Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Photo of the week July 31st, 2013

How many more amazing places can we possibly find in Ghana? It appears to me that every week I find something new and exciting - at least I find it exciting - and beautiful. Sadly, the desire to see development in the rural areas is often confused with others greed towards making a 'personal fortune' and controlling access to such treasures. Beauty like this belongs to the people, especially the rural people, of Ghana and must be promoted in a sensitive and appropriate manner. Ghana's gold is not all underground, it is simple sitting on the surface waiting to be discovered - and you cannot put a value on it. Perhaps the there is room for a National Trust that can take care of our heritage and preserve it for future generations? Photo courtesy Captain Yaw, Pilot, Engineer and incredibly passionate about rural developments for Ghana.

Monday, July 29, 2013

July 29th, 2013

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

It is little wonder that there is so much confusion in dealing with officialdom. I met this week with a District Official, who appeared unable to calculate three times a simple number successfully – and is ready to take poor math to court. He confused 2001 with 2011 (constantly switching between two oh oh one and twenty eleven, apparently meaning the same thing, but I am still not certain) and insisted on shouting about the ‘dis-ding’. He wanted the ‘dis-ding’, and it was about the ‘dis-ding’. Finally, after 30 minutes of frustration I exploded with ‘What is a [expletive] dis-ding?’ His response blew me away ‘ IT IS ENGLISH LANGUAGE, DIS DING IS ENGLISH’.

Excuse me, but I will no longer sit in any office or meeting to be lectured about ‘dis-dings’ and ‘dat-dings’. If people cannot put together a proper English sentence, especially when they represent the ‘Administration’, we have a problem.

The official concerned took such offence at my insistence that ‘There is no such thing as a dis-ding, it is [bovine droppings], just tell me what you mean’, resulted in him raising his hand to me, and my leaving his office. He continued to shout into the corridor that ‘dis-ding is proper English’ – his colleagues all came out and supported him. A lost case for development.

No wonder we have upsets, confusion and misunderstandings – no wonder people decide that development in the rural areas is too challenging. Thank goodness my team has the constitution to fight, and to move forwards. 

Imagine in Aviation that we were to make a radio call ‘Accra Approach dis be Niner Golf Dis-ding, we are heading towards da Dat-ding, at Dis-ding foots and with an estimate of Dis-ding arrival’. Well, it would be the beginning of the end of safety!

In workshops we do not allow the use of ‘dis-ding’ or ‘dat-ding’. They are banned words. If the person cannot express clearly their meaning or request, then it leads to accidents and potentially deaths. We must express ourselves clearly – it is a functional part of communication. 

I cannot ask for a dis-ding, when I really want a Cleco-plier. Or a dat-ding when my need is for a torque-wrench. The first few months of any apprentices life in the workshop is related to knowing the names of tools, their differences between and uses – and there are hundreds of them to learn.

Aviation is pretty clear cut, the rules and regulations are clearly available and we find few surprises in our lives around the airport, the planes and the systems involved. The Ghana Civil Aviation Authority is very good at explaining everything that is needed, from paper-work to inspections, and the charges related to them are clearly published. There are no ‘dis-dings’ and no ‘dat-dings’ to create confusion! GCAA is clearly one of the most organised units in Ghana, and we should all be proud of that. They functionally treat the airlines, pilots and others as CUSTOMERS and treat them accordingly. It is generally very pleasant dealing with the Aviation arm of the Administration.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for much of the other day-to-day administration that we come across. It appears to me that we have rules and regulations that appear from nowhere, are not explained and charges that have no basis – and when you ask for the basis you get told that it is a ‘dis-ding’. How many times do we have to re-register, re-submit, re-do and re-pay? There appears to be a major lack of clarity – which I believe leads to misunderstandings, frustrations, anger and upsets. It appears that too many Authority figures forget that civilians and businesses are CUSTOMERS of the Administration – yes, CUSTOMERS – and should be treated as such. CUSTOMER CARE is needed – including making life clearer!

