a plane.