Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. YawFirst of all, Happy New Year to all of you… may it be a safe one, with blue skies, excellent visibility and a tail wind!
Well, ours has not started like that at all. Harmattan has reduced visibility to less than three kilometres, the sky is dusty grey, there is barely a breath of wind, and we are below legal minima for VFR; but we are smiling, and looking forward to a ‘year of action’ in safety!
Regular readers, will know that ‘Fresh Air Matters’ focuses on aviation, mainly light aviation, and its relationship to our everyday lives, safety and approach in all walks of life. So, it was with pleasure that I toured the Volta Lake Transport Company facilities this week.
VLTC is a marine operation, and marine and aviation have a lot in common. We both refer to pitch, roll and yaw; we both have cockpits, pilots, port and starboard; we both live and work in environments that do not forgive readily and snatch lives quickly, if you fail to observe the rules and regulations.
It was interesting to learn about the VLTC fleet, to watch barges being loaded, to see the workshops and facilities that appear so desperately under-utilised and generally unknown about. What came as a surprise was that the new CEO was a regular reader of this column, and was anxious to implement some of the aviation safety and security aspects we have developed at Kpong Airfield.
Compared to many of the facilities I have visited in West Africa, this one was well laid out, well equipped and clearly capable of delivering the goodies… but that only raised the question ‘Why hasn’t it?’ – a comment from one of our pilots accompanying me may shed some light on that… she said ‘They need to love their machines.’
Pilots of aircraft develop deep relationships with them – a real love of the machine. When you have built the aircraft, that love is parental. As a parent we love our children; we care for them; we clean up after them; we make sure that the environment, in which they are in, is safe and appropriate; we look out for them; we do not allow others to speak ill of them or detract from their beauty with words. In short, if we love our children we do all that we can to provide the right conditions for their growth.
In aviation that includes all the efforts on the airfield to keep it free of FOD (Foreign Object Debris aka rubbish), well maintained, clean and attractive looking. In the marine world the same conditions apply. In the home this is echoed by keeping the home suitably safe and clean for children. In the office, the working environment should be safe and healthy.
If a family fails to protect its children, the family is criticised, and ultimately children are placed in homes where they are given the love, protection and environment that they deserve, and have a right to. After all
So, why are we not loving our machines, our desks, our cars, our homes, our places of employment, our streets, our environment, one another, in such a way as it is visible? A healthy love; one of caring and wanting the best for these things that are part of our lives, and create our daily bread, keep us safe and provide opportunities to no longer sit under a tree and talk all day. An aviator who loves not his plane, will not live long! For an aviator to say ‘Oh, I can change that fuel filter tomorrow, it isn’t very dirty’ is a request for a funeral. Likewise, there is no point in saying ‘oh, I was going to clean the workshop tomorrow’ if it is dirty today, or ‘I will change the filter at the next service’ if it needs changed today – because today is when we can actually do something about it – tomorrow may well be too late! What is more, there is no point in making excuses about yesterday, when it is today that needs action, if we are to see tomorrow...
It was so refreshing to feel the desire for growth in an organisation yearning to reach out to all those who dwell around the lake edge – there is an acknowledgement that change is necessary for sustainable and suitable growth – and the management is ready to support that change, and that you can sense around the facility that the staff, probably better referred to as ‘The Team’, are wanting to help VLTC to grow into what it really is capable of.
Of course, and especially at this time of the year, we often see such ‘good intentions’, which the ‘road to hell is paved with’, according to my old Mum! But love is a funny thing, IF you truly love your machine, and that can be a plane, a boat, a lathe, a saw, a car, a business or a fruit stall; then your resolve will be resolute and timeless – you will be unstoppable – just like a mother and her child. I am privileged to see such dedication to aircraft and airfields on a daily basis, but such dedication is not common outside of parenthood – and aviation!
If, in my imaginary aviation paralleled ideal world, all parents and all workers in all industries, and all citizens in all areas, were to see their children, their companies and their country as things to be protected, loved, cared for – the transformation would be so great that the world would be, not only a better place, but also a perfectly loved, loving and caring place, without bounds or limitations in what could be achieved.
Imagine, nobody dropping litter, everybody making 100% effort for the corporate good, a nation where all the workers worked for the love of the job, not the love of the salary. I am so blessed to work in an environment where it is close to that – so I know that it is not impossible – IF we all want it.
So, thrilled with my visit, and my experience of sensing what could come out of the Port at Akosombo, I wish all of the staff at VLTC long-term love of their machines, their boats and their facilities, and that we will see a VLTC with achievements, safety levels and approaches that make aviators envious… they can do it – and so can you, because it all begins with one person changing their approach… and it can be contagious, and create a wave…
May 2011, be a year of loving and caring for our nation, our work and our families – and one where you may get to enjoy an outing on a VLTC vessel on the majestic Lake Volta.
Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS – The Best Flying Experience in
West Africa (http://www.waasps.com/ e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)