Surely, if our Aviation sector can be so clear, functional and customer centric, other sectors should too. We have to come back to the challenge of literacy. I do not mean the ability to read and write – I mean the ability to read and understand, write and express clearly what is meant. These skills are lacking, and as we have seen in recent high profile discussions in the media, there appears to be a national challenge in completing forms and signing them in the right place, even by those in every level of officialdom. I do not believe that the majority of mistakes are intentional – I really believe that a lot of good intention goes into these things. However, there are those who try to take advantage of their position and advantage of the ‘hidden rules’ that they seem to be able to conjure up with a simple ‘dis-ding’ or ‘dat-ding’. It is sad that an official who makes a mistake is ‘excused’, but those outside of the officialdom castle quickly get labelled as ‘criminals’ or ‘miscreants’. Perhaps there is too much of a ‘big-man-complex’ that goes with appointments to certain offices?

I have had too many run-ins with people over the appropriate use of language – and the avoidance of confusion. However, I am reminded that ‘if they have an office, then they must be more powerful than me’. It is simple, there are words to be used to explain, and if you do not know the words, and cannot explain yourself clearly to a third party, you may well be in the wrong position!

I really believe that our systems are failing in many areas, due to lack of real understanding, and the exploitation of ‘complicate in order to facilitate’ – in other words ‘try not to let the general public know how it all should work, so that the bamboozle brigade can profit’.

It is not just words, it is also a numbers game. Amounts conjured out of a hat, deliberate miscalculations and the like that are reminiscent of medieval Europe. It seems that the more smoke and mirrors, blended with dis-dings and dat-dings, that can be moved around, the more people that can be hoodwinked by the creative minds of those who are not focused on the growth of the nation, but rather the growth of their personal resources – or some other agenda!

In the UK, which is very multi-cultural, they have the ‘Crystal Mark’, a mark that demonstrates that a document is clearly written. Many official documents, especially those issued to the general public and businesses, seek the Crystal Mark, due to a customer-centric approach to the British Administration. If the client understands, then the client is more likely to comply – it is simple to understand, but not so easy to implement! 

The criteria for a document to obtain a Crystal mark may include:
  • the use of ‘everyday’ English;
  • consistent and correct use of punctuation and grammar;
  • plenty of ‘active’ rather than ‘passive’ verbs;
  • explanations of technical terms;
  • good use of lists;
  • words like ‘we’ and ‘you’ instead of ‘the Society’ or ‘the applicant’;
  • clear, helpful headings, which stand out from the text;
  • All steps explained, and made clear, avoiding ambiguity; etc.

Perhaps it is time to campaign for more customer care, clarity, honesty and co-operation to avoid the apparent cycle of mistrust, misunderstanding and the consequent negative impact on developments, particularly in dealings with the Administrative offices of Government.

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, July 24, 2013

Photo of the week July 24th, 2013

'Buildings appear to pop up almost randomly as towns spill out into available lands.  Little thought goes into provision of utilities such as water, power, sanitation - and the access roads grow organically in haphazard directions - often changing location and form based on the last rains and muddy puddles.  Land issues are far more than 'ownership', they include responsibility for the healthy development of our communities.  Thought must go into developments that provide good access for future police, fire and ambulance services as well as education and health access.  Town planning, access consideration and a healthy environment is not just the responsibility of the authorities, it is the responsibility of all who develop or live in any property.  If we all take responsibility together, we will see far more orderly, pleasant and successful growth that boost economic development in a positive long term and healthier manner.  Photo courtesy of WAASPS Ltd'

Monday, July 22, 2013

July 22nd, 2013

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

News this week is filtering out about some of the ‘practices’ in regards to flight crew checks in certain parts of the world. Much of this has come out from the Asiana crash, and although it may or may not be directly associated with the sad incidents of the San Francisco accident, the comments have raised a number of healthy discussions – not only in aviation circles.

A flight training instructor has released comments, which appear to have some sour grapes amongst them, but let us look at some of the observations critically. It is stated by this anonymous, airline experienced, instructor that:-

‘I lost track of the number of highly qualified instructors I worked with who were fired because they tried to enforce “normal” standards of performance. By normal standards, I would include being able to master basic tasks like successfully shoot a visual approach with 10 kt crosswind and good weather. I am not kidding when I tell you that requiring them to shoot a visual approach struck fear in their hearts... I usually busted about 3-5 crews a year and the resistance against me built. I finally failed an extremely incompetent crew and it turned out he was a high-ranking captain who was the Chief Line Check pilot on the fleet I was teaching on. I found out on my next monthly trip home that they were not going to renew my Visa. The crew I failed was given another check and continued a fly while talking about how unfair I was.’

