Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Photo of the week Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

When we sit in a circle we are united, even though it would appear that we are all looking in different directions, and seeing different things. The only way we can all see the same thing, and find unity, is if we look up. May this year end with the unity and common vision of looking upwards as we seek to build Ghana for all of us to live peacefully, enjoy good health and safety into the New Year. Photo courtesy of the AvTech Academy

Monday, December 17, 2012

December 17th, 2012

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

This is the last Fresh Air Matters of 2012 – so greetings and wishes of the best possible nature for you and yours! Now, niceties over, and back to business.

The aviation industry, just like all the other industries, relies on people. Yup, those variable, oxygen consuming, exasperating, necessary, wonderful, carbon based life-forms – just like you and me – that we call employees. People are necessary for the development of the business, the country and the planet. They can build it – or destroy it – simply based on their attitudes to work.

Now, I am not alone in being frustrated at the challenges of recruitment. Not at all. I hardly ever (OK, I cannot remember a single occasion) come across a leader of industry who finds ‘recruitment’ easy. It seems that finding the right talent is a not getting easier. Not at all. Standards seem to be lowering – and even reaching new lows, in some areas. At the same time, we see unemployment rising in many parts of the world, and it leads to the consideration ‘Is it that people are unemployable or do not want employment that is restricting growth?’ It could well be the case.

We have tried this year to recruit a full-time nurse and an administrator – without success. The primary reason given is ‘but you are not in the city.’ WOW. People prefer jobs in the city? I am dumbfounded. Who wants to work in the city?

When I probe further, I get told of the wonders of the city – night clubs, parties, friends, things to do… Well, those are not the people we want to employ! When I challenge some of the comments I learn ‘the city pays more money.’ Well, duh, that is because the city costs more… Everywhere in the world the city costs more to live in, and the salaries are adjusted accordingly. Rural dwellers often have a better quality of life, in my opinion.

More and more folks desire to live and work in the city, to earn more money to pay the higher bills, spend lots of time in congested traffic and to go to lots of social functions. OK, but are these the people we want in the industry? I wonder!

One young woman, who worked with us for a short time a couple of years ago, added a new dimension when we met by chance last week. ‘I needed to work in the city to meet a boyfriend’ she explained. Well, I guess that the boyfriends are all going to the city to find girlfriends too…

I am confused and, more importantly, concerned. Young people are migrating to the city for the wrong reasons. They are also losing sight of the real development potential of Ghana – the rural areas.

Rural areas offer a lower cost of living, more peaceful atmospheres, generally calmer people, and a different pace of life. Let us make some city ‘v’ rural comparisons.

The city is noisy and often dirty. Rural areas are quieter and the air cleaner. The city is hot and hurried. The rural areas are cooler and have a steadier pace. The city is expensive and about the ‘rat race’. The rural areas are less expensive and more about people.

Everybody must make their choices, and live with them. However, those who choose to live and work in the rural areas are going to be the outright winners in years to come. The city is congested and growth is limited. The rural areas have lots of expansion potential and growth is practically unlimited, at this point.

I see the ‘city-types’ yearning to travel to the rural areas at the weekends, yet never see the ‘rural-types’ yearning to visit the city – they only go there if they have to. It is time for the urbanites to open their eyes, and to stop spreading their malicious rumours about the city being paved with gold.

Those of us who are working in the rural areas, taking technology and skills to the point of need, are enjoying-oo! We really are… with the one exception, that of recruitment.

I can sit with a candidate who tells me how much more money they will earn in Accra or Kumasi compared to Kpong or Sogakope, but they will not listen to how much ‘nett earnings’ they will end up with after their expenses.

I fervently believe that many companies will start their relocation out of Accra in the coming years. The cost of operations there is too high, and the stresses of transport issues (average speed of less than 10kph) and the associated health issues that the city donates to its victims results in poor attendance.

I also propose that the employees who are ready to seek rural employment today will be the winners tomorrow. As the rural companies grow, the early staff are the long term winners. It requires patience and commitment, but the early joiners, who stay with the developing company through the tough times, are the long term winners.

It is quite possible for a rural worker to consider purchasing some small plot of land, and overseeing the building process, close to their place of work. Such is not possible for the urban worker. It all comes down to ‘what you want’. If you want to see growth and be a part of a company that is in development, then you will enjoy the rural business more than the city. If you just want to make some money, and hop from job to job, then the city is the best option. You have to decide.

I am more and more against employing people from the cities, even if they want to come out to the rural areas. They appear to come with an ‘attitude’ of ‘city-superiority’. Yet, I find the rural-origin personnel are more stable, committed and genuine in their approach – even if they need more training.

It reminds me of working in the French Alps, where one company had a policy ‘only to employ people who lived from above 2,000 feet up the mountains.’ The argument being that those from the valley had an easier life than those up the mountains and it affected their attitudes to work. Perhaps it is the same here. Those in the cities are not used to the same daily struggle that rural dwellers endure. Perhaps those who are used to the real struggle of living with fewer amenities appreciate having a job more than those who see it as ‘their right’ to have certain things?

2013 will be a year when rural developments make the headlines. With it I hope that the employers will give many opportunities to those who know how hard living the rural life is. Such staff will spend and invest their earnings into the rural areas. Employers must as a part of this ensure that the necessary training, to make sustainable rural growth a reality, is available.

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and lead Pilot with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Photo of the week December 12th, 2012

As the Harmattan finally creeps down across the Volta Basin, laying its sound-proofing, light-diffusing blanket over the countryside, the thousands of communities around the lake, many small and isolated, have a new hope for 2013. Two new ferries entered service last week, one on a new route from Kete Krachi, and another to replace the ageing machine at Adowso, implemention commences for significant infrastructural investment and development of the Lake areas. Next year is scheduled to be a year of change - change that will stir many of the dormant resource aspects of the massive Lake Volta, awakening new services to the nation, and new opportunities for the people. Photo Courtesy of Medicine on the Move

Monday, December 10, 2012

December 10th, 2012

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

Developments in domestic aviation in Ghana, recently commented on at a presentation, with a reported 400% growth over the past year, in some areas. What a fantastic growth rate. We need to make sure that we keep up with the growth in other areas too.

We have all seen the number of new airlines operating the local routes, all working towards regional carrier status. We have also noticed the strain on the resources – runway damage, terminal crowding, etc. The sad thing being, although there is plenty of ‘noise’ about the solutions to the infrastructural issues (resurface runways, consider a new airport, new aircraft…) the human-capital requirement is often overlooked – especially the worker over the management requirements.

Training of existing personnel, as well as recruitment of new bodies to be trained in a timely manner (which takes years) to meet the growth curve, is essential to the sectors success and sustainability. There is also the need to take into account the fact that not all those who start learning a skill will complete, some will move on to new opportunities, and then there is the sad fact of life, that some will not survive – either through illness or accidents. Sadly, last week, one of Ghana’s Air Traffic Controllers was taken from us by a road accident, may his Soul Rest in Peace, or as a friend put it ‘may he Rise In Paradise’! A reminder of the fragility of humankind, and that our ‘essential services personnel’ are national assets that need to be well cared for, suitably trained and have a constantly replenished cycle of fresh intakes, to ensure services are provided as needed.

One asset in the world of aviation, that needs mention, is that of the pilots and engineers. There is a belief that they grow on trees, or are produced on a production line in factories, and can be ordered with the aircraft – sadly, that is not the case. Current growth trends, especially in Asia, show that the demand for pilots and engineers will outstrip supply in the very near future. I love flying, but I do not want to be an airline pilot – no way! I find the bigger planes boring to operate, enjoy the multiple take off and landings of small planes (especially in the humanitarian role) and training others – plus I like to return to my home to sleep.

Mireille Goyer, a friend of all who want to enter into aviation, organises world-wide events for young women to taste flight, is a tireless promoter of Women in Aviation, and she recently published some fascinating facts about pilots. She writes:-

‘Today, the world’s population stands at more than 7 billion [that is 7,000,000,000 people] worldwide, 252 children are born each minute of each day. That translates to 15,120 a hour.

With a worldwide pilot population standing at less than 1 million, pilots are pretty special as they stand at less than one in 7,000. Female pilots are rarer: approximately one in 175,000 human beings. However, given the current world’s birth rate, a pilot is born every half hour and a female pilot is born every half day.’

Those statistics are a lot scarier if you consider Ghana. Ghana has around one active female pilot per five million of its population. That particular issue is being addressed in part through the work of the AvTech Academy, in the Eastern Region, which will result in more women pilots, especially for general aviation solutions. However, there continues to be a good number of young men entering into aviation in our part of the world, as they continue to be supported by their families, recruited by the military – and even the airlines are focusing principally on the men for the pilot/engineer roles. However, there is a lot of good evidence that the investment in women is a wise one, and in my experience they tend to be more loyal, dedicated and exceptionally good at both flying and engineering – they simply seem to CARE more.

