Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Fresh Air Matters Returns

Since my last post a lot has changed, and it is now time to revive the concept of regular does of Fresh Air Matters.

I am now based in Europe, and enjoy power and water 'on demand' - which makes a big difference to day to day life!  Furthermore, I am surrounded by many more aviators, engineers and aviation enthusiasts - which is both refreshing and invigorating!

However, I find myself observing the same challenges in everyday life - and that of those around me - which can be brilliantly addressed by 'thinking like an aviator'.  Hence, it is clearly time to revive this page with a 'first world perspective'!

If you are wondering 'What happened to the book?', well it is nearing completion, and should be available for Christmas - but that is another story - or a lot of stories!

So, keep watching this page, and soon, very soon, the concept of Fresh Air Matters in the European context will be spilling from my fingertips, through the plastic keys of a 102 key-keyboard onto these pages.

Captain Yaw

Monday, December 22, 2014

The African Animals' Christmas Party

Down by the edge of the rain forest, in the depths of Africa, there once lived a giraffe called George. He was a large giraffe with a wonderful pattern all over his body - he was very beautiful.

Sadly, George was not a happy giraffe. His home was as lovely a place as you could imagine – with fresh, green leaves and fruit trees for him to wander through. There was more than enough food for him to feed on all year round. The sun shone almost every day… and the moon shone brightly almost every night. What more could a giraffe hope for! All the same, George was not a happy chappy.

The reason that George gave for being so very unhappy was simple – he felt ugly and useless. Yes… ugly and useless! But that was all about to change...

Early one morning – one fine, sunny morning – Eric the elephant plodded past, on his way to the water hole. He trumpeted ’’Hello, George. How are you today?” 

“Not very well,” replied George, speaking through his nose, as he did when he was sad. 

Worried about his friend, Eric sat down, with a great thud, to listen to the problem. George – pleased that he had someone to talk to – sat down near Eric. A giraffe sitting down is quite a sight. He managed it by winding his legs under his body and bending his neck so that Eric could hear him from where he sat. George did find it difficult to get down to the same level of the other animals!

“What’s the problem?,” asked Eric gently. “Have you got a sore throat? Or perhaps you have an itch on your foot and can’t reach to scratch it? Do tell me, George – I’d like to help you.”

“Well," began George, feeling a little silly, “I’m not actually ill. But I do have a problem.” George heaved a huge sigh. By this time, it was rather late for Eric to get to the water hole before the other animals. So he settled down to listen patiently to George.

“I’m not very happy,” murmured George, still speaking through his soft pink nose.

“Why ever not,” replied Eric, amazed by his friend’s response and wondering to himself if he had missed his morning bath for nothing. By this time, Mick, a naughty little monkey from a nearby tree, had joined the pair of animals chatting on the ground. Mick bounced into place next to them and picked little creatures and seeds from his dark brown fur. Mick really liked to groom his hair every morning and every evening.

“Well, I’m not u-u- useful like both of you,” explained George nervously, with a little stammer. “Eric can lift things with his trunk and Mick can climb trees and do all sort of clever things with his hands. All I can do is keep my head up in the clouds and eat the leaves off the trees - well, the top of the trees at least. The other animals even make jokes and ask me 'How’s the weather up there, George!' I don't like it."

The friends looked uncomfortably at each other. “If I want to scratch my leg,” continued George tearfully, ”by the time I bend all the way down, it’s no longer itchy! If I have a sore throat, I need a litre of medicine, my neck is so very long. I’ve got funny spots all over me, so that I look like a chequers board! I’m just so, so ugly and so, so useless.”

With this final outburst, George struggled to his feet and ran off into the rain forest, feeling as though he looked like he would soon fall over in his hurry to leave his friends.

Eric and Mick looked at each other. "I don’t understand why George is so upset – I think he’s a beautiful creature… and so elegant,” began Eric. “Look at me, so big and clumsy.” and with that, Eric deliberately bumped a coconut palm so that a coconut would fall next to Mick. 

“And look at me,” replied Mick, whilst happily picking up the coconut, "I sometimes wonder whether my mother had the measuring tape the wrong way round when she made me. I’ve got such long arms and such short legs! But we’re all different and all useful in our own way.”

