Monday, January 21, 2013

January 21st, 2013

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

A famous song from The Police/Sting has words that carry a lot of meaning…

Every breath you take, And every move you make, Every bond you break, Every step you take, I’ll be watching you.

Every single day, And every word you say, Every game you play, Every night you stay, I’ll be watching you.

Every move you make, Every vow you break, Every smile you fake, Every claim you stake, I’ll be watching you.

Although the song appears to originally be about some love struck chappy watching his babe, and having his heart broken, the fact is the sentiments have a place in aviation, and the world in general, more and more.

There are no secrets in aviation, and thanks to the internet, there are very few secrets left in the world. We assume that Julian Assange will continue to release wiki-leaks to reduce the remaining ones, and we are certain that each and every one every one of us is being monitored more and more daily.

Every call we make, with our mobile phones, is traceable. Every e-mail we send is stored somewhere. Every Facebook post we make is locked in a cyber-bank somewhere, and all this can be accessed in minutes, using state of the art software. With the advent of a camera into almost every mobile phone on sale, we are able to be ‘snapped’ and/or recorded at any time. In fact, it is possible to use your own phone as a listening device for those with the right equipment, without you even knowing!

Ultimately, accountability for everything we say, write, do, go, and almost think, is coming.

It has already been that way in aviation for a while. Aviation is incredibly accountable.

For engineers, everything is recorded, serial numbers, part numbers, dates of changing oil, aircraft logs, engine logs, and more – if you change the battery you have to record it. Then, if there is an accident or an issue related to that battery (such as the on-going Boeing 787 story) you will be questioned about the tool you used to install it. The torque you used on the bolts, etc. Then the manufacturer of the certified battery will have to have materials certificates that relate to that very battery. Even pumping-up the tyres is recorded and must be done with the nitrogen, not compressed air. The fuel is regularly tested for contaminants and certificates stored, and so the list goes on.

For pilots, their log books, what they eat, where they sleep, etc. is recorded, and, in the event of an accident, the restaurant where they ate the night before may be searched and food samples taken for testing, in case of food poisoning…

Imagine that we took that same responsibility in our everyday lives.

It all goes back to “I’ll be watching you.” For a long time we have known that ‘if you expect more, you must inspect more.’ It has worked in aviation, and it can work in all aspects our work and lives, if applied appropriately.

One of the almost cultural trends, that is damaging the ability of Ghana to develop quicker, is the matter of tardiness. Punctuality is a rare practice in many of the developing nations. There are often reasons – such as transport challenges, traffic, poor communications, accidents, road condition, etc. However, lateness costs, especially in Aviation.

We are all caught watching the clock when we travel by air… we are all watching ‘the flight progress’ on the in-flight GPS… watching me, watching you… and making decisions, winning or losing, based on that observation and its repercussions.

If you miss your flight, you lose. There is no ‘Oh, but Chale, I was going to come early but then there was this dis-ding and my mother’s brother’s friend’s dog needed to be taken to the dat-place…’ or whatever, to placate an aircraft that has already left the gate. ‘Oh, but I can see the plane, it has not left yet!’, simply does not wash. You were late. You missed out. You lose. Simple. You can complain, you can beg, but you can’t change the fact that YOU ‘missed the boat’ and all that such a situation may lead to. You can claim traffic, a flat-tyre or some other ‘reason’, but you should have planned better and you missed the flight. You are being watched and cannot hide the FACT that YOU were late. YOU have missed out. You can say ‘it was unfair’ or that ‘I was unlucky’, but, at the end of the day YOU make your own fairness and your own luck!

I believe that staff should be on time, and failure to ensure the same is tantamount to theft. If a member of my staff arrives late they steal. But what do they steal?

They steal my time (they are paid to be at work on time, so they are stealing back something that has been purchased from them). They steal my respect (they reduce the amount of respect I have for them). They steal opportunity (I am less likely to promote or support them for further opportunities). They steal productivity (because we produce less). They steal my effort (for I will need to spend some of my effort on addressing their lateness). Yet, it is seen by many that ‘being late is acceptable’. Sadly, many also see ‘leaving early as acceptable’ also. This has to stop. Now.

I was always told that taking even a paperclip from the office without permission is theft. Theft is theft. Simple. Not being at work on time is theft, and it affects the whole operation. It can result in the whole day being less productive – especially when morning meetings are concerned.

Clearly, a member of staff who steals in this way is guilty of misconduct and will lose their job. Sadly, when this happens the other staff will come ‘begging for them’. More ‘theft of time’, less productivity. Punctuality is expected in an airline. If your plane is late you complain. Airline performance figures are measured on their timeliness.

When I go to a shop to purchase something, and the shop is opening late or closed early, I will often simply refuse to return to that shop. They not only lose that particular sale but may lose all my future sales. A particular vendor recently decided to ‘stay at home’ some extra days after the New Year. I gave my order to another supplier. I found it hard to believe that my usual vendor then got angry at me because I would not ‘wait’ for him to return to work! He will not even be asked to quote in future. Whose fault is it? I know. You know. But he has failed to understand that ‘I was watching him’ and it has cost him.

We am not always on time, none of us. There are times that our flights are delayed – generally due to features beyond our control, such as weather, a technical hitch or a knock on effect from a late arrival for a lesson. But we must all try to be as punctual as possible in all that we do.

We can all improve our time-keeping and our efficiency. As I tell staff and students ‘Every breath you take, And every move you make, Every bond you break, Every step you take, I’ll be watching you’ and I hope that as I inspect more, they will start to expect more of themselves.

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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