A few years ago, I was privileged to go aboard a Black Star Line shipping vessel in Tema – where the, then, only woman Captain in West Africa was proudly preparing to set sail. At that time I did not realise the importance of what I witnessed, but today, I do. She was more ‘interactive’ than her male counterparts, showed more pride in her job and her vessel – in the same way I witness the effects of enabling young women in aviation. It is time for the investment in women to really be made.

Sadly, many families still look at aviation linked careers as ‘not for the girls, with the exception of being an air hostess’. That really gets under my skin. I know some outstanding women pilots. Melissa Pemberton from California is the most amazing pilot you will ever come across – she can manoeuvre an aircraft like no other. Here in Ghana, the Ghana Air Force has an outstanding female helicopter pilot, and then there is Patricia Mawuli who has dedicated her career to training other women to fly. Interestingly, Patricia recently took a British man flying who has flown as a passenger in several small aircraft and helicopters around the world. He was warned about the potential turbulence and requested a ‘sick bag’. Patricia avoided giving him a sick bag, and got him airborne. Forty-five minutes and a fantastic air experience flight around the Akosombo Dam area later, and they shut down the engine on the Apron at Kpong. The British chap was wearing the biggest grin you can fit between two ears, and repeatedly commented on how smooth the flight had been. He also noted that it was the first time he had flown with a woman pilot. There is a connection there.

The proof is out there, women are equally capable of the jobs that are often seen as ‘male dominated’, all that they need is a chance, some encouragement and the respect that they deserve – a bit support of support from their families and friends goes a long way too!

Ghana has a need for dedicated technical professionals – pilots, engineers, welders, sprayers, surveyors, Air Traffic Controllers, etc. What is sad, so sad, is that in many cases, despite the men getting the support of their families to train, when they are given the opportunity, they take the skills in their backpacks and head overseas – seeking greener pastures. Furthermore, the women who generally lack the support of their families (often going it alone against the tide of opinion), who go on to succeed, tend to stay in West Africa, only to find that the glass ceiling of gender issues prevents them from climbing.

Whoever takes the reins of Government and sits in the offices of Ministers in the New Year needs to consider these issues – and to take positive action to invest in the women of the nation – at all levels, and to ensure that the glass gender ceilings are broken, once and for 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

Monday, December 3, 2012

December 3rd, 2012

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

Based on the number of recent comments received from readers of my warbling’s, the interest in learning more about motivation, learning and education is quite high, especially in relation to aviation and its allied industries.

As a pedagogue I learned a while back that all people learn differently, but there is a common ‘set’ of styles that we all fit into, one way or another. Peter Honey and Alan Mumford , world famous clever chappies, created a test for these different styles – and called it ‘Learning Styles Questionnaire’ (a little Google-ing and you can even do some tests on line). They used lots of big words and technical stuff, aimed at the educational psychologists – and it was all, in my opinion, good and thought provoking. Sadly, the tests developed need to be used on people with sufficient education to truly understand the questions, and suits a ‘Business English Level’ of language skills. The concepts of Learning Styles are incredibly practical, and I apply them on a daily basis.

The four identified types of learner are

Activist: Learns by doing, actively seeks out learning opportunities.

Reflector: Thinks before they leap, and often like to go over the learning material several times.

Theorist: Like everything to fit into place. They like to have it all laid-out, fully, and need it all to be understood before they can move on.

Pragmatist: Often need everything to relate to the ‘real world’. They like role models, and like to see a practical application of the learning item, in order to give a meaning to their learning.

All of us have a mix of all four learning styles in us – the balance of them is our personal ‘learning style’. It changes over time, and it is the role of an educator to stretch the learner to enlarge the learning ‘kite’ – that is the ‘theoretical area of coverage created by plotting the learning styles on a graph’. The larger the area of the kite, the greater the ability to learn in any given situation.

In teaching somebody to fly, all four styles are needed, in large doses. The key ones are Activist and Pragmatist, but without the Reflector and the Theorist styles, success is hampered.

What sort of skills are needed to be learned as part of learning to fly an aircraft?

People management: Yes, the pilot has to be able to communicate with everybody, even if many pilots are found to be lacking that area, it is expected that they make the effort!

Theoretical technical knowledge: There is a lot of technical stuff to learn – the physics of the principles of flight, the mechanics of the machine, hydraulics systems, fluid dynamics (to do with the air-flow), the effects of flight on the human body, Air Law (like the rules of the road, but for the sky!), and more. There is also a lot of ‘theoretical’ that is all about ‘abstract thinking’ – this has to be grasped and fully understood, not just ‘memorised and repeated in parrot fashion’.

Map reading: This is a skill that must not just be mastered but needs to be ‘second nature’. In the cockpit you must be able to look at the pictorial representation of the terrain below and course ahead, and constantly interpret it in a split second – since you are flying at the same time! In an emergency, you have to look at that map and make decisions about deviations and potential emergency landing sites – and still fly the plane. A key skill!

Scanning and reacting skills: You must be able to scan the sky, the visible terrain, and the instruments, constantly. You need to be able to spot an anomaly. Imagine, you look ahead, you see a cloud, you see a shadow on the surface ahead, you see a large brown field, some birds circling in your three o’clock position, and you see that your Vertical Speed Indicator is beginning to twitch… that should be enough for you to estimate the sort of turbulence you may encounter and be ready on the controls to react as appropriate. Then you see a little white dot in the sky, in a constant position, growing, you need to now assess is that a bird or a plane, is there a collision risk… and it all needs to be ‘instant’, it needs to be a second nature – not something you sit and ponder on.

Physical, precision, co-ordinated movements: The very act of controlling an aircraft is about co-ordination of both hands, both feet, eyes, ears and even the nose and skin – feeling the temperature changes, smelling for smoke – aspects often overlooked by those thinking about a pilot’s role! Flying in itself, in calm conditions high above terrain, is not difficult. Most people learn to control the plane in a roughly co-ordinated manner in about one hour (if you doubt me, book a Trial Flight and we will see!). Learning to take off and to get that control to a ‘reasonable amount of precision’ takes about five hours. Learning to get the plane under even more control and to land the aircraft safely, around the twenty hours mark, for most people. Mastering the machine and having it do exactly what you want, to the nearest millimetre, well, we are all still working on that, but most people get something suitable in standard conditions to receive a pilot’s licence at around 40hours, and be in good control in even more challenging conditions at around the 100 hour mark!

Observation and Action: Even before you are within touching distance of an aircraft you must be observing. Observing the sky, considering the meteorological effect on your flight. Observing the way the aircraft sits on the ground – it can often guide you to check out a gear leg or tyre in more detail, or to check the rudder linkages. Then, as you walk around the aircraft, visually inspecting every available sign, you look at the wire-locking, scan for the presence of a ‘smoking rivet’ (a rivet with a little aluminium dust around it that could indicate that it needs changed or the airframe has been stressed), the condition of the surfaces, and of course the condition of the engine(s). The personal familiarity with an aircraft, how it looks, how it should look… the presence of a drip of oil on the surface under the engine area… a trail of smoke stain that was not there before… the tell-tale signs of an inanimate object communicating with the observant pilot. Then, the pilot must take suitable action in the interest of the aircraft and the crew. Tough decisions, not taken lightly, but taken as readily as a pilots takes their next breath – for their future breaths depend on what they have learned, how they have learned it and, above all, how they apply it and the decisions that they make.

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and lead Pilot with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Photo of the week Novenber 28th, 2012

Rural developments are key to the overall socio-economic success of Ghana. The Royal Senchi hotel, nearing completion just South of Adome Bridge, on the road to Akosombo, is a landmark investment in the area. Built with a great deal of 'African taste', this river-side-based operation, is creating nearly 200 new, direct-employment opportunities as well a great deal of secondary employment potential. The organisation behind the hotel has made a great commitment to the ecological protection of the surrounding areas and is keen to promote hiking and nature discovery as part of their roll-out plan - this will in turn boost the local economy, and ecology! Rural development potential is present in abundance around Ghana - it just takes innovative entrepreneurs to identify, and implement, appropriate developments, that will boost local, as well as international, opportunities. Photo courtesy of WAASPS Ltd


Monday, November 26, 2012

Novenber 25th, 2012

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

Following on from last week’s article about motivation and ambition….

