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