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

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