He goes on…

The people in that country are very very bright, and smart, so I was puzzled by their inability to fly an airplane well. They would show up on Day 1 of training (an hour before the scheduled briefing time, in a 3-piece suit, and shined shoes) with the entire contents of the Flight regulations and Flight Manual totally memorized. But, putting that information to actual use was many times impossible… I never did figure it out completely, but I think I did uncover a few clues. Here is my best guess. First off, their educational system emphasizes ROTE memorization from the first day of school as little kids. As you know, that is the lowest form of learning and they act like robots. They are also taught to NEVER challenge authority and in spite of the flight training heavily emphasizing Crew Resource Managment, it still exists either on the surface or very subtly. You just can’t change 3000 years of culture.’

Roughly translated, this person challenged the standards and methods of the pilots in the country he was working in, and lost his job for it. He watched crews he had failed be passed by others simply because of ‘who they were’ and although the people were pleasant, and apparently bright and smart, their ability to think was taken away by the educational system of rote learning and their creativity stifled by culture. The author feels that the culture of the people and the inherent teaching systems from childhood has a massive negative effect on safety.

Such outcomes are not unique to the Asian countries, and I do feel that many of his comments are too broad, and that there are many excellent pilots in such environments. I have trained people from all over the world, and I can relate to the comments about the ‘cultural learning style’. I once taught a very pleasant Korean gentleman to fly, it was a challenge. We had to change his way of thinking. He needed everything broken down into sub-sections and to learn to chant them.

For the landing phase he really struggled. We have the approach, which leads into the round out, the flare and then the touchdown. He could do each part perfectly, but he struggled to join the parts together. Landing a plane is like poetry – you may know how to write a sentence, you may know how to rhyme a word, but putting it together with ease on the fly, and in ever changing conditions is not for everybody! Finally he managed it, and flew very well indeed. Other instructors shook their head when flying with him, asking ‘HOW can he be so bright, able to do each part, yet fail to join them together smoothly?’ It took a long time, but it happened. Kudos to him!

The past two weeks we have been interviewing young people for AvTech apprenticeships. It reminded me constantly of the learning and cultural challenges noted by Captain Anonymous above.

Bright, apparently well qualified, young ladies, full of life and ambition, having completed school, yet unable to apply (or even remember) what they had learned. The inherent ‘chew and pour’ mentality spewing out in random ramblings in their exam papers.

‘What is your favourite subject?’ would trigger a response of ‘Math’, so I would pull their math paper, and then close my eyes in disbelief. Yes, they could carry out simple repetitive number tasks, but they could not APPLY them to the real world. The school system is failing our young people by seeking to train the youth to pass an exam, ignoring the need to understand the learning, and be able to apply it to the REAL world.

During all of this I came across a school exercise book, you know the one with formulae and the like on the back cover. My eye scanned it for less than three seconds. It was full of errors. The SCHOOL exercise book had PRINTED on its back cover that ‘a leap year has 360days’, it also stated that ‘180 degrees is equal to 1 radian’. Then I saw about 8 other mistakes, from factual to simple spelling mistakes. My voice rose, my insults to those who actually printed such material, and the schools who actually used it, grew. For the record, there are 366 days in a leap year and there are Pi(π) radians in 180 degrees. (Radians are a better, and often more accurate, way of working with angular measure, in mathematical terms, than degrees). These young people are sitting for years in front of PRINTED materials that are blatantly WRONG and being told to MEMORISE materials without ANY apparent understanding.

To cap off my amazing disbeliefs, I found it impossible to believe that the vast majority of the candidates wrote that there are 100 (one hundred) metres in a kilometre. So, I asked several teachers, and they mainly told me the same thing. It appears that somewhere there must be a mistake in what is being taught to some of the teachers themselves, and it is being passed on as a ‘fact’. The simple, direct statement of ‘there are 100 (one hundred) metres in a kilometre’ has been said to me now so many times that I want to have a TV emergency announcement made to state the FACT that there are 1000 (one thousand) metres in a kilometre. We need to really look at HOW, WHAT and WHY we are teaching to our young people – or we are heading towards accidents from bad education and a culture of rote learning that will take people’s lives. Frankly, it scares me for the future and we all need to act now.