Let us consider the ‘potential energy’ that is locked up in the youth in all situations – regardless of rich or poor, urban or rural? Science tells us that ‘potential energy’ is that energy which is held in an object, waiting to be released. For example, a stone on the top of a hill, has the potential energy, bound up in it, to roll down the hill. All it needs is a push. Let us imagine for one moment that the stone is a child, and that the hill has two slopes – development and disorder. There are three possible outcomes: leave the stone where it is and hope that nobody else interferes with it (the non-involvement approach) or apply some small amount of energy to push the stone, either towards development or disorder (involvement approach). The amount of energy required to release the potential energy is much the same for either direction of travel.

The non-involvement approach leaves the child open to being influenced by other, perhaps non-altruistic, forces. Any involvement should impart energy in the right direction or disorder will result. The developed world has demonstrated this with the increasing number of young people influenced into non-socially-acceptable activities through gangs, gang-culture, drugs, etc. These unpleasant effects of the potential energy of the next generation of leaders, being released down the disorder side of the ‘youth mountain’, are far too common. In some developing nations young people may be influenced to join rebel forces, enter prostitution, smuggle drugs or commit crimes, when ambition and motivation are provided by non-altruistic influences – again towards the side of disorder and eventual breakdown of what is, all too often already, a fragile society. It appears, therefore, that effective development amongst the youth of today, and perhaps especially in developing nations, requires that an amount of energy needs to be imparted in the correct direction, to stimulate the release of the potential energy needed, for long-term development of such nations.

The consequences of non-action in the socially desired direction, will almost certainly involve the dissipation of a great deal more energy, time and resources, at a later date in order to ‘reverse-up the slope of disorder’. In brief, if we do not consistently provide potential sources of positive motivation, especially to those in their formative years, of developing nations, in such a way as to stimulate ambition for a brighter tomorrow and consequential self-motivation, we will continue to see lack-lustre results and a tendency towards social disorder. This is, after all, a simple restatement of entropy, which implies ‘All things tend towards disorder [unless energy is applied to delay or prevent it]’.

The above concepts are based on the idea that there are young people in ‘motivational stasis’, with potential energy waiting to be released through ambition-stimulated motivation, which, if suitably directed, can be inspired towards social and economic development.

How can this be done? If motivation is linked to ambition, what ambitions can be used to stimulate the ultimate goal of self-motivation? Ownership of a Ferrari is an ambition, as is being a lawyer (although I have never seen any possible reason for anybody to want to be a lawyer!), but are these relevant ambitions for the children of developing communities? Surely, the most sustainable ambitions are dependent on two basic elements: Exposure, and achievability of direction.

Exposure: Young people need to be exposed to events and people (especially positive role-models) that can be used to stimulate careers and activities that the youngster can develop an ambition for. How can you want to be a pilot if you have never seen or heard of a plane or met a pilot; i.e., know that such an ambition even exists.

Achievability of direction: Once exposed to a potential ambition motivator, the young person must then have some concept of ‘achievability of direction’; i.e., once exposed to an ambition-motivator the resultant direction of effort should be achievable.

That does not mean that the end result must be obtainable, far from it, but the direction towards it must be.

Let us imagine ‘Buzz Aldrin’ (the astronaut) went into a school in the Afram Plains and spoke about his experiences in space. The resultant ‘I want to be a spaceman’ motivator would enter the minds of many children. Although being a ‘spaceman’ is probably unachievable for the vast majority of those stimulated by the exposure to a real ‘spaceman’, the resultant driving force for children to develop their skills and interests, towards the inherent direction of achievability in order to become pilots, air-traffic controllers, engineers and for the occasional child to actually become a ‘spaceman’ – or indeed ‘space-woman’ - is sufficient to impart the ‘change-mode’ for a ‘stasis’ child towards a ‘development’ child. This is perhaps not a relevant example for developing nations – but it could be interesting to experience!

Similarly, and perhaps more relevantly for the developing nations, a doctor speaking at a school – about being a doctor - exposes the children to the exciting concepts of medicine, and just may provoke an ‘I want to be a doctor’ response that could provide stimulation towards the direction of achievability of a career in care (nurse, radiographer, biochemist, lab technician, community health educator, etc.) and with that all of the self-motivation needed to avoid teenage pregnancy, involvement in drugs and to improve both attendance and achievement at school. Perhaps just enough to succeed, albeit that the goal of being a doctor is deflected in favour of a ‘more achievable’ outcome as time progresses. Nonetheless, certain individuals may well achieve the ultimate goal of becoming a doctor, imparting the motivational ambition to the next generation.

This concept was originally presented when I did my lecturers qualification in the 1990’s. Today, I stick to this as a fact, have applied it in the field and consider this as ‘proven by experience’. 

When our aviation team of young women talks in a school or to a group of young people, there is a wave of energy that goes out, wraps around the crowd and bounces back at us. Many start to think about aviation, and its allied activities, as a career. Others see it as ‘If other Ghanaians can achieve a dream, I can be allowed to dream – I can be anything I want to’.

One school, not far from the airfield, appears to have more ‘wannabe pilots’ than the rest of the country put together – simply because they get to see airplanes, and young Ghanaians flying them, on a regular basis.

The amazing impact of aviation, and engineering, goes much further than just the aviation sector – we have seen young people take positive changes in their learning and desires to achieve in many different areas – simply by seeing ‘it can be done’.

Please, exposure your young people to opportunities and positive role-models, then let them find their own motivational-ambition. Furthermore, go out there yourself, and provide some material from your sector of activity for the young people of today to be energised in positive directions – before the less positive forces push them down the wrong slope, towards disorder.

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and lead Pilot with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Photo of the week Novenber 21st, 2012

Normally we look down from the skies on this image-slot, but this week we are looking up, and seeing a different detail! As shown by this Mango tree in Mepe, growing near the River Volta, the fruits are beginning to hang on the trees in abundance, just as the minor rains come to an end and the dusty blur of Harmattan begins to drift down from the North. The crops will be harvested, and stores filled, as we all prepare for the dryness that will grip us for the next few months, unless of course the weather patterns are disrupted again! Watch the skies, fields and fences for the migratory birds that herald the beginning of 'dryer times' - white Cattle Egrets, multi-coloured Bee Eaters and the many other seasonal birds that mark the changes, bringing interest, movement and their own kind of music with them! Photo Courtesy AvTech Academy

Monday, November 19, 2012

Novenber 19th, 2012

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

As a flying instructor, as well as teaching the variety of things (from aircraft building to robotics programming, EMT to tractor maintenance, etc.) that I am privileged to share in my general week, I often get asked about my approach to education and learning theory. Over the next few weeks, as education is the hot topic of the year, I will share some of my experiences, concepts and approaches – of course, they have a link to aviation, since teaching people to fly is one of the most challenging things to teach anybody!

The first thing a learner needs is motivation to learn. Whilst I was passing my ‘post-16 educator’ lecturers qualification I wrote a paper called ‘Motivational Ambition’. Let me share the ‘concepts’ with you, and see what you think. I look forward to hearing your reactions as to whether you think this is relevant, alternatives and how we should motivate the next generation!

Throughout the world, and perhaps throughout time, the source of motivation of young people to learn, and develop skills, has been the subject of many a discussion – and, I am sure, arguments, perhaps even fights – amongst educators, parents and in the halls of all of academia – as well as Ministries of Education! Traditional ‘education theory’ tends to link motivation with reward (mainly short-term), and many teachers, lecturers and parents will agree. Methods such as “If you complete this task by 2:30 we will... read a story... have a cookie… go on a field trip… etc…” or “If you do well in your exams we will buy you that ... book… item of clothing… bicycle… car… motorcycle… etc…”, and of course the ultimate threat “If you do not achieve in your education – you will not get (or perhaps keep) a good job”. This last statement succinctly summarises why we educate our young people – with the hope of positive engagement in gainful employment – please include ‘self-employment’ as an option in todays ‘entrepreneurial world’.

But is this really the manner in which we should go about motivating learning, especially for the next generation? What about the use of the obligatory prefix of ‘self’ to provide the more long-lasting, and most probably, more reliable ‘self-motivation’. Unfortunately, motivation appears to be difficult to assess, and impossible to quantify, and therefore most people’s sense of what motivates others, or how to stimulate motivation in another individual, tends be anecdotal. Of course, Captain Yaw has opinions!