“If only George could see how useful and needed he is,” suggested Eric. “I’m sure that would make him feel happier. I don’t know how we might help him.” 

With that Eric and Mick each went their own way, wondering if they could ever help George to feel better about himself.

Two weeks later, all of the animals of the rain forest begun planning their Christmas party – it was already November and there was no time to lose. There was much roaring, beating, grunting and calling by those present. But George was not there, I am sad to say. Those animals present decided that they would have a proper Christmas tree, down by the water hole. It was a splendid idea!

George, being the best writer, wrote a letter to the Garden Centre in Sweden – 

“Dear Garden Centre in Sweden,

We, the animals of the deep rain forest in Africa, would like to order your very biggest and nicest Christmas tree. Please send it to;

The Animals’ Christmas Party,

The Water Hole,

Deepest Africa.

We will pay in pineapples, coconuts and bananas when the tree arrives.

Thank you very much and Merry Christmas to you all.

Yours sincerely

Mick the Monkey,

For The Animals’ Christmas Party.”

He then added his paw print, put it into an envelope and took it to Raymond Rhinoceros who put a four-banana stamp on it.

Simon the Stork then carried the letter all the way to Sweden, since he was migrating that week. Along the way he got a little lost, and had to ask a seagull which direction to take as he had never delivered any letter to Sweden before. Finally, he dropped the letter right in front of the Swedish Garden Centre's gates.

All of the animals waited excitedly, wondering if their letter had made it. 

Then, one day – about a week before Christmas - the biggest brightest, greenest and nicest Christmas tree you ever did see arrived in the rain forest of deepest Africa. Brought by the whale that morning to the nearest sea port, then strapped to the back of a delivery elephant for the remaining part of the journey by land. Amazingly the Christmas tree had arrived from Sweden. 

It wasn’t long before the news of the tree’s delivery had spread via the bush telegraph to the other animals of the rain forest. As they all gathered around, eager to get a good look at the long-awaited tree, Eric the elephant stuck the Christmas tree into the ground using his strong trunk. The tropical birds begun to fly in with all sorts of pretty fruits to decorate the tree – mangoes, pineapples, pawpaw, bananas, oranges and some fruits that nobody knew the names of… The tree looked wonderful - and smelt like the best possible tree ever!

Just as dusk began to fall, the fireflies flew in and landed, each taking up their position on the end of a branch. Then, all at once they started to glow - lighting up the tree with more dazzle than even the best trees in London, Paris or New York. 

The happy animals all sang Christmas carols around the water hole… all that is, except for George, who was hiding behind the tallest mango tree, wishing that he could feel even just a little useful, and not quite so ugly.

After having sang “Whilst shepherds watched their flocks by night”, the animals were getting ready to return home to their nests, trees, holes and other places where animals sleep.

Suddenly, Larry the lion thought he could hear someone crying. “Shh” he roared into the crowd who were busily wishing each other ‘good-night’. He continued, “I think I hear the sound of someone crying." His voice was very deep and very posh. 

From the biggest to the smallest, every animal became silent. They tilted their heads to try to hear better the noise that Larry had reported. 

One by one, they all heard, from somewhere nearby, the faintest, saddest weeping.

Gloria the gazelle stepped towards the water hole, and peered deep into the water. To her surprise she discovered the worlds one and only freshwater starfish, sobbing quietly.

“Whatever is the matter?”, asked Gloria. Startled, the little starfish lifted her body and opened wide her little eyes. Timidly she replied, “I’m just so unhappy- I can’t join in like you for the Christmas tree party. I’ve got five feet, not four like each of you. I can only crawl along, so when the dancing begins I get left behind. And now I’ve disturbed your evening by crying and making you all sad on such a lovely, happy evening – I never get anything right." She lowered herself and closed her eyes, hoping that nobody could see her anymore.

Gloria turned to the animals, who by this time were anxious to hear why the starfish should be crying on such a joyous occasion. When she explained the problem, it was quickly agreed that, if she wanted to, Stella the starfish could sit on top of the Christmas tree, to remind the other animals of the star in the sky the day that the baby Jesus was born, many years ago, on that first Christmas Day.

“Would you like to be the star on top of the tree?”, asked Gloria the Gazelle.