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, July 15, 2013

July 15th, 2013

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

It has been interesting to see the varied reaction to the report on the Allied Air overshoot, at Kotoka International Airport, last year. The report, as we all expected, makes it clear that the aircraft touched down over half-way along the runway, in poor visibility and heavy rain. The aircraft overshot the end of the runway and broke through the perimeter wall, sadly killing passengers in a vehicle on the other side of the wall. In basic terms the aircraft appeared to approach too fast, too high, landing long. A sad day for all concerned.

In comparison, we have the accident in San Francisco, where an Asiana airliner approached too slow, too low, landing short, breaking off the tail section and spinning out to the side of the runway. Amazingly, the death toll and injury list is incredibly short. Another sad day for all concerned.

Both accidents appear to have ‘pilot error’ as a key part of the accident recipe. One of the first comments in the San Francisco accident reports was about the weather, which was clear, yet it was followed with commentary about the layout of the aerodrome (the approach over water to a sea wall) and possible links to aerodrome construction work going on.

Whenever there is an accident, we must consider all of the factors – human, weather, mechanical/electronic (did an aircraft component fail), fuel/fuel-flow, terrorism/sabotage, aerodrome facilities, air traffic instructions, etc. In aviation, we always like to consider the WHOLE recipe. Imagine that the wife of an aviation accident investigator burnt a cake. They would investigate the oven in which the cake was cooked; the ingredients utensils used; the temperature of the room at the time; were the children present; what was the gas pressure at; had the cook slept well the night before; was the floor slippery; was there sufficient light; how recently was the cookbook purchased; did she confuse Celsius with Fahrenheit; had she had a fight with her friend on the phone; what was she wearing at the time; what else was she doing… and the list would go on. A burnt cake investigation would take six months and the result would detail everything! A non-aviation investigator would simply throw the cake away and hope that the same mistake wouldn’t happen again. In Aviation we NEVER take anything on face value. I believe that this is a good thing and try to carry it through to everything in my life.

We must note that the Allied Air crash, last year, was the FIRST accident of its kind at Kotoka, in over half a century of operations. Nonetheless, we hear hoards of voices crying ‘how can we stop this happening again’ or ‘we must take measures to protect the public’. Well, that is good. It reflects an aspect of ‘aviation minded approach to safety’. Aviators have no tolerance for such accidents.

I am a little concerned that there may be a knee-jerk reaction, and hope that when the final report comes out, it will reflect on the probability of such an accident recurring, as well as a solution that is practical and measured in its response to the need for changes at KIA, Allied Air, and the industry in general.

However, before we all vote for a few million dollars to be spent because of this incident, I believe that we should get our ‘Transport House in Order’.

Let us make some comparisons on the roads. If a tro-tro ran off the edge of the road, killing as many, or more, than were killed in the Allied Air Crash, it may make a headline for a day – most probably be reported somewhere on an inside page of the papers. There would be little investigation, and I am certain that there would not be a national report on ‘the first time a tro-tro ran through the barrier at xyzkrom’. No, it would be just another ‘accident’. RTAs (Road Traffic Accidents) are seen as a part and parcel of the risk of travel in West Africa. Thankfully, we take a different approach to our aviation. All the same, why can’t we take a better approach to our roads – and waters?

Pilot error is clearly a regular component in air accidents, as is driver error in road accidents. In the air, we insist on high standards of training – sadly, our roads clearly demonstrate that good driving skills and knowledge of the highway code are rare. It is impossible to drive for more than a few minutes without seeing some stupidity or other.

But it is not just the drivers who contribute to accidents.

I drive the road from Tema to Akosombo regularly, and the holes in the road are growing to the point where they could swallow a small child, likewise, the Afienya toll booth has ruts so deep that you have to drive carefully to avoid removing the sump from your engine. These and other, similar, issues have dramatically increased the accident risk for those driving that road. If it were a runway, it would be closed down. Yet, we continue to pay tolls to use these abysmal excuses for ‘safe roads’.

Car maintenance is another issue, it is exacerbated by poor road conditions. Rumble strips, badly maintained culverts, eroded road edges, rutting from overloaded trucks and potholes, put our suspension through a lifetime of vibration cycles in a few hours of driving.

I am sure (OK, I know because I see the damaged cars by the side of the road) that many of our roads are accident prone – and that the road condition itself is a contributing factor to the accidents – one that costs lives, and livelihoods, on a regular basis. I would love to see a proper investigation into ‘who is responsible’ for such accidents – apportioning blame between driver, vehicle condition, road condition and weather condition. I assure you that the drivers have a share in the blame, as do those who maintain (or not) the vehicles, the police who turn a blind eye to vehicle condition and loading and, of course, those responsible for the road surface...

Let us all hope for a similar response to each and every road accident as we see in the response to the Allied Air and Asiana accidents. Let us see the same concern for ‘average people’ as much as we see for those able to afford air travel.

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, July 10, 2013

Photo of the week July 10th, 2013

Rice, like many crops in Ghana, is not always grown in a uniform manner, as seen here.  The practice of many different families and groups preparing, sowing, spraying and harvesting at different times on their respective plots leads to this patchwork effect.  In the ideal world there would be more co-ordination and collaboration - as we see on the large single owner plantations - providing economies of scale and greater use of mechanised, efficient systems.  It is not impossible for various groups to organise themselves into co-operatives for efficiency and increased productivity.  However the evidence of economic collaboration is often found to be lacking, across the country, as shown in this image.  Photo courtesy Patricia Mawuli.

Monday, July 8, 2013

July 8th, 2013

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

I once came across a young aircraft engineer, who felt that he only needed one tool to work on all aspects of aircraft maintenance. He was overly fond of his pliers. He even used it as a pair of pliers – for which I never had a problem. However, when he used it as a hammer, I felt concerned, even if his years of ‘plier-use-as-a-hammer’ appeared to have given him a certain amount of skill in the innovative usage. The use of his pliers as a spanner was something not acceptable in my book. Watching the pretty, golden yellow, corrosion resistant, zinc bi-chromate plating being ripped off the head of an AN5 bolt, with a certain success rate, in regards to bolt removal, concerned me. If I ever saw that happen in our workshops, somebody would be looking for a new job!

The plier is not a tool to be used on bolts, nor nuts – EVER. It is the wrong tool. No, I can’t accept its usage – it is inappropriate. I even have difficulty in permitting the use of an adjustable spanner, specifically if we have the correct tool in the stores and I detect laziness. We have a deep workshop motto ‘use the correct tool for the job’. I look at our tool trollies and realise that the number of ‘special tools’ on the shelves is already many, and growing.

For instance, we have special drill bits, they are 300mm long, and barely 4mm in diameter, we use them to drill a handful of holes in an airframe. They are essential to doing the job properly. There are spanners in metric and imperial dimensions, the same for Allen keys; several different hammers, of varying sizes and materials; screwdrivers with different patterns, lengths and blade tip sizes; cutters for specific purposes, including one that is exclusively used to cut 3.125” (79.375mm) holes in sheet metal below 1.2mm in thickness; a variety of drill bodies and attachments – each one specific in its application and use - and of course, we have a pair of pliers… well, actually more than ten different pairs, sizes and styles of pliers, each for different uses! Each tool has its place, and its job – and it is perfectly formed for its very function.

Our tools are specific to their uses in the aviation industry. They are tools designed for the job they do, and they do them very well.

Any ‘one-tool-thousand-uses’ man is not welcome in our workshops! He may be seen as ‘economical with tools’ by some, but I see him as an accident waiting to happen!

Tools should not be abused (nor should fixations, and materials). Simple.

At this point, sadly, I must offer education on two simple fixation types, and I hope that certain people, working at the Cargo Village in Kotoka International Airport, are reading this.

There exists a simple fixation called a ‘nail’. Generally made out of a metal rod, such as steel, and with one pointed end and the end with a flattened area called the head, suitable for hitting with a hammer. It was introduced for fixing, principally, wooden items together. It could be used to fix wood to wood and also metal to wood. A simple fixation, but with limitations. The ‘normal’ nail has a smooth shaft, and is easily pried open. Some have ridges on them that make them hold a little better. It is not uncommon to see nails used to fix wooden lids to wooden crates. When the lid needs to be removed, a tool called a jemmy (aka pinch-bar, prise-bar, short crowbar, etc.) can be used to lever the lid off of the crate and remove nails. The lid can be reaffixed by careful use of a hammer – however, caution must be applied not to damage the contents of the crate, and then to reaffix the lid properly, it may be necessary to reposition or even replace the nails.

The nail is a very crude fixation device – it is not good in places where you may need to remove and re-insert a fixation, nor in places where ‘banging the crate with a hammer’ may damage the contents of the crate. Therefore a new, more versatile, fixation was developed – the screw.

The screw is more complex and versatile than the nail. It shares some similarities; generally made of metal, one end is pointed and the other is wider and flattened out - called the head. However, the shaft of the screw is shaped with a spiral pattern, from the point, called the ‘thread’. Furthermore, the head has a shape formed into it to allow the screw to be turned, enabling it to be inserted AND removed, several times, without damage and without shock to the joined parts. Screws are more versatile than nails, and can be used with more materials – wood, metal, plastics, etc. – the clever idea being that they are more precise and more controllable in their applications. They are ideal for air-shipped crates containing fragile equipment that may need to be inspected – and the lids replaced carefully, with all contents safely inside, afterwards.

To insert or remove a screw a special tool is used, called a ‘screwdriver’, it is used to drive the screw in, and out, of position – this is a more precise operation than ‘whacking it with a hammer’ and exact forces can be applied, without shock to the components being joined, or contents of a crate, should they be used on the lid of a crate. This ‘screwdriver’ tool has a shaped tip that can be inserted into the shaped head of the screw – and the screwdriver has a special handle, that can be used to turn the screwdriver, and thus the screw, using the human hand. (Powered versions are available also.) The handle is NOT to be used as a hammer - ever. Screwdrivers come in many sizes and tip shapes to suite a wide variety of applications. Most screws either have a flat line in their heads (for a flat head screwdriver) or a sort of cross in their head often called cruciform, with specific styles developed by companies for their uses. The most common cruciform heads are called ‘Phillips’, ‘Pozi’ and ‘star’, and are generally able to be worked on with a common ‘cruciform’ screw driver. With about six screwdrivers - three flat heads and three cruciform - it is possible to remove and insert the vast majority of screws used on the market today – without damage.

I am amazed that so few people grasp the functional and operational difference between a nail and a screw – often damaging the materials used – and in the case of crates, their contents. It is not difficult to grasp, nor difficult to apply – but it is important. However, it seems that there are far too many people who believe that a screw is a type of nail and forcibly rip them out with a jemmy and attempt to re-insert them with a hammer, with impunity – leaving damage behind. There is far too little care for the beauty of the screw, its function, and the amazing capability of the unpretentious screwdriver, as well as screw selection as a frequent fixation method - designed to be reused, without damage to the parts being fixed.

Unbelievable, I know, but true. Education is key, and I hope that this helps those who (now) know about these things to better share such knowledge with those who don’t yet respect the humble screw, its function, purpose and magnificence.

Perhaps we need a nationwide campaign.

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, July 3, 2013

Photo of the week July 3rd, 2013

Pivot Irrigation is beginning to 'crop-up' around Ghana. Using the water pressure, that is also feeding the irrigation nozzles, to drive the wheels, and with a centre pivot that allows the gantry to spin around, enables a large circle of crops flourish. There are new challenges in ploughing techniques and water filtration, as well as a new set of maintenance skills to learn. Already popular in the southern and Eastern parts of Africa, this technology is now filtering into West Africa, and we all wait to see the long term success and, most probably, adaptations that it will bring. Photo courtesy of WAASPS Ltd, providing affordable aerial photography,


Monday, July 1, 2013

July 1, 2013

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

We have all heard the saying ‘you can take a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink’, and we all have some analogies in our lives that resound that sentiment. A horse can generally be led fairly easily using a harness or bridle. However, a horse cannot be forced to drink, no matter how hard you try, and in fact, you can get quite a nasty bite or even a kick in a delicate place, not to mention a broken foot from the horse deciding to stand on you if you upset it!

This ‘horse to water’ observations from humankind towards the equine world is valid.

Let us take a different view, that of the life observations of our horses of their humans – a sort of ‘horse sense’*...

‘You can take a man to knowledge, but you cannot make him think’ would be one of the first things a smart horse would be ready to comment on in relation to his life experiences with our species. Or perhaps, ‘you can give a human opportunities, but you cannot make them take them’ – for the average horse will have easily spotted that trend, especially amongst teenagers of the human disposition! In fact I can think of a lot people I have come across who fit into both of these ‘horse-sayings’!