For many years, children in the industrial nations, when asked what they want to do when finished at school, could be heard to say things like “I want to be a... train driver… tractor driver... pilot... road builder... fireman... policeman... etc…”; until one day (at some point in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s) it became far more socially acceptable and, it seems, politically correct to say “I don’t know” or “I will wait and see how I do in my studies/exams”, or perhaps more commonly “I am keeping my options open” - which translates in many cases to “I have no idea” or “do I care?”. Such a response has been endorsed, and even encouraged by modern educational systems – enhanced perhaps by the so called ‘life-long learning’ revolution of always learning more, that has stimulated adults, and especially late-learners, into positive progression. It appears to me that the ‘you can always do that later’ approach may well be damaging early development, determination and creativity in our young people around the world. Furthermore, today’s parents often discourage such ‘unguided’ ambition through social pressure. In some societies it appears to no longer be socially acceptable that your child wants to drive a tractor, be a farmer or even a road builder – even as a transient ‘growing-up desire’. Sadly, ‘parental-ambitions’ may be placed upon the shoulders of some offspring very early on - being a doctor, lawyer or accountant seems far more attractive (albeit in the eyes of an adult), and some children quickly learn that it is a good idea to echo the ‘ambition of their parents’ since it gains a positive response, and gains ‘social rewards’, even if they have no idea what it really means. A five year old child came by the airfield (with his family) and told me that he wanted to be a Lawyer and that his three year old sister wanted to be a doctor. Excuse me! ‘Total poppycock’! What is worse; the parents were visibly glowing at the statements from their ward! Such ideas are (totally) unlikely to emanate from a young mind, in my opinion.

If does appear that the ‘Western Parents’ are, in general, abandoning ambition altogether. The argument being ‘It is unacceptable to expect a young person to aim for a career, without first seeing the academic ability of the young person on paper.’ In the developing nations the tendency is to ‘Forcibly raise the expectations of the child, based on the desires of the parents, not always with the resources to make it a reality’. The modern Western trend of ‘keep your options open until you see how you do’ or the concept of ‘academic results-based choice of career’ is the new mantra of many educationalists, career advisers and parents. Is it this change of emphasis from ‘unguided wild-ambition’ to ‘results-based choice’ that has culminated in the apparent lower-motivation quotient, and lower-academic results, in the youth of such nations?

The developing nation’s young people, especially in the rural areas, appear to have another problem: lack of motivation due to lack of opportunity. Despite the child-echoed-parental-mantra of ‘I want to be lawyer or doctor’, many of the developing nations suffer from extremely high unemployment and lack of opportunity. This may reflect in why some young people are failing to make the effort at school - or at anything for that matter? Perhaps young people are growing up in areas where there is no industry, simply subsistence farming, petty trading, a school and a church where the example of ambition from successful adults can be to ‘sit under a neem tree when the sun is too hot’ or run a tro-tro between two trading points. It appears that, in many cases, no thought for anything new – even the planting of a new tree - goes through the mind of the average child in a society that accepts its lot and is not exposed to the possibility of rewarding ambition.

What would rewarding ambition be? Rewarding ambition is related to the exposure of the young person to the ‘success around them’. Perhaps building a factory, flying an aeroplane, designing a new hoe, establishing a farm, breeding a new crop variety, and the list could continue – if only the creativity was present. This does not mean that the child in such circumstances is unhappy; far from it - many children and young people live happy, simple and often hungry, shorter lives.

What is the answer? Let us look at that more next week!

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and lead Pilot with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Photo of the week Novenber 14th, 2012

Engineering, whether the building of a car, an aircraft, a bicycle or a building - single or multi-storey, requires that calculations are made, understood, and applied. Materials, their choice and application, as well as the methods used, maintenance and monitoring are essential in the safety of all. Everybody is involved in safety and the future of each construction - here we see a safety conscious construction site in the city. Safety is a culture, it takes time to embrace, and it is growing in West Africa. Slowly, but it is growing. Recent events raise our awareness - but now we must apply what we have learned at an individual level - right down to every materials supplier, every worker, every supervisor as well as regulatory oversight matters - in all areas of construction and engineering.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Novenber 12th, 2012

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

Aviation has strict rules, and failure to follow those rules, including being honest about all activities, result in death. Simple. The same is true on the road, but it appears to be more acceptable to cheat the road system, and that death is the daily toll for failure to comply.

There are few ‘policemen or policewomen’ in the skies. Aviators are trusted to be honest, and on the whole it works. A strong maintenance culture, annual inspections, comprehensive safety policies within organisations and a professional approach to the activity itself, by every individual at all levels, has made aviation one of the safest activities on the planet.

I wish the same could be said for our roads. Daily, I see motorcyclists driving without a safety helmet, and if they are wearing one, their passenger is not. Worse still, a child may be perched on the handlebars – clearly a ‘sacrifice ready to be made’ – and it makes me mad. The taxi with eight or more children piled in, no seatbelt, bouncing around like old footballs, giggling, blind to the consequences of even a minor accident.

Drivers without seatbelts, or worse still, drivers wearing a seatbelt, but a passenger who is not. Couple that with ‘oh, at least my back brakes work’ and ‘at least I have headlights, and I will get tail lights soon’ or ‘I have one headlight working’… well, you get the picture. Just imagine the uproar if aviators took the same approach to safety.

Fortunately, Ghana has a Police Force, who’s task it is to enforce the law and to try to reverse the trend of death on the roads. Do I sense a smirk from some readers? Indeed, we all get frustrated that the Police seem to be unable to enforce standards on the roads – from the overloaded, through the unlicensed, down to the bald tires. What is more, we all get frustrated that there appears to be a tendency to ‘pull-over the better maintained cars’ in preference to the ‘clearly non-roadworthy’ ones. One school of thought is ‘the better the car, the more finances they have, and if we can find something wrong, the quicker a ‘solution’ can be found’. Sadly, there is probably some truth in the underlying implications, that none of us want to believe really occurs on an hourly basis on our roads.

However, this week, I was privileged to visit the infamous ‘MTU’ in Accra Central. I have driven past it many times, I have been ‘threatened’ with visiting it many more! But to ‘visit-it’ was an eye opener.

I got to see the young ‘accused persons’ bench, and when asked what they had done wrong they all knew exactly what their fault was. Were they ready to mend their ways? Well, that was not so clear. ‘Driving a motorcycle without a helmet’ said one. Then in a lowered tone ‘just like everybody else…’, and he has a point. Out the front of the unit, I watched motorcycles, cars, bicycles and more passing-by, clearly ‘infringing the law’, often with major safety implications, not being pulled in, and it frustrated me.

The MTU buildings, yard and staffing levels are, frankly, insufficient, in need of maintenance, and the facility certainly needs a separate entrance and exit, since it appears to occupy several officers simply to manage the inbound and outbound traffic, through one small gate, without cease.

The yard has many beautiful motorcycles – I mean really nice Police motorcycles – some well used (some whose tyres need replaced since their tread is ‘hard to detect’), others brand new, waiting to be issued. If all of those bikes were out on the roads, with an appropriately well-trained officer, doing their diligent duty, the dangers on our roads would drop in an instant.

As I wandered, and absorbed the challenges, an officer came out and very politely greeted me. ‘Good afternoon, Sir’ he started with, I was taken aback, rarely in the city do I receive such a pleasant start to the conversation with an Officer of the Law. We chatted a bit and I quickly repositioned my opinion of the Ghana Police, through the conversation with a handful of senior officers.

I even asked one ‘Were you trained in the UK?’, he laughed, and then explained that no, it was simply many years’ experience on the job. We discussed the often ‘unpleasant exchanges’ that occur with the Ghana Police on the streets, and how the ‘opening statements’ could change the outcome of the interactions. ‘We are getting there’ he stated, missing out the implicit ‘slowly’ that needed to be tagged to the end of the sentence.

In many countries, those charged with enforcing the law are trained to open their conversation, engage with the public, and close their conversation in a cordial manner. A suitable greeting, a polite, honest, correct exchange, using correct terminology, and, of course, a ‘thank you sir/madam, drive safely’, at the end. This is, sadly, missing in many of our esteemed officers of the law, not through malfeasance, but through lack of training and support. After all, it is a tough job out there!

Many of the police officers appear to lack ‘recurrence training’, especially in relation to human interactions, and in all honesty, the rules of the road. (I recently gave a police officer a ride, and had to insist that he wore his seat belt before we started moving.)

However, when I see that there are some fantastic Police Stars out there, I have to ask ‘why not more?’. Then, I see the conditions under which they are working. The MTU facility in Accra is the same size today as ten or twenty (probably more) years ago – and may not have been refurbished for as long. Yet the demands on the staff there are many fold greater. The consequential impact runs from training to state of mind, which then reflects in the manner in which they carry out their duties.

In aviation we take our facilities seriously, since we know that safety, efficiency, and with it, positive outcomes, are fundamental to the success and sustainability of our operations.

I wonder what would happen if the Police of Ghana were given the same ‘per-capita’ support as the aviation sector, in regards to safety and public interaction? It would improve safety on our roads, save lives and lead to a better public-Police relationship.

What would happen if we were to apply the same standards of aviation upon all the road users – car/truck/motorcycle-drivers, bicycles, pedestrians, Police, etc.? Wow, that would really change our days – imagine it for an instant! All the cars following the rules, no bicycles heading at you in the wrong direction, no crossing of the solid white line … oh the list of bliss would go on and on!