“Oh, yes, please!”, replied Stella, suddenly smiling at the thought of doing something useful and being able to join in the festivities. She wiggled her way out of the water, at the same time wiping away her tears and blowing her nose using different tentacles. Then, with her eyes open as wide as ever, she headed towards the Christmas tree and started to climb up its trunk. But she’d never done any climbing before and quickly discovered that it was not easy. She fell down.

Before Stella had time to cry, because once again there was something she was unable to do, Mick the monkey swung forwards, using Gloria the gazelle’s neck as a pivot. “I’ll carry you to the top of the tree, he said gleefully. Stella wrapped herself around Mick’s wrist, looking like a bracelet, and Mick began to climb. 

"Ooooh, ouch, eeooww", cried Mick, jumping to the ground with a gentle thud, "The needles on this tree are too prickly for my paws!" he whimpered, and carefully placed Stella the starfish on the soft grass.

Stella begun to cry again, “I’m useless, I’m ugly...”

"Don’t worry," comforted Eric the Elephant, "I’ll lift you up to the top of the tree on the end of my long trunk." Stella climbed onto the tip of Eric's trunk and he stretched up towards the summit of the tree. Stella was holding on tightly, so as not to fall, since she had never been that high before. It was a very, very long way down. Up, up, up she went on the end of Eric's trunk. 

All of the animals were, by this time, holding their breath, expecting at any moment to see the crowning glory of Stella the starfish at the top of the tree. When Eric discovered that his trunk was not long enough, a great sigh of disappointment run through the little group of friends. Eric lowered Stella back to the ground, close to the water hole.

Stella the starfish began to crawl quietly back towards the water, sadder than ever after such a disappointment… Then George the giraffe slipped out from his hiding place behind the mango tree. With a lot of hesitation George spoke to the crowd. “I know that Eric can lift heavy things with his trunk and Mick can do all sorts of cleaver things with his hands. I know that all I can do is to keep my head in the clouds - and eat the leaves off the trees. All the same, I wonder if I might be able to help Stella get to the top of the tree… that is, if you would like me to try.”

“Oh, yes, please,” chorused the little crowd. "YES PLEASE!"

So George got down on his knees, looking as though he was about to fall over, and told Stella to climb onto his soft pink nose. “Oh, that tickles,” giggled George as he gracefully stood up to his full height. In just a moment, George - his neck stretched to its fullest length - was able to place his nose at the top of the tree. Stella reached out one tentacle and took hold of the topmost part of the tree… the very biggest and nicest Christmas tree from the Garden Centre in Sweden. 

All of the animals clapped and cheered. "Hooray for George. Hooray for Stella.” And five of the brightest, happiest fireflies flew-in and landed on the end of Stella’s tentacles.

What a beautiful sight it was!

George blushed a little, never having been so pleased at being tall. He began finally to feel accepted by all of the other animals and smiled a giraffe smile. 

Just at that moment and to everyone’s surprise, out from behind another mango tree, on the other side of the water hole emerged another Giraffe. She called shyly “Hello, may I join you? You all seem to be having such fun.”

“Why, of course”, replied George immediately, now confident in his new role as Christmas tree decorator. 

Coming close to George, she introduced herself as Jemima. As she gave George a little kiss on the cheek to congratulate him on his efforts, George noticed that Jemima had the longest eye lashes he had ever seen. I think that you are the cleverest, most useful, most handsome Giraffe I have ever seen”, said Jemima, as they walked into the night with the other animals of the rain forest.

From that day on, George never felt useless nor ugly again. All of the animals in the rain forest had learned an important lesson; that each animal is different and able to do different things, but sometimes we have to look carefully to find just what each animal is able to do. 

George and Jemima now have two baby Giraffes and are teaching them how beautiful and useful they each are … in their own way. 

Have a Merry Christmas and know that you are beautiful and useful!

Monday, July 14, 2014

July 14th, 2014

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

For the past few years, you have been reading 'Fresh Air Matters' with me in every Monday Edition of the Ghanaian Business and Financial Times, and online at - and we have covered many topics! 

Over these years, this column has upset, encouraged, supported, inspired, motivated and educated, it has, I am led to believe, touched many people. The many e-mails and other feedback received has inspired me, and thus this has been a two way process.

