Monday, December 20, 2010

December 20th

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw
Another year comes to an end, and so I begin this week by wishing you a vacation period free of idiots spoiling your day, and that your electricity supply may be clean and the water flow from your taps without cease – oh, and that your car might not give you issues, and that the roads upon which you drive should be free of potholes, rumble strips and goats crossing in front of you at the last moment.  OK, so that is too much to ask, but if you do not ask, you cannot receive!

2010 has been a busy year in the air in Ghana.  Of course, there have been the tail end stories about Ghana International, and the start up stories about the new Presidential Jet; there has even been time devoted to the beautiful yellow helicopters flying the oil rigs; from whence the oil has just started to trickle, for better, for worse, for the richer and, hopefully for the poorer, until death departs us. 

This year Ghana won two international awards for its work in flying young people as part of the celebrations of the one hundred years of women pilots, and saw two small planes, built in Ghana, fly around the country, as well as another successful, and safe, air show.

We have seen progress at Kotoka on the new fire station – it really looks good!  We have also seen an increase in the airline traffic – and with it, an incident in the parking bay, which got blown out of all proportion by certain sectors of the media.  Since then, changes in procedures have been made, but the safety implementation side is buried in fine print, whilst the headlines are always about negativity! 

If you have flown internationally this year, then, if you looked out of the window, you would have seen the ongoing sprawl of buildings that seems to be engulfing the green space around Accra, like a concrete version of an oil-slick! 

Yes, 2010 has been a busy year – in the air, and on the ground.  I am pleased to say, that from my perspective, it has been a positive year for light aviation – and raising of the awareness of it, and another safe year; long may they continue.

However, it has also been a year where indiscipline has propagated itself exponentially on the roads – and with it, safety has been compromised.  It is easy to put the blame in one place or another, but the blame is, in reality, wide spread.  I see the trucks trundling up and down the roads, their excess axle weight creating new ruts on the highways (especially the Tema – Akosombo highway); I see the potholes, reported six months ago, growing as if they are new crop, just waiting to harvest the axles of another vehicle; I see the mayhem in Accra, as congestion gets beyond a joke and a trip of a few kilometres is quicker riding on the back of an African Snail than in your Land Cruiser. 

I see lack of maintenance, lack of discipline and lack of desire to work, coupled with insistence that all should be perfect – an explosive combination, and one that will lead to disappointment.

If Aviation tried the same formula, it would have the corpses hung around its neck and be lambasted from every quarter – but on the roads, we blame only the drivers.  Now, do not get me wrong, the drivers are definitely to blame – but so is the road condition, the lack of road markings (or in some cases the wrong road markings), the lack of education, lack of vehicle maintenance, the lack of support for the police to actually have an effect on stopping people driving without lights, driving licences, etc., and more.

If aircraft tried to squeeze an extra lane or two on a runway, there would be public outcry – not at the pilots, but at the authorities who did not act to prevent it.  How come, the roads have this problem?  If planes are allowed to fly without proper maintenance the headlines are always aimed at ‘bad management’.  Why not when it is a motor vehicle? 

At the Minister of Transport’s meet the press last week, there was a poster available about the number of drivers without driving licences or proper understanding of road usage and the laws.  So, it is a known problem – no surprises there!  If a poster could fix it, it would be fixed. 

These problems are spoiling the efforts of others on their way to and from legitimate jobs each day; passengers in tro-tro’s are being subjected to risks of unacceptable levels – and for what purpose?  I can find no logical reason NOT to bring about change, no earthly sense in not imposing a nationwide impact programme immediately.  Again, if only ten percent of the road abuse and related issues were to occur in aviation, the public would not stop harassing the authorities until it was addressed.

So, it is clear that the problems are many-fold – but the ultimate problem comes from the apathy of the vast majority of the population to actually impose the change, support the change, and encourage the change.  It is coupled with a lack of maintenance of roads and vehicles – and lack of support from the authorities to those citizens who actually try to bring about change.

I know that when help has been offered to work on public roads by private corporations, they have been hampered by their District Assemblies, by other users of the roads (including Public educational establishments) and the signal is sent out ‘we like it as it is’.   As was said to me by one Doctor from the Agricultural unit of the University of Ghana ‘when we are ready to leave our poverty we will do so’.  How can a supposedly educated man, holding high office in a university, make such a statement?  Because he has a large dose of apathy and no interest in a common goal, and a better community for all to enjoy.

I hope that over the vacation period we can all find some solace from the indiscipline, non-community mindedness that is growing like a cancer on the roads, and corporately find the courage and the energy to bring about positive change, from the grass roots up, for a less harassed new year! 

So, as was sent to me as a greetings card for the Christmas period, I wish you all that ‘May those who spoil your day, have the fleas of a thousand camels infest their underwear – and may their arms be too short to scratch’… and I add to that ‘may the road users who care not for the rules, be blocked on a side road with no steering or propulsion methods, for many years to come’!

Get a rest, and get ready for the challenges of 2011, whatever they may be!

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS – The Best Flying Experience in West Africa (http://www.waasps.com/   e-mail capt.yaw@waasps.com)

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