Sadly, it seems a long way off. But that does not mean that every individual – civilian and Police - should not make their individual effort to change their little space for the better – just like senior officers at the MTU.

I commend those senior officers at MTU, and just hope that they will be given the support and opportunity to improve their facilities, train their officers, enhancing their service and outcomes in the coming years.

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and lead Pilot with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Photo of the week Novenber 7th, 2012

The demand for Tilapia in Ghana seems to be insatiable, and with it the increase in fish nets in the Volta lake, and river, seems to be like that of a rampant bacteria spreading across a petri dish. The tasty fish dish is providing new opportunities for business and socio-economic development in many parts of the country. The need to learn HOW to maximise outputs through appropriate management of the fish cages is perhaps a topic that needs attention to ensure that the expense and efforts of those who enter fish farming are well rewarded. Photo Courtesy of WAASPS Ltd

Monday, November 5, 2012

Novenber 5th, 2012

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

What is the future of aviation? More importantly, perhaps, what is the future of aviation in our part of the world?

Recently there has been a fresh announcement from Boeing regarding a new supersonic airliner, at the same time as news of aircraft manufacturers cutting back on staffing and suffering from the economic blizzard that currently bites at the ankles of the industry. Some manufacturers are reducing their jet-aircraft offerings, others investing in them. This coupled with the start-up airline boom (and coming bust), it is time to remember that there are only three things that are certain in aviation:-

  1. That there is a lot of uncertainty for the future of many sectors of aviation – always, it has not changed since the beginning of aviation.
  2. If you want to end up with a small fortune in aviation, you had better start with a very large fortune.
  3. Aviation is a way of life, it is about passion, not about profit, and therefore, if you don’t love aviation for the sake of aviation, you should stay out of the skies.
The creativity of man- and woman-kind has been great over recent years – just look back over the past 100 years, and compare the developments with the preceding 500 years; the pace has clearly picked up! Furthermore, that pace has no sign of abating. The challenge lies in ‘where is the growth and what direction will it take?’
What has driven the growth in recent years? ‘War and Peace'. No, not the 1869 novel by Leo Tolstoy, but rather the conflicts and ‘conflict avoidance’ of the past century. We all know that military conflict has grown some sectors and that the desire for a peace-filled world others - so the answer could be Mankind has used war, cold war and peace-maintenance as a fuel for innovation. The internet started as a military concept, and found its way into peace-informing, up-rising motivating and world-change-factor on a scale that is yet to be fully comprehended.
What is the aviation world likely to release, in the coming years, that could have similar wide-reaching impact on the world? The growth in drones worries me. Drones are aircraft without pilots on board. They are flown remotely, usually for information gathering purposes, but also for less ‘benign’ activities.
Some of these drones are similar in size to a small conventional aircraft, others can be the size of a small bird – and some are being developed to be the size of a large insect. Equipped with cameras, these machines can be used to gather information, both in the interest of the general population, as well as against the common interest.
Software can be linked to the image acquisition that can be used to identify known criminals (from biometric databases), or to look for missing persons – or to track a person suspected of bad-intentions. Currently, cameras are readily available that can be used for face-recognition from more than one thousand meters away. Hence, the drones can be out of sight and ear-shot, whilst they are used to monitor where it is felt appropriate by the operator (generally the authorities).
In some countries this is a growing challenge for legislators – and for airspace issues -. Drones may be operated by the military, the police, fire service, etc., as well as by private corporations and individuals – a new arena with a whole new world of challenges! It is believed that some major software corporations are already using this technology for image acquisition.
Whilst travelling recently, a friend of mine demonstrated a small drone, with a video camera on board, that he controlled from his smart phone, and received images with, in real time. This device is readily available for sale to all and sundry for a few hundred US dollars.
Such ‘baby-drones’ have a limited range and endurance, and are seen more as a toy for the ‘gadget man’, but could be, and have been, used to obtain information from unsuspecting individuals – the spy-in-the-sky-in-your-back-yard!
The potential for the more professional bits of kit is seriously wide – not only for defence but also for exploration, aerial photography, search and rescue, monitoring and management in times of humanitarian need and more.
As I peer into my West African crystal ball, I do not see these ‘pilot-less’ machines impacting in our airspace. The smaller machines, insect sized, and even the ‘opti-copter’ remote-control helicopter with camera, are not stable enough for our part of the world. The weather really is far too ‘unpredictable’ and needs a lot more ‘seat of the pants’ flying. True flying skills, that would be hard to implement in a tiny aircraft, remotely or even computer-logic controlled. 
Even in the larger, peace-role drones there are many issues in the unstable flying conditions of West Africa.
The ‘remote-or-auto-pilot’ does not have the same ability to read the air. Even the Predator drone weighing in at around 1000kgs and costing millions of dollars, requires to ‘get up above’ the weather in order to operate safely. 
For the lower level, humanitarian-theatre, there are many 2- and 4- seat piloted aircraft that fall into the category of ‘functional platform’ and can be implemented to achieve amazing results – creating jobs with skills. Using modern engines and fuels these machines are quite capable of the ‘peace-time’ drone-equivalency role, at a lower cost and with a much greater effect – probably far more than any of the offerings that are ‘tripping the light fantastic’ in the press.
Take the aircraft being built in Ghana, capable of remaining airborne for extended missions of ten hours or more, with a range of over 1,500km, not only suited to the needs of the travelling man of business, the agriculturalist and other personal use, but also ideal photo-video platforms and humanitarian monitoring, supply and response machines.
With a price tag around that of a Porsche Panamera, but with better fuel economy and better time over distance records in this environment, light, human-piloted aircraft are still non- or under-utilised by most agencies, corporations and individuals in West Africa. 
Much as I know and experience the real, deep-seated benefits of developing this sector of aviation, I fear that the awareness levels of the benefits associated with entry level aviation – both in manufacturing and in operations – will take a long time to be grasped by those who would gain the most, and with it the benefits, especially to those on the ground, will also be delayed…
Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and lead Pilot with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Photo of the week October 31st, 2012

The University of Ghana Soil and Irrigation Research Station, at Kpong, has some fantastic rice fields - uniform in colour, well irrigated and clearly ahead of other rice fields nearby. Greater understanding of rice farming, including inputs, pest management and harvesting/post harvest methods is essential if our farmers are to realise the true potential of their labours. Rice is becoming more and more popular as a crop - and the University team are clearly developing the skills, but how can these skills reach those who need it to feed their families and generate the cash from their crops to send children to school? Photo courtesy of WAASPS Ltd

Monday, October 29, 2012

October 29th, 2012

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

Why do the minor rains appear to be so much wetter than the major rains? I really don’t know the answer, but I do feel the mud beneath my feet! The rains of the last couple of weeks have created some inconveniences at the airfield – including water levels at one end of the runway reaching heights sufficient for a marker board to ‘rise-up-and-float’ to a new location! Disruptions due to ‘soft- and wet-field’ that affect airfield as well as flying operations is only to be expected when you operate a grass runway. Fortunately, Ghana still enjoys more ‘good days for flying’, especially from a grass strip, than most of Europe!

The weather has also affected the progress of George and Joerg on their trip from Juist in Germany to Accra, Ghana. They found themselves ground-bound in France due to cloud layers blocking their passage over the Pyrenees Mountains last week. As with all these things, a little patience pays off, and a spectacular day of flying greeted them after some rest. We hope to soon receive some spectacular dry days of November flying, in the last ‘good air’ before the Harmattan reaches down from the Sahara and chokes us!

Aviation, Maritime operations and Farming are the ‘weather dependent’ operations of the world. Bad weather has the potential for loss of property and life at the extreme end of the spectrum, and with disruption to operations, associated loss of productivity on a regular basis, not to mention inconvenience at all other levels.

It is said that the British complain most about the weather. It is probably true – but then anybody who has ever stayed in the UK, for more than a couple of weeks, will understand why! Some Brits believe that the island nation has four seasons… per DAY. It can go from dark and dingy to bright and sunny, through wet and windy, to bitterly cold, and close with a balmy evening in the available daylight hours of their latitudes

Here in the Tropics it is a bit more ‘overall’ predictable, and our ‘wet and dry’ seasons creat less disruptions – and best of all, are never anywhere near as cold as the higher latitudes!

