Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Photo of the week August 28th, 2013

At times it may seem more efficient to overload or badly load a vehicle. However, the effect of reduced safety for those in and around such vehicles can be fatal. Luck is often the only thing saving lives on our roads. We must all gain and apply appropriate experience with knowledge before our luck runs out and costs another life. Think twice before you allow your vehicle to put others lives at risk. Photo courtesy of Patricia Mawuli.

Monday, August 26, 2013

August 26th, 2013

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

It is very interesting to note how many people use the terms ‘digital’ and ‘analogue’ without knowing what they really mean. Let us look a little closer.

Analogue : Relating to continuously variable, measurable, physical quantities, such as length, width, voltage, etc. Such information is generally represented on a dial, with a needle moving over a scale. The needle moves continuously, in relation to the input – providing an analogous response to the ‘input’. The needle does not give you the value; you have to read it off of the scale – and can make mistakes depending on the angle of read and position the instrument. In transmission terms a continuously variable waveform is transmitted and received. Minor defects in the transmission create minor distortions to the reception, but the signal may often still be useable at the other end. For example, in analogue TV transmissions the image may be a little fuzzy, but still watchable.

Digital : Relating to or using signals or information represented by discrete values (digits). Decimal digital representation uses the digits 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Binary digital uses the digits 0 and 1 only. Therefore a display that is in NUMBERS is digital – there is no confusion – you read the exact number given. A light that comes on or goes off to indicate a value is also technically digital (0 for off and 1 for on) – and not subject to ‘discernment’ in reading the value. A transmission that is made up of ‘on and off’ or ‘0 and 1’ signals is binary digital. Any distortion to the signal will result in corrupted transmissions, and unusable results at the reception end. For example, in digital (satellite) TV, any disruption to the signal results in loss of parts of the picture or total loss of the image. 

However, day-to-day these terms get used with gusto and fervour that leaves one wondering if they have become marketing terms rather than technical terms!

Digital is more efficient than analogue – that much is for sure. But there are some places where analogue still has advantages!

Many car manufactures have tried putting digital speed indication in their production, only to return to the dials – although such a dial may now be computer generated using digital data – in response to customer feedback.

In the cockpit of an aircraft we enjoy a mixture of digital and analogue readouts. The traditional cockpit was principally analogue, meaning that there were lots of dials! Pilots like to refer to these dials as ‘steam gauges’. If you can imagine the early steam engines, they would have big dials indicating the temperature of the water and pressure of the steam in their boilers. Such dials have been the bread and butter of movie makers ‘tension building moments’ since the days of Laurel and Hardy!

The average ‘single piston engine cockpit’ enjoys a number of neat little gauges providing information in three basic categories:

1.Engine instruments – these include hour meter (to record the number of hours the engine has run), tachometer (providing revs per minute or rpm), cylinder head temperature (CHT), oil temperature, oil pressure and for some exhaust gas temperature (EGT).

2. Flight instruments – air speed indicator (ASI), vertical speed indicator (VSI), altimeter (tells you how high you are), slip indicator (basically a glorified spirit level!)

3. Navigation instruments – compass (tells you whether you are heading North, South, East, West, etc.), VHF Omnidirectional Radio (VOR), Distance Measuring Equipment (DME), transceiver (two way radio with frequency selection) and now the Global Position System unit or GPS.

Perhaps the first of all of these instruments to go ‘digital’ was the radio. Trying to tune using a needle along a scale was quickly found to be ‘inefficient’ in the busy cockpit environment. That would have been quickly followed by the hour meter (often simply called the Hobbs after a manufacturer of the same) – in fact, although I know of combination analogue/digital hour meters, I cannot recall ever seeing a purely analogue one other than a clock!).

Analogue flight instruments are generally non-powered and rely on air pressure (static and dynamic) or gravitational forces. Modern cockpits are now using electronics to take those forces and represent them digitally on screens – part of the Glass Cockpit revolution. Personally, I still like the ‘non-powered’ ones – since they are incredibly reliable – even in the event of an electrical failure!

