Monday, May 16, 2011

May 16th

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw
Today is a celebratory day for Civil Aviation in Ghana.  25 years of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority.  Celebrations have been going on for a while – and will continue throughout the year, but today’s ‘the’ day.  If you watch the skies around Kotoka today, early to mid-morning, you may just see a little tribute to the men and women who made our skies safer and more secure by their tireless efforts.  Aviation people like to make good use of the sky – which is just as well for such an underutilised asset!
GCAA’s website makes its own statement about their origins:
“The Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) is the regulatory agency of the Republic of Ghana for air transportation in the country. It also provides air navigation services within the Accra Flight Information Region (FIR), which comprises the airspace over the Republics of Ghana, Togo and Benin and a large area over the Atlantic Ocean in the Gulf of Guinea. The GCAA was established in 1930 as a unit with Public Works Department (PWD); in 1953 GCAA was granted Departmental Status. It became an Authority under PNDC Law 151 from 16th May, 1986. In the year 2004 the GCAA Act was enacted to replace PNDC Law 151.”
Therefore, we all wish our overseeing angels sitting at the controls of the industry ‘GCAA @ 25 – Happy Anniversary’ this sixteenth May.
For many people the understanding of such an authority may be confusing already, but when you read the statement on their website, you cannot be blamed for being surprised by the references to Togo, Benin and Gulf of Guinea.  Ghana manages certain over-flight activities for a much larger area than just the territory of the Republic of Ghana, and this reflects confidence in our nation, as well as levels of co-operation that keep our little bit of West Africa so pleasant!  Many aircraft fly over this FIR (Flight Information Region), without descending to the point of seeing the nitty-gritty-detail of the surface, communicating with our Air Traffic professionals at KIA (and they get charged for the service too!).  I sometimes watch the high level traffic routing over our airfield at Kpong, and ponder upon the comments in the cockpit, thirty-odd thousand feet above.  Join me in my ‘creative mind’ for a moment. [note this is not the ‘proper Radio Telephony’ used, but it makes it easier to understand than pilot mumbo jumbo. And is the same sort of content.]
AIRCRAFT: Accra Centre this is Zulu Alpha Zulu Golf, a Boeing 747 routing from India to Brazil, currently at thirty thousand feet, overhead Ho heading west, three hundred and fifty souls on board, enough fuel for another nine hours, expect to land in seven hours.
ACCRA CENTRE: Zulu Alpha Zulu Golf, this is Accra Centre, we copy your information and advise that there is a big storm coming up ahead of you.  We suggest that you change direction towards south west and climb to thirty six thousand feet.  Call when over Takoradi.
AIRCRAFT: Thanks Accra. Next call over Takoradi.
PILOT:  I love flying over the Ghana FIR, they are always so helpful and they speak so clearly. 
COPILOT: Have you ever visited Ghana?
PILOT: No, but one day I would like to.
COPILOT: Captain, you know, I have a cousin in Ghana, and when I visited I really enjoyed it.
PILOT: I have flown over Ghana hundreds of times, and always been impressed by the big lake and landscape.  Look, ahead is Kumasi to the right and Accra to the left.  Hey, I can see that storm; routing towards Takoradi.  I hear they have oil there.
COPILOT: Yeah, that has made the airspace a bit busier.  They have a few helicopters and some Beechcraft 1900’s busy there.  Ghana’s oil find has really boosted aviation activity.
PILOT: You know from up here, we can see pretty much the whole country.  It has such a great layout, ideal for aviation development.  There a number of regional airlines and many aircraft use Accra like a hub. 
CO-PILOT: IT goes further than that - just imaging flying bush operations down there – the lake is ideal for float planes and there are just so many little places with few roads into them. In fact, some people have referred to Ghana as ‘Alaska, but without the snow!’
PILOT: Howzat?
COPILOT: Well, there are many rural areas and ‘infrastructurally isolated communities’, a massive lake and the benefits of flying things around for saving time and making for a better life are just waiting to get going.  In fact, they have some group down there flying an amphibian to rural communities in the Volta Basin.
PILOT: Wow, I would love to do that. 
AIRCRAFT: Accra Centre, this is Zulu Alpha Zulu Golf, overhead Takoradi, leaving your area soon.
ACCRA CENTRE: Zulu Alpha Zulu Golf, this is Accra Centre, maintain your current heading and altitude, change frequency to Abidjan.  Have a nice day.
AIRCRAFT: Changing frequency to Abidjan, thanks for the help, hope to come back soon.
PILOT: Can you see the difference in the landscape now?
COPILOT: Ahh, that is because we just flew over the Dahomey Gap – it is something really special, it gives parts of Ghana a totally different climate than other tropical belts. 
PILOT: Well, from what I have heard, and from what I can see, Ghana IS a different climate to other tropical belts, in more ways than one.
And so, we let our three hundred and fifty souls pass over, glimpsing the difference from the sky, and feeling the difference on the radio. 
There is no doubt in my mind, and it is backed up by experiences from contacts with many others, that Ghana as a whole is different, not only because of the Dahomey Gap’s unique climatic phenomena, nor because of the lake, the ridges, the scenery and  natural resources in abundance.  No, this part of the world is different because of the people, and the people actually transcend the physical borders of this nation. 
Likewise, the success of Ghana Civil Aviation Authority over the past 25 years is not because of the structures, the cars, the paperwork, the budget (big or small) not even due to the colour of the walls!  No, it has succeeded because of the people.  It truly is the people that make or break an organization, a company - even a nation.  
I have enjoyed knowing Ghana as a sky user for many years, and know that the development of the authority has been a partnership between the Authority staff and the aircraft operators, aviators, etc.  This working relationship is only possible because of two fundamental things.  Trust and Commitment.  The same two things necessary for success in any development and growth activity. 
Who do you trust?  Do they trust you? Where is your commitment?  Are others equally committed? Without Trust and Commitment you have no foundation upon which to build a safe and secure solution, in any application.
 Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and lead Pilot with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail

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