Southern Ghana’s diurnal pattern of twelve hours of light, and twelve hours of darkness, give or take an hour, the whole year around has its benefits. Our days are predictable, and we can plan a pattern that works throughout our year. Compare our comfort of regularity against the short cold winter days of Europe, with the sun rising as late as 8am and sleeping again by 4pm, contrasted by the long summer days of the sun sliding past the horizon after 9pm and sneaking up to great the world long before 5am! I like the regularity of where I live, but I must admit to missing the long summer evenings – those lazy summers when we would fly after work, touching down as the last rays of sun kissed the golden-brown barely, bowing in the gentle breeze. However, I do not miss the three months of ‘wet field’ that would plague the winter flying operations – nor the dressing in salopettes, gloves and a woollen hat in order to fly! I hide my memories of freezing fog, along with the nightmares of my childhood, in a closet in the rearmost part of my brain – never to be stirred without a shiver or two!

Sadly, the recent heavy weather here has affected the crops, in many parts of the country – already challenged by the extreme dry spell earlier this year; the extreme wet now, is providing a fresh round of conflict in the farmers arm-wrestle with nature!

One thing that the ‘erratic weather in Europe’ enjoys, that we do not, is ‘long range weather forecasting’. The approximate temperature, rainfall, wind speed and direction is all available with amazing accuracy days in advance. Farmers even plan when to plant and harvest based on the weather forecast from BBC Radio 4!

The weather in our part of the world is incredibly hard to predict in detail. The satellite images help, but do not come anywhere near reliable for a prediction past a couple of hours. Consequently, too many days are planned out, only to be scuppered by sudden winds and water droplets, mini-rivers and minor-floods in the workshops. This morning the Satellite image was clear. Now, before 2pm, I am writing ‘under-fire’ from raindrops, some even appear to be as big as a small bucket! The good thing is, after a couple of hours the sun will be back out, and apart from the mud under-foot, work can go on – at least in the hangars.

I do believe that the weather is getting a little more extreme here. We are recording higher wind speeds on our weather station, and the roof seems to vibrate a bit more when the gusts hit the buildings. I cannot tell for sure, but it seems to me that the lightning bolts are more, and the thunder louder – but, that is only anecdotal, and we must await the annual reports from the Meteo office for the ‘official record’.

With few days left before the Harmattan wraps us up for the end of year celebrations, we are preparing for some special flights, in distance, duration and altitude. Preparation of the aircraft is being hampered by the weather, and we will need near perfect days to carry out the 12 hour non-stop flight we are planning. We will watch the skies in preparation.

As I train young people in meteorology, for their pilots licences, I rarely find a ‘pre-existing weather interest’, perhaps due to the lack of weather rhymes in the system?

So, to see if we can boost the ‘weather interest quotient’ of Ghana, I would like you all to share the following rhyme with as many people as possible and to see if we can raise our eyes to the heavens and with it the understanding of weather and how it affects us all – and the very fact that we have no control over it, but we can observe and learn a great deal from it – as we weather the storms of our daily lives!

Whether the weather is cold,
Whether the weather is hot,
We'll weather the weather
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not!

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and lead Pilot with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Photo of the week October 24th, 2012

George Manu and Joerg Bohn are currently flying a four seat, propeller/piston engine powered, aircraft from Juist in Germany to Ghana, to mark the 50th anniversary of the first Air Cadets students from Ghana going on training in Juist in 1962. The flight is a great adventure and one that will give many tales to share in the coming months. Here is the image taken on Monday as they crossed the Pyrenees mountains that separate France from Spain. Flying over these mountains is no mean feat in a small plane, with hostile terrain and mountain peaks of over 11,000 feet! The adventuresome Ghana-German crew plan to land in Accra later this week. During the flight they hope to raise awareness of the challenges of access for medical education to those living in Rural Africa; Ghana in particular. Photo Courtesy George Manu (you can read about their trip at )

Monday, October 22, 2012

October 22nd, 2012

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

In 1962 a group of young and enthusiastic Ghanaians were sent on an Air Cadet Exchange programme, to discover aviation, on a German island called Juist, just off of the North Coast of the industrial nation. This was all part of the beginning of the first black African flying school to be opened at Afienya, in the same year.

Fifty years on, one German and one Ghanaian are undertaking an adventure to remember the past and celebrate the future – they have named the adventure ‘Ghana-Juist 1962’. The adventure started last Friday morning and by today Joerg Bohn and George Manu should be on their way across the Sahara in a single engine, propeller powered aircraft, and hope to complete their voyage in just under one week.

As part of the adventure, Joerg and George would like to find some of the 1962 Juist students, who could well now be in their 70s or 80s! We do not have the surnames of the young men sent to Germany on the International Air Cadet Exchange, but do know their first names – Solomon, Ben, Emanuel, Ernest, John, Sayibu and Francis. If you are one of these folks, or know them, please drop me a line at my e-mail listed below, and, if possible, we will try to link them up with the team when they arrive later this week.

However, this is not just about the past, for the past is only a platform upon which we can build the future. George, a Ghanaian pilot who learned to fly in the UK a few years back, and now flies built in Ghana aircraft from Kpong Airfield, has added a twist to their adventure.

Whilst flying at Kpong, George has been impressed by the efforts of Lydia Wetsi, the disabled student pilot, and the other girls who are learning there – and wants to raise awareness of the need of them and their humanitarian outreach through aerial supply drops of health education materials.

When we think of the great adventurers such as Sir Edmund Hilary (conquering mountains), Antoine de Saint-Exupery (flying the West African coast postal routes), Sir Alan Cobham (circumnavigating Africa in a seaplane), Amelia Earhart (flying exploits), Felix Baumgartner (free fall from space, exceeding 1,000kph), and others, we rarely consider exactly what ‘an adventure’ is.

The dictionary tells us that an adventure is an ‘exciting or unusual experience, often a bold, risky undertaking with an uncertain outcome’. Perhaps, especially for many in Ghana, we can consider that life is an adventure, but here we are looking at stepping outside of that day-to-day routine, and embarking on an adventure for self-realisation, feat-accomplishment as well as demonstration of the ability to achieve. Adventures are life changing experiences – and give us great tales to share, inspire and motivate others with. Interestingly, the thesaurus adds some flavour with terms such as ‘exploit, quest, exploration’ and the rather dull ‘exciting activity’.

When we look at the list of ‘adventurers’, the ‘Ghanaian adventurer’ appears to be a rare breed. Perhaps, we fail to recognise the adventures of our own people. Clearly, the dynamic young men who went to Juist in 1962 were adventurers, and George Manu is certainly an adventurer! Flying across Europe, the Sahara and into Ghana is no mean feat – especially in an aircraft such as the Roschmeir R90.

I asked George a bit about this trip and the plane: ‘Our flight is due to commence on 20 October 2012 and should last 6 days, with refuelling and overnight stops in France, Spain, Morocco, Senegal and Liberia, before eventually landing in Ghana on or about 26 October. The aircraft we will be flying, which belongs to Joerg, is a Ruschmeyer R 90 – a single engine piston, 4-seater plane with retractable gear. Built in Germany, only 29 of these planes were produced, of which 27 are still in service today.’ He went on to say ‘I have been very impressed by the way our young Ghanaians are learning to fly, and operate a small airfield, and especially by the young Lydia, a disabled student’, George gave a big smile, as is his trademark, and added ‘We want to help Lydia, in the same way the Ghanaians sent to Juist 50 years ago were helped, I want this adventure to change peoples lives positively.’ (Lydia, who is now two years into a four year aviation programme, will be going to Germany next year for work on her disabled hand).

All adventures need careful planning, and these two have worked hard over recent months, both in training and in planning – gaining approvals from each country to overfly and where appropriate to land. George has made the effort to visit some of the countries they are passing through to better understand the challenges and solutions that they can implement. The plane they are flying requires 100LL fuel, and they are working to ensure that each and every stop has sufficient fuel available to them, a small matter, but one that could scupper the adventure if not taken seriously! Success lies in the details on an adventure like this!

For George this is a massive adventure, being a relatively low-hours pilot, and never having flown such a long distance at the controls before – in fact this is many, many times further than he has ever flown before. Nonetheless, he is ready both physically and psychologically. Furthermore, he has chosen an excellent co-adventurer to embark this momentous trip with. Joerg is a former Lufthansa Boeing 737/747 pilot and also an instructor for the Juist training programmes that continue today! Joerg is also an ice-boat racer – and appears to have a taste for constant adventure when you listen to him. Joerg is also bitten by the progress in light aviation in Ghana and hopes to bring more adventures for Ghanaians to fruition as part of this exploit.

We all wish George and Joerg a safe trip, and hope that they will bring us some great stories of the challenges as they fly, deal with the different airports and overcome the difficulties that any adventure will undoubtedly throw at them!

There will be regular updates of their travels at for those who would like to track this adventure!