Each of the engine instruments has its own power supply, generally 12 or 24v, and a sensor wire. Occasionally you will still find a mechanical tachometer – but rarely. All of these instruments take a time to scan in flight. Imagine that you want to scan 4 CHT, 4 EGT, oil pressure and temperature, etc. It is a lot of gauges. It is therefore only natural that the engine instruments have gone digital early on. A good Engine Management Unit (EMU) can save instrument panel space and provide a rapid and efficient reading of engine data – and can record it! Ease of recording and analysing data from a flight is the biggest plus of going digital in aviation! What I like most is the way the numbers on the screen change from green to yellow and (hopefully never) to red. It reduces the pilot workload, and such an EMU can also flash warnings to alert a pilot who is busy, with navigation or radio work, to a developing issue. Digital engine instrumentation, in my opinion, offers the biggest advantages of ‘going digital’. 

Navigation instruments have pretty much always been a mixture of digital and analogue outputs. For example, the traditional VOR has a digital input for VOR frequency and an analogue output for tracking on a dial. Modern VOR replaces the dial with little markers that flash to the left or right (digital markers), but the concepts are the same. GPS has pretty digital numbers for latitude and longitude – but the analogue representation of what that means, on a moving map display, provides a thousand times more meaning when you are zooming over the countryside! 

Digital is about being precise, accurate and unambiguous. It can reduce workload and simplify transmissions, but I still like my analogue dials, they are more friendly, and, for me personally, have more personality than the flashing lights and numbers of a small TV screen. Where they save me workload, I am all for it, but when they detract from my pleasure of interaction, I will choose to stay with my analogue ASI, VSI and Altimeter!

The aim of going digital has always been to reduce ambiguity and increase accuracy. I am sure that we all can think of areas where we need to consider more digital solutions!

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, August 21, 2013

Photo of the week August 21st, 2013

Safety is important to the survival of us all. This week, during a safety training programme at Kpong Airfield, a demonstration was given of what happens when a person is hit at 60kph. A watermelon acted the part of a person wandering onto a runway, whilst the Medicine on the Move truck simulated an aircraft with wooden 'wings' strapped across it. The sight of the melon disintegrating on impact changed the spectators approach to road and airfield safety. We hope that this image will remind us all how dangerous roads and airfields can be if you do not follow the rules and respect the dangers. Photo courtesy of Medicine on the Move and WAASPS. and

Monday, August 19, 2013

August 19th, 2013

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

I continue to be amazed at the lack of basic understanding of mathematics, and its principles, in young people leaving educational establishments – regardless of which country or system.

As a pilot/engineer, I am constantly using numbers - large numbers and small numbers. Knowing how to express a number is essential in passing on understanding.

In aviation there are ‘rules’ for how we say numbers, even down to the pronunciation of each number! The aviator pronounces each number with a specific emphasis, in order to avoid confusion: 1 – one, 2 – two, 3 – tree, 4 - fo-wer, 5 – fife, 6 – six, 7 – seven, 8 – eight (although it may sound more like aaayte), 9 – niner , 0 –zero, 1,000 – tousand. These subtle pronunciation methods provide clearer radio transmissions. Such precision and detail is part and parcel of safety. Getting the number wrong, or misunderstanding what was meant, can lead to an accident or mistake, and we don’t like those!

Interestingly, aviation has other rules on numbers. We like to speak each number out. For example ‘change frequency to one – tree – zero – decimal – niner’ means select 130.900 Mhz on the radio. Runway numbers are given as digits (‘runway one niner’ for runway 19). Altitudes (below 10,000 feet) are spoken differently. For example 3,400 feet is said ‘tree tousand fo-wer hundred feet’. Once we get above ten thousand feet it should be said with digits, but many pilots will compile both together, for example 14,000feet may be said as ‘one, fo-wer – fourteen tousand feet’, making sure that everybody understood.