In this wonderful world of horses, they may also make observations that reflect on our biped disposition in relation to other matters: ‘If God had meant man to ride in motorcars, he would not have given him horses’, but of course, we know that horses may be biased in such observations.

I always find the comments from other human beings along the lines of ‘If God had meant man to fly, he would have given him wings’ a basic misunderstanding of the physical world we live in. Frankly, it is more like, ‘God meant man to fly, that is why he gave him the ability to think!’ Anybody who states ‘God would have given us wheels if he meant us to drive in motor cars’ would be laughed at – today – but we do know that some funny arguments were put forward in the past – even by respected ‘so called thinkers’ of the time.

At one point the British Parliament was apparently lobbied by medical doctors and clergymen to stop the steam railway train trials, because they were planning to set a new speed record in excess of 50kph. The argument was that ‘it was known that the human body would explode if it travelled at such speeds’. Thankfully, the risk was taken and ‘hi-speed’ travel was born. Today, we have a much greater understanding of speeds and their effects on the human body. All the same, there is still a lot of misunderstanding of science – and a lot of confusion between faith and religion.

Not long ago, Religion of the day persecuted people for stating that the planet was not flat – some were imprisoned by the authorities for such heresy. Today the ‘flat-earth believer’ is all but extinct! Until 999AD the use of the Arabic numerals (0,1,2,3,4… etc.) was seen as ‘demonic’, and only the Roman Numerals would be used by those faithful to their Religion. (it was instructed by the Church of the day that the use of the zero, ‘0’, was demonic, since zero could not exist if there was God, according to their religious beliefs.) Religion has prevented many people from thinking, yet faith has never done that. Faith is a belief in a greater being, generally called simply ‘God’, but also a number of other terms are found around the world, who created the physics, biology and chemistry of our universe – setting out rules and systems, providing them to us, ready to discover and be awestruck at the home we have. Whether one believes in God or not, the same science is all around us and totally unarguably complex and complete – and waiting for the thinking mind to embrace it fully.

Of course, we are free to make mistakes as well as discoveries. It is, however, essential that we embrace all of the knowledge that is out there waiting for us, but to do that we must think. We must open our minds, put aside dogma and personal agendas, look outward and not inwards!

We do not want to find ourselves in the same intellectual corner of those who believed that the planet earth was the centre of the universe – or that malaria was caused by bad air! We need to think, we need to take advantage of the knowledge that is all around us – and we should all grow as human beings as we do so.

The horse is absolutely right in saying that humans can be presented with knowledge, but it is, apparently, impossible to make the human being think – and harder to get them to act! We are surrounded with situations around that are causing accidents, sickness and poverty, simply because of the lack of ‘appropriate human thought, coupled with suitable action’. Take for instance the current topic in relation to the many fires from poor electrical installations or inappropriate use of electrical equipment. At times, out of ignorance, we blame ‘something spiritual or magical’ – but the blame lies in the human condition. The only spirit that can be blamed, for many of the accidents we witness, is a spirit of ignorance and a lack of education, coupled with non-thinking and non-action. How much damage and injury could we prevent by thinking things through and making sure that the ‘right thing’ was done?

When DVLA or a police officer allows a vehicle to pass checks, knowing that it is not roadworthy, they are permitting an accident to happen, and share in the blame of any deaths that may occur. Yet, we continue to hear some sort of ‘magical/spiritual’ explanation. It is simple, we must take our responsibilities seriously – we are human beings and we have to learn to think, act and take our own responsibilities.

We need to think about our humanity as a whole – and not about selfish gain or ‘our own pockets’.

It is all too easy to lose the thinking capacity when the mind blurring drug of money comes into the equation. Fortunately for me, I have no regard for money. I need to make a living, but I have no need for more than my daily bread.

Although much of the non-thinking we witness is purely from lack of education/awareness, much of it appears to be stimulated by ‘diversionary financial thought candy’. Nobody should allow anything to be done – or not done - that endangers others, takes resources from the needy, jeopardises safety, etc., simply to increase their personal wealth.

I do not see horses taking such an approach to life, they work for the herd, and share what they have… I think we need to ask the horses more often, for sometimes it seems to me that horse-sense is worth more than we give it credit!

*horse sense is another term for common sense.

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