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and lead Pilot with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Photo of the week October 17th, 2012

The communities from Kpong to Somanya are, like so many other communities, preparing for the annual festival times, our culture and our community being central to so much of our lives. It is interesting to see how these Manya and Yilo Krobo communities have grown, hugging the base line of the Akwapim-Togo ridge, since their resettlement from Krobo Mountain over 100 years ago. Photo courtesy of WAASPS Ltd

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

October 15th, 2012

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

I was recently asked to explain the differences between TORA, TODA and ASDA. TORA is the ‘Take Off Run Available’, TODA is the Take Off Distance Available’, and ASDA is the ‘Acceleration Stop Distance Available’, terms used in relation to runway length/aircraft take-off performance terminology. 

It may sound simple, but it is actually a complicated matter, and one, that if not well understood, could lead to a serious accident. Runways are critical bits of kit that often get taken for granted, so let us explore what this is all about and why!

First of all ICAO (the International Civil Aviation Organisation) defines a runway as a ‘rectangular area on a land aerodrome prepared for the landing and take-off of aircraft’. That makes sense. But how long is the runway, is the runway what it looks like and is a runway safe to use for a specific aircraft on a specific day?

It is easy to make the mistake of thinking that the runway length is how far it is from one end to the other, but it is not. That is why we have these wonderful terms.

The ‘runway’ is broken down into parts, not all of them are easy to understand, and even pilots make mistakes in their understanding, leading to accidents, some of them fatal.

Let’s first grasp what happens with an aircraft when it takes off. First of all there is the take-off ‘run’, or ‘roll’, being the distance needed to get the wheels off of the ground. Secondly, there is the ‘initial climb to screen height’, or the distance needed to climb past obstacles, including the standard ‘fixed imaginary obstacle at 50feet’. The combined distance is called the TOD or ‘Take Off Distance’. This distance is generally declared as if the aircraft is flown on a dry, stable, well prepared surface (‘a paved, hard surface’ is used as the ‘standard’ surface) by an ‘average’ pilot in ‘good standard conditions’ (that means about 15C, dry, good weather!). Therefore, an above average pilot may use less, and a below average, especially those in training, will use more – often lots more. The take-off distance will also vary based on the aircraft loading, weather and the surface conditions. Wind, temperature, humidity, pressure, runway slope, wet runway, long grass, overweight aircraft, poorly loaded aircraft, engines performance (or lack of it), fuel quality, etc. will all affect the overall performance of the aircraft, increasing the take-off distance considerably, as well as the climb rate – having even more effect on the distance required by the ‘below average’ pilot. Student pilots, low hours pilots and pilots new to the type of aircraft generally exhibit ‘below the benchmark’ piloting skills and often use an additional 50% or more whilst they are building their skills.

Each aircraft has a ‘take-off distance’ required under those ‘standard conditions’, but it has to be related to the runway.

The aerodrome declared Take Off Distance Available or TODA is generally the length of the runway from one end to the other (threshold to threshold). However, at many airfields there is a ‘clearway’, which often looks as if it is runway, but it is not. It is not considered suitable for the aircraft to use for take-off calculations, due to safety considerations (condition of the surface, obstacles, etc.). If the clearway is suitable for stopping on, it becomes called the Stopway and therefore the TODA plus the Stopway would be called the ASDA – Accelerate Stop Distance Available – which means that the Stopway can be used to decelerate in, in the case of an abandoned take-off – but should not be used for any other purpose.

However, it is not that simple. Some airfields have obstacles that change the appropriate use of the runway. If an airfield has obstacles at the end of the apparent runway, it may not allow the whole physical length of tarmac, or other prepared surface, to be taken into account for the declared TODA. An allowance must be given for the aircraft to climb to above the ‘screen’, (theoretical 50feet) ,or actual obstacle height – which may be quite considerable at some airfields. In such cases, only part of the apparent runway can be considered suitable for the Take Off Run, resulting in a shorter TORA. When there are obstacles at the end of the runway, the TODA (Take Off Distance) is critical. In such cases the pilot must ensure that the initial climb can be complete within the declared TODA, or there is a risk of collision with obstacles. Such collisions are not good and can result in injuries and death, both to those in the aircraft and those on the ground. In formula terms we state that the Take Off Distance is a factor of take-off speed, thrust, rolling friction and mass; clearly ‘skill’ is not taken into account in the formula and the ‘average pilot’, a mythical beast, is applied! In Ghana we can expect take-off distances to be 20% - 30% longer than the ‘standard book figure’, even for the average pilot, due to the higher temperatures and humidity – of course, there are many other factors too!

When it comes to Landing, there are similar considerations, and the same issues of real, or the ‘screen height 50 foot’, obstacle has to be considered on all the landing distances. 

All of this becomes more critical in training, since we carry out ‘touch and go’ operations. Here, the student pilot will land, slow down and then take-off again. That take-off again point may be well down the runway and push the climb over obstacles/screen even further out. This ‘go around’ can happen quite late down the runway – and the pilot must be sure that he can clear any obstacles and maintain safe operations as he does so.

At the end of each airfield there are often ‘safety areas’, these may be called ‘undershoot/overshoot’ or ‘RESA’ meaning Runway End Safety Areas. The RESA are not intended for aircraft manoeuvring and should only be used in emergency conditions.

At Kpong Airfield we have a clearing of over 1100meters. However, we consider our runway to be 500m long. In reality we have over 800m of ASDA, with around 150m RESA at each end!

When the experienced pilots operate, we often see take-off rolls of less than 50m, student pilots can take as much as 250m! The same on landing, experienced pilots generally use less than 200m, whilst the learners take up to 500m! 

The same occurs in your business activities. There are tasks that an experienced person can do quickly, wasting little time and resources. However, when you are teaching somebody you consume a lot more of both – and need to be even more safety aware. This is called ‘teaching and learning’, and unless we give that consideration to the learner, and take our time to develop them to become a ‘safe and efficient above average’ person, we will not develop our workforce appropriately – nor safely.

It is easy to think that everybody should do a task ‘the same as me’, but the reality is we need to build in more safety and understanding, especially as we train people, then, and only then, will we see sustainable growth in a suitable manner.

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and lead Pilot with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Photo of the week October 10th, 2012

Tomorrow, October the 11th 2012, is the first UN International Day of the Girl Child... The UN has, through this day, clearly demonstrated its commitment to end gender stereotypes, discrimination, violence, and economic disparities that disproportionately affect girls. In EVERY country, there are still many areas where girls are not given the opportunity, and it is time for that to change. Ghana is doing well, but could do better. In recognition that Ghana's Girls can do anything, if given the opportunity, encouragement and support, we see here young women from rural Ghana building aircraft - the same aircraft type of that are used to take the aerial photos that are normally on this spot each week. What will you do tomorrow to recognise the UN International Day of the Girl Child? What will you do after that? Courtesy of Medicine on the Move, WAASPS and the AvTech Academy, working together to 'Change lives, one flight at a time' - and empowering girls as they do so.

Monday, October 8, 2012

October 8th, 2012

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

I must admit I was rather surprised, more ‘shocked’ and partly shaken by the motorcycle rider weaving all over the road, with both hands off of the handlebars, sirens wailing and trying to move all vehicles to the side of the road. I pulled over, only to be sped past at insane speeds by several vehicles that would have been unable to stop should a child run out. Of course, it was one of the new style ‘motorcade expresses’ that West Africa seems to have built up over recent years. The driving style was far from safe, and although the passengers in the vehicles would have survived a crash, the potential risk to those in the areas where they were ‘speeding in excess’ was high, such that third parties would have stood little or no chance of survival.

It was not as if it was an ‘emergency’, it was simply the expediency of ‘moving quickly’ – the consideration for those who may suffer, should anything go wrong, missing.

Pilots learn early on, that limits are put in place for a reason. If the manufacturer sets a limit, there is a reason, and if you exceed it you will suffer – or others will at some point. Likewise, on our roads there are set limits for travelling. Those who break those limits know the risks that they are taking, and generally are not the ones who suffer when it goes wrong.

Some years ago I was pulled over by the police on the M4 motorway in the UK. I was speeding. It was my first motoring offence, and my last. A group of us were driving at speeds in excess of the limits, on a 4-lane each-way section of top quality road with no pedestrians or risks anywhere near to those we have here. I was the last vehicle in the line, and as such was the one pulled over by the police.

I sat in my car and shook, having never had any such thing happen before. The police man immediately asked if I was OK, since I must have looked terrified! He told me to calm down, explained the offence, gave me a ticket and told me that I would have to appear in court. He then also told me that a certain member of the British Royal Family had been caught on the same stretch of the road a few weeks earlier. In fact, I then remembered, they were given a heavy fine and had their licence suspended for a few weeks; as I subsequently experienced.