Perhaps a simple way to put this together is to read an ATIS (Automated Traffic Information Service) broadcast, this example being from Schiphol in the Netherlands, the words said on the radio broadcast are on the left, and what they mean on the right:

This is Schiphol arrival information Kilo Identification that you are listening to the Schiphol airport arrival broadcast. Kilo meaning that it is the 11th broadcast of the day (K being the 11th letter of the alphabet)
Main landing runway one eight Right The runway with 18R painted at the threshold should be used. There are two runways parallel to each other running from 180degrees magnetic (hence the 18), the R means the one on the right!
Transition level fife zero When you descend below five thousand feet change your altimeter setting from 1013.25 to the QNH setting we will give you later.
Two zero zero degrees, one one knots Wind direction 200 degrees (from the south west direction) at 11kts.
Visibility one zero kilometers Clear visibility for at least ten kilometres
Few one thousand tree hundred feet There are a few clouds at 1,300feet
Temperature one fife, dewpoint one tree Temperature in the shade on the ground is 15C, and water would condense (precipitation begin) at 13C.
QNH niner niner fife hectopascal The altimeter setting once you get below five thousand feet is 995mb or hectopascals (the same units with different names – hectopascals being the more correct modern term). This makes the altimeter give height above sea level (based on the pressure at the time of the recording)
End of information Kilo End of the thirteenth transmission recording of the day.

What is really important is that everybody understands the numbers being said, and we go to great lengths to get it right! Yes, we work hard to make sure that there are no misunderstandings – and we do not use ‘oh’ to mean zero either!

I do not expect ‘Joe Public’ nor ‘Kwame Public’ or even ‘Abena Public’ to be so precise as we expect in aviation, but I do not like confusion.

I asked some school leavers to read out this number: 1,356,105.125, for which the correct answer should be ‘one million, three hundred and fifty six thousand, one hundred and five, decimal (or point) one hundred and twenty five thousandths’, although it may be easier to read ‘…. decimal one two five’. The answers I got were bizzare! Some started with ‘one billion’. Others had a ‘one oh five’ embedded in their answer (oh (O) is a letter, not a number). Some ended with ‘decimal one hundred and twenty five’. Out of the ten youngsters I asked, not a single one was able to express the number in a way that avoided confusion.

In an attempt to clarify the situation, I asked them all to explain ‘place value’ to me. The question was lost. It seems that the UNDERSTANDING of the value of a number by its PLACE to the left or right of a decimal point is not being taught – or if it is, not being understood.

Those who went through the ‘old school’ system would have learned about ‘hundreds – tens and units’. Those who learned the ‘base’ system would understand the use of indices, where number positions are valued according to the power of the base, relative to the position in relation to the decimal place,for example 103, 102, 101, 100 . 10-1, 10-2, 10-3 meaning 1000, 100, 10, 1, 1/10, 1/100, 1/1000

Not knowing that the third position after the decimal point means ‘one thousandth’ is a problem. I teach youngsters how to program robotic production tools – and we work to 0.001mm. That is one thousandth of a millimeter – also called a micron. It is not just necessary to get the big numbers right, but the small ones too, and yet it seems that schools are not managing in getting the BASICS understood – and retianed. 

There is no point in trying to teach calculus or simultaneous equations to students unless we first get the basics of our number system into their heads. Frankly, I would rather see FEWER mathematics topics taught in schools, but that they be taught better and that students left school with better understanding – an able to apply maths in their everyday lives.

I still seem to struggle to find students who can calculate 10% in their heads or multiply two single digit numbers together, without using a piece of paper – or more atrociously, using a calculator.

Parents, you are to blame too. You need to drill your offspring in simple math’s – tables, addition,10% and reading out numbers so that others can understand. The lack of mathematics across the board is a barrier to sustainable development. As an employer, I spend way too much of my time ‘fixing’ the heads of those who have graduated from education without the ability to carry out the necessary daily tasks that make industry function.

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, August 14, 2013

Photo of the week August 14th, 2013

Looking down from above, a project can be assessed in new ways, saving energy, helping planning providing proof of achievments. Aerial photography of projects, whether engineering, construction, infrastructural development or agriculture, provide insight that simply cannot be gained from the surface of the planet. Tradition describes that the 'creator' lives in the heavens and looks down on creation - and we can see why that might be the case - because the ability to see what is going on is vastly improved from an aerial perspective. Photo courtesy of WAASPS Ltd

Monday, August 12, 2013

August 12th, 2013

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

I don’t know if it is because I am a pilot or because I am an engineer – or perhaps it is both, but I like attention to detail. I hate things being wrong. When I visit an office and the desk is not lined up, it irks me, and often, I will fix it! I simply had to fix the door of an office at the high court – it was broken, for a long time, and its malfunction went unnoticed, accepted and ignored. It took me a matter of minutes with a Swiss army knife and some scraps from the floor. Fixed, working and functional – smiles all around –something that almost anybody could have done, but didn’t.

Recently, I was in a Government building where the Ghana Crest was sitting on the floor. The next day it was hung up with a new screw and string. It had sat on the floor for many months, just waiting to be fixed – all it needed was the desire to put it right, and I could not resist it. Why didn’t it get done before? Either because nobody noticed or nobody cared… or perhaps a combination of both.

The roads get the same treatment. Each year I send our field workers to fix the feeder road that approaches the airfield. Digging, compacting, filling – even ordering truckloads of stones for the repairs – and I take a shovel too. (However, the fact that it needs a new culvert, is beyond what we can manage to fix the longer term needs, which appears to be completely ignored, including the consequences for safety with annual floods.)

What happens when you fix these things? Well, you get much more criticism than thanks – so don’t do it for the thanks or the recognition – no, do it because it needs done, and you can do it. 

In aviation we are expected to identify problems in their juvenile days, to prevent them growing up to become disasters. We are then expected to rectify it if we can, and always report it, even if we can’t. If it is something that would make aircraft operations dangerous in any way, then we are expected to refuse to operate the aircraft – including, if it is a runway issue, refuse use of an unsuitable runway. Imagine if we all refused to use dangerous roads or travel in dangerous vehicles on the roads! Well, that would be a great thing to try, but I am sure that the mayhem would result in a fresh acceptance of ‘sub-safe’, ‘sub-correct’, ‘sub-suitable’ status across the country.

We have to ask where this acceptance of ‘not as it should be’ comes from. Well, I think that the schools are one place where we can start. Imagine that a child were to sit in school for ten years, looking at the back of their exercise books, and there to be several errors on it. Imagine that no teacher pointed out the errors, and in reprints the same errors replicated like mice taking over the kitchen!

Well, so far, I have found this to be a current practice. What bothers me more is the fact that others do not see the errors.

It all started when I was interviewing for apprentices and one applicant brought their school exercise book with them. My eye passed over it, and stopped at the glaring error in relation to Degrees and Radians. There are three basic ways of measuring angles - Degrees, Radians and Gradients. Most scientific calculators have a DRG button that changes the way that it treats angles. 

Degrees, we are all familiar with – 360 of them in a circle. 360 is a nice number because it has lots of factors. Divide by 2 for 180, 4 for 90, 5 for 72, 6 for 60, 8 for 45, 9 for 40, 10 for 36… makes for easy maths in angles and geometry, and is based on Babylonian mathematics, the same as the 60 minute hour and 60 second minute.

Gradians (or Gradients as they are sometimes called) originate from a decimal attempt at angular measure – where a quarter of a circle contains 100 gradians. There are 400 of them in a circle – therefor one Degree is the same as 1.11111111 Gradians – or one Degree is 9/10ths of a Gradian. This makes for great ease when working out slopes, and was popular with certain military and engineering folks.