Sitting down to create over one thousand words every week takes a lot of time and energy, and in these days of challenges we all have to manage our resources. Therefore, over the next few months I will be concentrating my writing on books in progress. My biography has been requested many times, and is well advanced, as well as some children's books that have been hanging on the end of my pen for many years. George the Monkey, Cyril the Giraffe, Edward the Elephant and the long travelling around the world 'Tales of Mumford Mouse'; all stories that I have told to many children, all from the fresh organic fields of my imagination - from long before my first step on the African continent. Now, I have new characters hatching and looking for paper to spill onto: Kwame the crocodile, Kwesi the Cattle Egret, Ama the Hoopoe, Hanna the chicken, Ellis the Monitor Lizard - and others are all hatching their stories in my mind. There will be a special character, one very close to my heart, called 'Patricia the Pilot', who will have her own series of adventures - and those stories will be heavily based on the true life transformation of Patricia Mawuli from living in a simple, traditional home in the bush to building and flying aircraft in Ghana, along with the struggles, challenges and achievements along the way. Each of these stories, as and when they publish, will have three aims: to enthral, to educate and to inspire. The target age group will be from 8 years to adult - for I hope that all the grownups will read these stories to their children, grandchildren or just to the next child they find themselves having to entertain. I hope that these stories will carry the energy and momentum to drag folks away from their computers, tablets and smart phones - a much needed transformation in our society. We all need stories. We all need inspiration. We all need to take a fresh look at reading!

The time it will take to bring these embryonic characters fully to life will draw on my creative time, energy and resources. Therefore, Fresh Air Matters will be taking a break for a while. However, I will still submit articles and items to the Business and Financial Times as the 'inspiration and opportunity' hits me, which will, generally, also find their way to the blogspot.

To those who have been upset by what has been written in this column: a) if it was the truth that hurt you, I offer no apology. b) if it was a misunderstanding, I seek to clarify. c) if it was your sensitivity, please grow stronger and d) if I was wrong, I apologise.

To those who have learned from this column, I am thrilled to share knowledge - it is an amazing gift - now go and build on that knowledge and use it to the good of mankind and the positive growth of our nation.

To those who have been inspired, I am humbled, and inspired in return. Take your inspiration and keep it warm, never let the fire die down, fan those flames and let the bush fire spread to all around you. All it takes is a well placed idea to change the world.

To those who have been encouraged, stay strong and never let anybody get you down - you are your own person! Each and every one of us can do anything we want - it is inside of us, and we 'can-do', if we are ready to take the bull by the horns and accept that there will be good days and bad days!

Whatever your walk of life is, please remember that 'Fresh Air Matters' - whether it is the air that your breath, or it is related to aviation, we know that we must always have it! Without the air that we breathe we would soon cease to exist, and likewise without aviation our modern society would not be the same. Imagine spending weeks in a boat to get to Europe or the USA... months to get to China or Australia. What would be the consequence of not being able to express deliver mail or parts across continents? Consider not being able to visit another country for just a few days or hours... Aviation is the life-blood of our new society, and as essential to our economic survival - just as oxygen is to our beings.

I hope to be back with you all soon, and look forward to hearing from you by e-mail if you get a chance. 

To quote two of my fictional heroes; 

'May the Force be with you.' 

and may you 'Live long and prosper'.

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and Pilot/Engineer with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail

Monday, July 7, 2014

July 7th, 2014

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

The NTSB report on last year's Flight 214 accident, in California, is now in the public domain: The report states 'The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the flight crew’s mismanagement of the airplane’s descent during the visual approach, the pilot flying’s unintended deactivation of automatic airspeed control, the flight crew’s inadequate monitoring of airspeed, and the flight crew’s delayed execution of a go-around after they became aware that the airplane was below acceptable glide-path and airspeed tolerances.' 

In all honesty, there are no 'big surprises' in the investigators findings. Pilot error is the common thread found throughout its many pages. As always, the future safety of aviation will be determined on how we deal with the two questions: a) Why did this happen in the first place? and b) How do we prevent it occurring again? 

It is all too easy to put the blame on others, but when we are 'in command', we must take responsibility. We are given power and we must not abuse it. We must not take it on if we are not competent to do so, and if we find ourselves getting into hot water, we must seek advice and support from those who can help appropriately, in time to avoid a disaster.

Flight 214 was coming into an airport where an automated landing aid was not functioning. Not a problem if you are current with visual approaches, as you should be. Visual approach means that you look out of the window, you see what is happening and you adjust power, attitude, track, etc in real time, using small adjustments to keep everything as it should be. The crew were, for whatever reason, 'aiming short', and 'touched down short', resulting in damage to the aircraft (a write-off), property and, most devastatingly, life. We must all LEARN from this accident. If we fail to learn from it, those who died, gave their lives in vain. If we learn from it, their sacrifice will save many lives in the years to come.

Do you wear a seatbelt when you travel in a motor car? The law says that you should. Early cars didn't have seatbelts. They were added to save lives. Then, because people didn't wear them, the wearing of them became law. Think about that next time you put your seatbelt on: 'People died so that seatbelts would be introduced and made law, to protect me and my family'. 

What about that 'rear view mirror' or 'wing mirrors' on cars? Again, early models didn't have any... It resulted in many accidents. Then, in 1906 in 'The Woman and the Car', written by Dorothy Levitt, she wrote "carry a little hand-mirror in a convenient place when driving", she goes on, "hold the mirror aloft from time to time in order to see behind while driving in traffic". A few years on, and all the cars had mirrors - for safety reasons. 

In the same way, we have to learn from the demise of other business, countries and systems. We must learn from the mistakes and misfortune of others. It is one of the reasons we read history, it is one of the reasons that we watch the news or read the newspapers! Being aware of the mistakes of others allows us to stand on their shoulders - to get a better view of what is ahead - and to adjust our path in order to make better progress.

I ponder trends, past and present. I look at a variety of plans for the route ahead. It is possible to predict where additional challenges might be found - quite accurately, with practice. Finally, it is necessary to propose a solution, which takes as many of the risks and challenges into account. I never manage to cover all of the bases, and I am always ready to 're-evaluate', pondering on the progress made, reassessing the plans, re-predicting the outcomes based on new knowledge gained and then, if necessary, proposing a change of route. Just as one does at the front end of an aircraft, constantly. 

The fuel crisis of recent days was not a surprise. If you had your ear to the ground, and considered all the factors available in the public forum, a fuel crisis has been looming for many weeks. It was always 'just a matter of time before the bubble burst'. Many of the people I know made sure that they kept their fuel tanks topped up, and their gensets full. Thus, for those who planned, the crisis in its early days was more of an inconvenience than a crisis. But for those who failed to ponder, plan, predict and propose, it came as a 'shock', a 'surprise' and quickly became a crisis. 

The same can be said for the floods that hit Accra each year... and so many other challenges that hit us. 

None of this should be a surprise for us in Africa. We have a wonderful African story about the Vulture who complains during the rainy season that 'he must build a house during the next dry season', but when the dry season comes he neglects his good intentions and fails to prepare for the rains. Thus he suffers when the wind blows and the rain falls, and although he complains, he has no cause for complaint, for he failed to ponder, plan, predict and propose.

We can put the blame on others, we can all march in the streets, we can go on the TV and radio chat shows and complain. However, we must be careful not to be like the vulture... Over the past 20 years, I have often seen the same people complain, year in and year out... and I have seen others, who 'complain-eth not', who take action to prepare for the next challenge - that is surely coming their way.

It seems that many nations have the false belief that the 'Government' is responsible for all the decisions in the nation. Sorry, but the Government is not. The Government is charged with the responsibility to create an enabling environment for 'business to do business'. That includes, creating and maintaining transport infrastructure that works, ensuring adequate health and education systems and overseeing safety in various sectors - plus ensuring a level playing field, without corruption or nepotism. Government has no place in business, but must ensure that business has its place, securely in society. 

Business, the true backbone of a nation, is thus enabled to create a sustainable development platform. Extraction, farming, processing, production, services, etc, and with them all, growing new jobs and opportunities. The workers, in-turn, must take their place in diligent productivity, and thus the success of a nation is born. Break any of the links in the chain, and the system fails. Yes, the problems often start in the cockpit of the nation - the seat of Governance! BUT, it does not stop there. We have many more entrepreneurs than Members of Parliament, we have many more workers than civil-servants - and thus it is the work of the many to ensure that a nation prospers - despite the few that may not always be working towards the greater good. 

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and Pilot/Engineer with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail