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High fun with class in the sky

BODY and spirits were soaring for 200 children when they went on a flight over Hong Kong recently. For many of the children, it was their first experience of flying.

The ride was the gift of the Japan Airlines (JAL) Sky School. Michio Okamura, JAL vice-president and regional manager, Hong Kong and Macau, said: 'This year we received about 7,700 applications for the flight, which indicates a tremendous interest in flying among Hong Kong's young people.' It was an ecstatic experience for Chan Suk-ling, 13, who attends the Ebenezer School and Home for the Blind. 'I never imagined I would ever sit in a plane. I felt so happy and excited! It seemed a bit like a bus ride, but noisier.' Wong Ching-yi, nine, found the ride 'unforgettable'. 'It was my first flight. I'm glad my mother was with me.' Ching-yi is a physically disabled girl from the Heep Hong Society for Handicapped Children.

Her mother, Mrs Wong, said: 'Although my daughter cannot move easily, I want her to see the world. It was a good opportunity - to see Hong Kong from the air and get a bird's eye view of the city.' Shinpei Kodama, 10, a student of the Hong Kong Japanese School, said: 'The mountains and buildings looked so small from high up.' His brother, Keisuke, agreed, adding: 'I would like to fly again. It was really fun.' Ranging from seven to 14 years of age, the children in the JAL Sky School were selected in an open draw. Participants included students from the Hong Kong Japanese School, the Hong Kong Student Aid Society, Heep Hong Society for Handicapped Children, Po Leung Kuk, Ebenezer School and Home for the Blind, Children's Cancer Foundation, Victoria Park School for the Deaf, and St Christopher's Home.

During the one-hour flight, the children saw their hometown and its surroundings from a height of 2,400 metres (8,000 feet) above sea level. In addition, they had a chance to try out the various facilities in the aircraft, as well as being allowed to visit the cockpit and talk to the pilot.

Also on board were pop singer Vivian Lai Sui-yan, a favourite among children; Dr Ronald Leung Ding-bong, Chairman of the Urban Council; Kenji Takeshita, Consul, Head of the Consular Division, and Kiyoshi Okazaki, Consul and Director, Japan Information and Culture Centre, Consulate-General of Japan.