The Radian, however, is the most amazing way to measure angles – and it is integral to the magnificence of the mathematics of the circle. 360 Degrees is the same as two pi (π) Radians. Therefore, one 360 Degree circle is the same as 6.283185307... Radians, which is much easier and more accurate for computers to work with! Why? Because pi is related to the circle, it is the ratio between the diameter and the circumference. Knowing the importance of Radians and their relationship to degrees is essential in many calculations, especially when using computers. Teaching the fact that there are 2 pi Radians in a circle, is basic to mathematics – so much so, that it is quoted on the reference tables on the back of many exercise books. OR IS IT?

Sadly, I have come across a plethora of different exercise books with the statement that ‘180 Degrees = 1 Radian’. This is WRONG. Blatantly wrong. It should read ‘180 degrees = pi Radians. It upset me so much that I set about reading the back of every exercise book I could find – and found that the errors were beyond belief. These errors are sitting there in front of the eyes of our young people, being absorbed into their subconscious, and being wrong. Another example that is subliminally destroying the credibility of our students is:

Exercise book says ‘100 square metres equals 1 acre’ WRONG – the correct answer is 4046.8564224… square metres equals 1 acre. 

Exercise book says ‘100 acres equals 1 hectare’ WRONG – the correct answer is 2.471053814671653 acres equals 1 hectare.

Now, few people are aware of the ARES. This is a rarely used area measurement where 100 square metres is equal to one ARE. Now, the ‘are’ is so rarely used, we have to ask ‘is it a spelling mistake on the back of the exercise book, or a mathematical mistake’. The point is, either way, it is wrong. Furthermore, you would be hard pushed to find people working with ‘ares’, but lots of people working with acres. I am sorry, but this lack of attention to detail is enough to create confusion and a barrier to learning in those who are required to look at the back of these exercise books in school. 

There are many other errors – and it simply amazes me, that when I show them to teachers the most common answer is ‘oh, is it wrong? I never read it!’. Please, look out for the minor details and watch how the big details come right! Please, if see it is wrong – do something about it. Please pass this to every teacher you know!

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, August 7, 2013

Photo of the week August 7th, 2013

Those who look upwards, when the hear the drone of a large engine, may have seen this wonderful bi-plane. It is an Antonov AN-2, the largest single engine production bi-plane ever made. It can be seen from time to time gracing our skies. If you get to see it, take a moment to savour the flight of this magnificent machine. It is testimony to some great engineering achievements from 1947, when the Russian engineers started construction of this light utility, transport and agricultural aircraft. It is no longer being built, however there were over 18,000 built, up until 2002! The AN-2 still flies and handles within the design criteria of the original concept - robust, rugged, slow and able - but rather thirsty when it comes to fuel! Remember,no airliner ever gets near the production numbers of such General Aviation Aircraft, and we all hope that there will be more and more General Aviation movements, providing interest and inspiration to future generations across our nation, in engineering, aviation and adventure! Photo courtesy of Patricia Mawuli

Monday, August 5, 2013

August 5th, 2013

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

There are so many times that I despair at the misunderstandings that I come across in the general public, especially in regards to Aviation. So many people appear to think that Aviation is all about commercial planes and pilots. Well, it is not. Please get the fact out there that barely 2% of the world’s aircraft are commercial airliners. Yup, that is all. Admittedly, that accounts for the vast majority of the world’s aviation related revenues and keeps the whole aviation machine ticking financially, but the Commercial Pilot is the teeniest, albeit important, tip of the Pyramid of Opportunity in aviation.

Most pilots, like most drivers, are not ‘professional’ and do not make any money from flying. But, even if we add all the private, military, agricultural, etc. pilots to the list, they account for a tiny percentage of the people who live, work and spend their time in aviation.

From the building to the management of aerodromes, to the security personal, and from the design, build and maintenance of the aircraft, through to the ancillary job opportunities in tourism, freight, cleaning, catering and selling of knick-knacks in the airport malls, the ratio ‘non-pilots’ to pilots in aviation runs in the hundreds to one, and quite possibly could reach the thousand to one ratio mark.

Recently I was asked ‘how many people have you trained to be pilots?’, to which I responded ‘that is not the purpose of training’. Taken aback, the well dressed, well positioned chappy, looked at me concerned ‘but that is what it is all about!’, he declared, then added ‘isn’t it?’. Well, time for a reality check.

When somebody starts learning to fly, the pilot’s licence is simply icing on the cake. There is so much more to flying. The change in the way we see the world, our approach to safety, problem solving, our view of the planet, our methods of planning and the like – are perhaps the most positive outcomes of being in an aircraft. Obtaining the licence, even just the lowest level of private flight licence, is simply a bonus. It is nice to have, but it is nothing more than a piece of paper. What happens to you as a person in flying, whether you reach the licence or not, changes lives forever. Even just a few hours of flight training can be enough to stimulate a person, in so many ways, that no other experience can come close to!

As an instructor for the AvTech Academy, I enjoy teaching young women from rural Ghana a wide range of topics including; safety, the basics of flight, airfield management, first aid, engineering, agricultural engineering and safety. You may ask why I started and ended with safety – and that is because it is twice as important than anything else in aviation!

The range of skills taught to young women at the AvTech Academy often surprises – especially when it is pointed out that ‘only a few of them will learn to fly’. Flying is good, but you don’t have to be a pilot to fly – you can be a passenger with a keen interest, and still get to take the controls at a safe altitude, under an instructor’s supervision. All of the young women get some time in that role, but it is only a SMALL part of what they learn. In all honesty, the airfield at Kpong has more tractor hours driven in a month than airplane hours flown!

With over 100 acres to maintain, the airfield has to be mowed, the three kilometre emergency access tracks have to be maintained, the four kilometres of fence line has to be checked and repaired, and that does not even take into account the runway and safety area maintenance! All of these skills are actually AGRICULTURAL skills. We use tractors, grow / cut grass, manage trees, apply herbicide, etc. – skills which are applicable across so many other areas of need in development. Safety is the common thread throughout these operations.

In the workshops, we cannot ‘only build airplanes’. No, we also have to make signs, building parts (we do all of our own civil works on site too), repair a wide range of equipment, develop instrument panels as well as designing new machines and parts for aircraft, tractors, etc. These skills are highly functional outside of aviation also. Apprentices do not start by working on aircraft parts – OH NO! They start with learning workshop safety and the role of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and then start working on general items – and they do a great job! This year they will be making items that we hope will be sold to help support their training – which is another skill – learning to be self-supporting!

The first aid (which is far beyond the standard first aid approach), is part of our commitment to ensuring health matters are paramount in development. The range of skills is wide – we cover learning about how to prevent Schistosomiasis, cleaning and dressing wounds, splinting, evacuation of an injured person, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, patient reassurance, initial disease identification, etc., which are key to having a smoothly run airfield, but also are clearly skills that can be carried to a wider audience – and are life skills that literally can save lives! Of course, they also learn to develop and deliver health education messages – as part of our commitment to health education and the promotion of sustainable socio-economic development of rural Ghana.

Perhaps the biggest ‘gift’ the girls that go through the AvTech Academy get, is that of personal development. The ability to stand up and speak clearly, in good English, without hesitation, deviation or repetition. To be able to speak with confidence to people from all walks of life, and to interact professionally, eloquently and to communicate effectively. I love to watch these young people change in the way they walk – moving more swiftly, with their heads held high, positively engaging the world around them using all of their senses – and putting safety into everything they do. To see a young person who can ‘do themselves justice’ and ‘believe in themselves’, watching their confidence grow and seeing them develop as leaders in their own rights – now that is what it is all about.

Personally, I don’t give two hoots for bits of paper and qualifications – they are worthless rags compared to WHO a person is, what they can actually do and apply. That is what aviation training is all about – regardless of whether it is a pilot or airfield tractor driver (not as easy as it sounds) – it is about pride in the job, precision and being a person who can hold their head up high and say ‘I CAN DO IT, AND I CAN DO IT RIGHT, WITH SAFETY AS MY MANTRA’.

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