All the British Royals are expected to sit and pass their driving tests, and are fully subject to the rules of the road, the same as every other citizen. The same goes for the MP’s and other dignitaries. Perhaps the lower rate of accidents in the UK and other developed nations has some connection to ‘applying the rules uniformly and objectively’.

I remember being knocked off my motorcycle in West Africa some years ago. The taxi that knocked me over had no lights, no appreciable brakes, and the driver had no licence. However, it was quickly decided that ‘since he was ‘related’ to the police officer arriving on the scene’, that it was nobody’s fault. I was then asked to ‘pay for the paint to repaint the police station’! I am sure you understand why I said ‘NO!’, and suggested that ‘Since Nobody is to blame, ask Nobody for the paint’.

I am glad to say that the police in West Africa are improving dramatically compared to many incidents in the past, but we are far from ‘where we should be’. Very far.

I have pointed out in this column that aviators are generally aware of the rules and the reasons for them. We often say that ‘every regulation has a tombstone to back it up’ - that meaning that ‘somebody died because they did not stick to the regulation’. Let me point out the obvious: the same can be said for the rules of the road.

That single white line down the middle of the road, that indicates you should not overtake, is only painted where it is dangerous to overtake. It does not mean ‘overtake at your own risk’, no, it means ‘DO NOT OVERTAKE’. Yet, we see many vehicles breaching the basics of road etiquette, and its associated safety, every day.

Personally, I really do not enjoy driving. I would rather not-drive if I could help it. The lack of order, correct distances between vehicles, observance of the rules, abuse of the rules by those who believe that they are outside of the rules, etc. – it not only angers me, but it is putting me and others in physical danger – against the law of the land.

At least when I fly, I tend to find myself amongst more ‘polite rule following folks’. I feel safer and more supported. I know what to expect, what is expected of me and what I should expect of others.

I can hear some of you saying the one phrase that will tip me over the edge, and into an insulting rage – if you say ‘oh, but this is Africa’ (or ‘TIA’ for short), well, get set for my response.

Yes, this is Africa – and therefore we should be better than those in Europe and the developed West in general. We need to be safer. Our emergency services are far less likely to save our lives, in the event of an accident – due to lack of facilities and lack of timely response, often due to access issues. Because we are in Africa we are more likely to have ‘less well maintained roads’, which increases the risks as we push the limits. The maintenance on our vehicles is often lower than that in the more developed nations – and so, we should be more careful in all that we do.

Telling me ‘TIA’ is like telling me that ‘because it is more dangerous on the roads, we will drive even more dangerously? Are you backtracking yet?

When I ask my team ‘Who is responsible for safety?’ they all point at their chests and respond ‘Me, I am responsible for safety.’ Simple. Accept it and work towards making it a reality, or ignore it… and plan on attending more hospitals and funerals – perhaps your own.

Now, how do we get the official to set the best example? Hmmmm. Perhaps we have bigger challenge there, but all the same, we can change the odds by changing how we do things and hoping that, bit-by-bit, others will follow, and through better safety on our roads, our children, our brothers, sisters and respected elders, will all live a little bit safer and longer… but it begins with ME… and YOU.

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and lead Pilot with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Photo of the week October 3rd, 2012

Each year vast quantities of water pass through the Akosombo dam, flowing under the Adome bridge, on the way to Ada and out to sea. The Aksombo Gorge, the Akwapim-Togo range, etc. have much untapped tourist potential, waiting to be unravelled by those who truly appreciate it. Often unrecognised, unsupported and unexploited, our nation has many treasures, such as these, sitting in the Treasure Chest of our natural gifts, awaiting discovery and appropriate, sustainable, honest, people-centric development. Viewing Ghana from the air is an eye-opener, one that this picture can only provide a glimpse of. We all need to open our eyes, recognise the potential around us - both of natural resources and the people living amongst them - and support the positive development of Rural Ghana. Photo Courtesy of WAASPS Ltd

Monday, October 1, 2012

October 1, 2012

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

In the aircraft workshop we have a poster that depicts an oil rig, with two legs sinking and everybody abandoning the vessel. The caption above states ‘Measure Twice, Cut Once’! This adage of precision, and general, engineering is essential. In fact, I have been known to measure many, many times! Even something non-essential will get the ‘measure twice, cut once’ approach.

The Aviation and Technolgy Academy at Kpong has a new intake of, all female, students, interestingly all from Kete Krachi this year, and they are keen to be let loose with snips, drills, cleco-pliers and the pneumatic rivet gun… but that won’t be happening so soon! First of all, they need to master the spirit level, ruler, tape, set-square and the amazingly flexible T-square. Taking time to get things level, checking at several locations, checking for horizontal and vertical square-ness, ensuring the values measured are accurate to within less than one millimetre – checking again, monitoring and checking again, and again - before, during and after each activity. Not to forget, getting somebody else to check it too! Measure at least twice, cross-check, and cut only once. It saves time and money in the long run!

The aircraft that come out of the little factory in Kpong are beautiful, and I am always proud to carry out the test flights on these marvels of the air. I wish that I could feel the same way about some other things that are made and produced locally.

I am a big advocate of ‘Going Ghanaian’, that is, where possible, purchasing a local product or service. Sadly, it often leads to frustrations.

Take the plumber. A nice chappy. Really pleasant – and overall does the job – in a manner that is functional. Sadly, he does not appear to be conversant with the ‘measure twice’ adage. The pipe on one bathroom wall left at a clear 20degrees off of vertical, not looking very ‘appropriate’. When asked about it, he simply responded, ‘oh, it was straight, but it moved.’ Well, yeeeeees, I can see it moved. With a promise that he will fix it, I come back later to find a nail in the wall to hold it straight – the pipe under torsion, unnecessarily. I make a mental note to fix it myself after he has left the site. Do not get me wrong, he knows how to do it right – but it is more ‘expedient’ to just ‘finish the job’, well, finish in terms of getting some money, not so much in the pride of the job. Pride in the job is the key to success in any area of endeavour.

Perhaps that is why we have young women to populate the aircraft workshops. The pride in their work is amazing. Women seem to enjoy things being ‘just so’ much more than men. It works up from the very basics; I never have to ask to have the workshop swept, for they simply do it, because they want to work in a clean environment. I never have to justify WHY a job needs done again – since, once pointed out, they see, appreciate, acknowledge, act and remember that it should be ‘that way’ for the next time. No excuses.

It is not only women that take pride in their work, although they appear to have the lead over their male counterparts! I am extremely fortunate to enjoy an amazing craftsman who does a lot of the woodwork for our jigs and other constructions at Kpong Airfield. He may take a little longer, but the finished product is, within the confines of the materials available, perfect. Square, dimensionally correct, functional and pleasing to the eye – without any issues. IF there is a problem, he calls, asks for guidance, and acts. Nothing is ‘hidden’ in the hope of ‘getting away with it’. Each job is his pride and joy. Currently we are working on new ‘motivational aids for children to stimulate interest in aviation’, and they are subject to a lot of modifications as we build up prototypes. He will diligently with his young, eager to learn (male) assistant, and then simply smile when I say ‘that is really good, but we need to raise this piece, lower that, and modify here and there.’ He appreciates that the job is one where we need to share skills – his experience, my base design, our collective ability. He enjoys it, he comes to work even when he is sick, just to be in the workshop – he LOVES his job – it is his ‘thing’. His assistant is slowly learning and has learned over the past two years to clean the woodwork shop to a standard that is acceptable without prompting – even picking up all the nails and bits of paper – a first for a young man on this site! This young man finally shows signs in his eyes of loving his job too…

Perhaps that is it. Perhaps people only excel at what they consider their ‘thing’. Perhaps too many people are doing what they are pushed into and not what they DESIRE to do. Sometimes, we need to try something to find out if it is ‘our thing’, sometimes we need to work at something to make it ‘our thing’.

Being in the wrong job is like being in a bad relationship. You do the minimum. Nothing more. At times less. It does not work. You and the other party are not happy. It will end in tears. Lots of tears. Some relationships can be worked on, and turn out to be happy, as you learn about each other and ‘work to make it work’… One thing is certain, and that is, ‘being in the right job is about satisfaction’, and is no different to being in the right relationship. It gives you pleasure, you look forward to waking up each morning to another day of doing things with, being with, growing with, learning with, each other.

Like in our romantic relationships, it is often seen that the female of the human race will make the lion’s share of the effort to make it work. Perhaps that is why we witness such a high success rate with young women in aviation around the world.

Perhaps you should consider giving a young woman a chance in a ‘notionally male’ position – but be prepared to stand back and be surprised, they are remarkably good, dedicated and strong. I firmly believe that, given a chance, some respect and appropriate guidance, the young women of Ghana are a hidden resource for growth.

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and lead Pilot with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail