Monday, March 19, 2012

March 19th, 2012

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

This past two weeks has seen me on an international trip, by airliner. But before we explore the sentiments of some of those recent airline movements, a follow up on last week’s column!

The First National Schistosomiasis Forum at Akosombo, on the 15th March 2012, will, I am sure, go down in history as THE moment when Ghana declared outright, unabashed war on the parasite that is present, and in many cases stifling development, to varying degrees across the whole country. The guest speaker from the World Health Organisation made a poignant speech; making it clear that modern society knew exactly how to eradicate this disease, but was struggling to do so. Why? Accessibility! Several speakers came and went making cases for pathology, past-activities, proposals, etc. – and all agreed that access to ALL the communities, ALL the pockets of habitation, ALL the people, and especially ALL the children, would be key to a successful outcome. The combined knowledge of this disease, coupled with the combined operational expertise from organisations from the width-and-breadth of Ghana, and beyond, made the room vibrate with competence, hindered only by lack of funding and related accessibility solutions.

The concept of reaching the communities by road is great, only if they have roads, water is also good, for those known accessible communities at the shoreline. However, we all agreed that there are insufficient roads, water access and even no good maps. Consequently the innovative use of aerial reconnaissance, coupled with health education delivery systems, was found to be essential and integral to the proposed plan of action for the coming years.

I was proud to see the Ghanaian leadership roles – for this is an INTERNALLY initiated programme, LED, teamed and programmed as a NATIONAL project. Of course, the internationally groups are there, but the difference is that this programme is DRIVEN by the local content and supported by the international, not the usual ‘other-way-around’!

So, for me it is wonderful to see that Ghana Civil Aviation Authority, NADMO and other national organisations have actively co-operated with local independent organisations to ensure that the solution to the BIG problem of accessibility is also solved, monitored and approved using local, available resources.

Using the ‘bag- and bottle-drop’ techniques, developed in Ghana, the communities around the Volta will now be able to receive health education materials, with a focus on Schistosomiasis – in a timely and effective manner. The first community to join forces on this method of communication and health education roll-out, is the Upper Manya Krobo District, who, in collaboration with the Traditional Council, represented through the Queen Mother’s Association, of the area signed an MOU with Medicine on the Move to commence the aerial outreach in the coming days.

It is wonderful to see effective outcomes, especially so quickly, as a result of a conference or forum. So many workshops simply do not appear to have outcomes of a tangible nature in a realistic timeframe. I commend Professor Kwabena Bosompem and his teams, and thank VRA for their support for the launch of this initiative. I also assure you that I will update on the flights and their outcomes of this initiative in the coming months.

So, back to travelling with the bigger birds! I really do not like travelling in the airliners, and so, when routing to Munich recently, I was a bit apprehensive. It is simple, I really don’t like the airport experience, the airliner experience and the security check experience – and most of all, I detest being a passenger – I want to be at the sharp end!

KLM was the line of ‘best-value’ for this trip. Starting at Kotoka, the KLM experience was cool. We had checked in on-line, already selected seats, and had only carry-on. So, over to the line to be greeted by one of KIA’s icons. ‘The KLM-Gentle-but-Firm-Giant’ – if you have travelled KLM in the past 20 years, out of Kotoka, you know him! He used to wear a big blue boiler suit, topped with his short-cropped hair and broad grin. Ready to ‘off-load’ as needed any bag that fails the KLM test. Today, he wears a smart waistcoat, and has some ‘salt and pepper’, or perhaps ‘light frosting’ on his close-cropped hair. I rarely travel by KLM, yet I know this man by sight, and every time I travel, I get asked ‘are you flying KLM?’, and that, in this case, was an ‘affirmative’. Twenty seconds later we were cleared, passports checked and straight up to the boarding gate. Faster than any other check-in, and with bigger smiles!

The MD11 is a great aircraft, and the new interior fittings on KLM are smart and airy, it felt as if we were on in a spacious movie house, more than aboard an aircraft. Airline trips are only interesting for the take-off and landing components. The rest is incredibly boring. I need to see out of the window – watch the visible ‘dangly-bits of flight’ (flaps, slats, etc), and see the terrain. The landing in Schiphol was incredibly smooth, perhaps aided by the early morning calmness, but still a work of art!

Sadly the leg to Munich, on the Fokker 100, was not so good. The passenger next to me, across the aisle, had no sense of safety. A Caucasian woman, in her late twenties, well dressed – perhaps a little too much make-up, and with a combination of tight skirt and three-storey-shoes that would kill her in an emergency… if she had not killed herself and others already through lack of ability to listen and understand instructions – that is to receive relevant education and to act upon it.

As we were taxiing out onto the runway, she decided to undo her seat-belt, stand up and talk to the person several rows ahead. The cabin crew were already strapped in, the aircraft twenty degrees turned to the runway, and they could only announce over the intercom ‘Madam, please sit down and fasten your seat-belt’.

Miss ‘High-Heels-with-an-Attitude’ decided to ignore the call. I looked at her, I looked at the Cabin Crew member and sharply stated ‘Sit down NOW.’ The aircraft aligned with the runway. I added, louder ‘SIT DOWN – WE ARE ROLLING’. I am not sure whether she understood or not, but she sat, pouted, nearly cried at being sharply spoken to and whimpered ‘There was no need to shout’. The rest of the flight was uneventful, except for the hurt looking woman sitting across from me frowning at me and sending ‘bad wishes’ in my direction. I put it all down to lack of education – somehow she had missed the education, and potentially jeopardised the lives of others.

It is all too easy to see a situation and do nothing about it – whether that is related to Schistosomiasis (a disease that can be eradicated through education) or a ‘lacking-in-education co-passenger’, but at the end of the day, we all need to take the actions that our minds, steered by our hearts, lead our mouths to express, and then to make it happen. For we are all connected… like it or not… and if we do not, then it really can affect all of us – perhaps taking lives with it!

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

1 comment:

  1. Hopefully Miss HHH will be a role model passenger in the future!