Monday, December 19, 2011

December 19th, 2011

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

Since this is the last F.A.M. before the yuletide celebrations, I would like to share some aviation concerns that occur around the world at this time of year. You may wish to exercise caution if you intend to share this with younger people in your entourage as it may change their understandings of ‘certain things’.

In aviation we issue NOTAMS – that is NOTice to AirMen. Such ‘coded’ messages alert pilots and operators to issues such as runway light failures, movements of VIP aircraft, closure of airspace, etc. I note with interest that GCAA has not issued a NOTAM regarding Santa Claus’ intended flights in the airspace above our territory. We do not want KLM or British Airways to declare an ‘AirProx’ (a near miss in the air), with some reindeer and an old man with a bag full of goodies. No, we certainly do not. Fortunately, many airlines ensure that their pilots are aware of the risk and the potential operating times for the multi-reindeer-powered-wooden-built-aircraft. We must remember that the Sleigh, as it is correctly called, is a very fast aircraft indeed. It is able to circumnavigate the globe in a single night – or so we are informed, normally by Night VFR...

Personally, I am concerned about lighting for this aircraft. I hear he only has a single, continuous red light, and I trust that he ensures that it is located on the left of the aircraft and that it shines from dead ahead through 110 degrees to the side and slightly behind, as required by the regulations. He should also ensure that he has a green light on the right also, and a rear facing white light shining through 70 degrees to each side. A red flashing beacon or strobes would assist in increasing visibility and reducing the risk of collision. Considering the current Harmattan and the potential need for the Sleigh to operate in Instrument Meteorological conditions, I hope that a Mode S transponder is fitted!  

Rumour has it that this benevolent old man brings gifts to the people as part of his ‘Tour du Monde’. It also indicates that he has a list of those who deserve some gifts and those who don’t. This is called the ‘Naughty and Nice’ list. As I see it there are a lot of people on the Naughty list this year – they know who they are, and are denying it! Still, I guess that they can afford to buy their own gifts and pretend that they were from the white-bearded aviator. Nonetheless, I would like to make public my list of ‘Nice’ who, as far as I am aware are not on Santa’s or anybody else’s list, mainly because they tend to be invisible to the majority of people. I believe that the following should be highly recommended for gifts - gifts that may bring even more smiles. 

Nice: All those children who are working so hard to learn in tough conditions. Time, and time again I see community after community without suitable learning conditions. The children and teachers are trying, at times under a makeshift classroom or in a building that needs some (read ‘A LOT OF’) work done to it. I see them too many in a class, age spreads of more than five years, in the same classroom; all trying to grab a grain of knowledge. For those children, I would send encouragement to their parents to keep them in school, a simple word of ‘well done’ or ‘Ayekoo’ for sending their child to school in the first place, and then to keep them there. Provide recognition that they are ‘trying’ against the odds, in their struggle to make each day a success. There also needs to be increased support for the education of those children. It may not be much, perhaps some supplies; educational posters; a visiting speaker to inspire and encourage… it need not be expensive, but it must be effective.

Nice: All those people living without access to clean water. There are so many of them, either walking miles each day for a few buckets of ‘somehow-clean’ water, perhaps drinking and bathing directly in the lake or river. These people we see every day from the air, but are generally missed by those on the terrestrial routes. Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of such people live in our countryside – and in the cities too. They often know that they need to filter and / or boil the water, but are limited in their time and resources to achieve the desired treatment for the desired quantity. For those people, I would send encouragement to make the extra effort to clean the water that they have. Encourage them through education as to WHY clean water is important, and the benefits of the same. All too often we are told ‘I have drunk the water from the lake all of my life, and it has not made me sick.’, the person not understanding that the Schistosomiasis, diarrhoea, and other illnesses that they suffer from come from the very act that they are defending. Education as to WHY, and education as to HOW is a great present to give to these folks. But it cannot be done on a one-day-workshop – no, and it will take more than a sudden visit from a group of 4x4 vehicles with folks in nice shoes and fancy clothes. It would be wonderful to get piped water to all of these communities – but that is simply not practical, for I have seen the lay of the land from above! Recently I was in a village that is right by the water inlet for the Koforidua water treatment plant. There is no plan to send them piped water, at least not in the coming years – and yet the people fish around the inlet that takes the water that they drink ‘raw’ and sends it to a nice new treatment plant to pipe to the city. They respect the inlet, in fact they protect it for those in the city, whilst they still have no practical solutions to their needs. These are, to me at least, the very people that should be getting ‘presents’ at this time of the year – for those with the clean, health sustaining water every-day of the year know-not what gift they have already – and may not even spare a glancing thought for where the water comes from, let alone those who do not have access to potable water supplies.

These gifts are really about giving encouragement for a change in behaviour… such gifts are hard to give in just one go, they require dedication, long term, sustained effort support. It is all too easy to say ‘but how can I do that?’ as an excuse to do nothing... Well, we are developing a method for reaching these communities, using our ‘sleighs’ made of metal and powered by piston engines with propellers attached, to try to make 2012 a year in which such support can be a reality on a regular, sustained and sustainable basis. Medicine on the Move through the ETCHE project and in conjunction with the INSCI project wants to see those on the ‘nice list’ receiving their much deserved gifts of health education and support. Perhaps in 2012 you would like to pay us a visit at Kpong Airfield – and find out more about these things!

Happy holidays to you all!

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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