Monday, July 11, 2011

July 11, 2011

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

The expression ‘In Aviation, if you want to end up with a small fortune, you must start with a large one.’ is as true today as it was in the early days of aviation, unless you do not agree to play by the rules. Sadly, as in all industries there are those who find ‘quick and dirty’ ways to line their pockets – however, they quickly leave the industry and move on ‘to other pastures’, at times leaving corpses behind them. Others make a living out of the administration of aviation, and that seems to be quite lucrative these days too! However, look at the ‘super-aviation’ nations and see how much they support the bottom-end of their industry, subsidising it from the top-end of the aviation food-chain.

Real aviation is about passion, not lust, not greed and certainly not about ‘making it big’. It is for that reason that I love to share my passion for aviation, as does my wonderful team, and together we try to help grow the industry in a sustainable manner for all to enjoy. Sadly, it is hard, but not yet impossible, to find that passion in the halls of bureaucracy!

I get excited at fly-me days. The days when select children from rural communities come and see what aviation is all about – at the grass roots, tangible level. Sit them in a cockpit, take them in the air and bring them safely back to earth able to recount their story of ‘triumph-over-gravity’. I enjoy the part-time student pilots who struggle to fund a flying lesson once or twice per month, working towards their qualification over several years – realising the changes that learning about aviation makes to their approach to their work, their outlook and their life in general. Equally, we gain pleasure from training the middle-income enthusiasts, commercial-pilot-wannabes and ex-pats who come to fly, and together share the joyous task of encouraging one another and building that sustainable future together.

Moreover, and more importantly, I gain satisfaction, that others can only glimpse at, when we fly out and land on the lake and take health education to a remote village, or help to open a rural, community airfield. For me, that is what aviation is all about – changing lives, one flight at a time. Through appropriate light aviation, and the growing following from rural Ghanaians, and over one thousand who follow on-line from around the globe, the aviation growth at the bottom end in Ghana, a slow but sure change is working its way into the system – and can go a long way if allowed to, and are not hindered by bureaucratic, as well as financial, barriers coupled with paralysing non-interest from those in the seat of decision-making.

Lately, it seems that more of the ‘I’m alright Jack.’ approach has bled into administration, and frankly, those building the bottom end of the industry are getting tired of fighting against the paper-weight and financial-vacuum coming from above, but, fear not, we will not stop promoting and growing a sustainable entry level aviation for all, especially for the rural folks and youth who stand to benefit most from it all!

It seems to me that the lack of understanding of ‘Sankofa and looking at where we came from’ is now a plague that seems to be igniting more and more people in ‘high office’ and even in the lower ranks of middle-management of the Civil Service – and entry-level/humanitarian aviation is definitely suffering from it right now.

One of the joys that I get is to be present in really rural locations, and to make access to their home easier for health education and emergency purposes, and to stimulate aviation, as well as general, education in these areas. This is a challenge, opening the eyes of the people in the rural areas to the benefits – it takes time, dedication and input of both personal and community resources, as sweat capital, since cash is rarely needed for the development of a basic airfield facility.

Sadly, we have a current situation, where a community participated en-mass with children, adults and community leaders alike to work to re-open a facility, neglected and abandoned by the state (as shown in this paper a few weeks ago). I was privileged to lead a team of volunteers on two visits to the community (travel time over 60 hours for the two trips; about 100 minutes each way, by light plane). We encouraged them and prepared an application to re-activate the airfield, at no charge, knowing that this community has great need to improve its access in times of need and to act as a ‘stepping stone’ to other infrastructurally isolated communities – and it is not alone.

A letter explaining the details was sent to the authorities, showing pictures of the efforts of the community and requesting support in a task that should have been a maintenance job for the state, and had been undertaken, willingly and in the spirit of self-development by the local people, in an attempt to better themselves, under guidance of technically competent volunteers, who gave up their own time to assist.

So I was surprised, no I was extremely hurt, angry, and so bitterly disappointed when I was handed a letter this week in relation to the application from this community – a demand for over two thousand, five hundred Ghana cedis, from the same authority who, admittedly under a different leadership, had promised publically that such applications for humanitarian purposes would attract no charge. It is easily within the power of Ghana Civil Aviation Authority to allow development to go on at this and other sites at no cost, it happens in other countries, even in the UK you can open an airfield for use less than 28 days per year without paperwork or fees – you simply follow sensible safety and security guidelines. This is such a clear case of ‘self-help’ being ‘taxed’ and deterred, but why?

Sadly, the upper administration of our Aviation resources enjoy excellent salaries, swish cars, air-conditioning in their offices, allowances and perks that most in the developed world only dream of. What is more, they recently spent vast sums on ‘self-praising’ celebrations, for part of which I was a volunteer pilot, and helped to provide three aircraft and a total of ten hours flying, at ‘no-charge’, and provide free emergency services and discounted flying for their staff. It would appear that something is wrong. It appears that there is a need to fund the ‘lifestyle’ of the authorities, and to take advantage of the good nature of those who try to grow industry and build rural development, it seems that we may have mistaken a parasite for a symbiote – and need to start taking a prophylaxias!

Dear GCAA, please give the entry level and rural aviation, especially youth and humanitarian developments more support and encouragements; we are working to improve the lives of the future, struggling in conditions and places your other aviation sectors do not dream of supporting.

Dear Reader, would you like to support more rural aviation resources and young people/health projects? If so, please contact me, together we can make it happen and sway the trend in favour of positive development.

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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