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