Kpong Airfield, Ghana, West Africa December 2010
Our year at Kpong Airfield….
Another year has sped by, and more challenges have been thrown in our direction than you could catch with pair trawling out at sea in the heart of Tuna land.... Yet, here we sit in the balmy West African Harmattan, visibility at 3km, sounds dulled by the atmosphere, the squawk of a Grey Hornbill interspersed with the coos of some other bird and with a background chatter of the shrikes, creating a special year end orchestral moment that Beethoven, Bach or even Elton John would be jealous of.
For us, Christmas is a 48 hour R+R time. We try hard to stay out of the line of fire, and to focus on our annual ‘weekend’ – since we work 7/7 the rest of the year. I find it hard to believe that some people get two whole days off EVERY week! Amazing… they must get really bored.
Many of you reading this are living in area where access to electricity, water, amenities and facilities are taken for granted. Strangely enough, we do not miss that as much as you may think. For every disadvantage of living in the bush there are ten advantages over living in the city or the, mis-called, developed world. After all, how many people live their lives around hangars, mud tracks, snakes, scorpions and spiders that seem to move at light speed!
Yes, there are challenges, but there are also opportunities. No challenge, no rewards. For all of us here, we would not trade the challenge life for the western lifestyle – perhaps it has become ingrained, but we do enjoy it.
As a treat for Christmas, we have slaughtered a sheep – so it is ‘lamb – lamb – lamb and lamb’ (it sounds better than mutton) for the next few days. When you ‘do it yourself’ and work on a tight budget you make sure that there is no waste, but I shall spare you the culinary delights of cooking all except the bladder and a couple of bitter parts. Waste not, want not, as my mother used to say!
For those reading this who already support the work of Medicine on the Move, we are pleased to let you know that the same mentality and methodology is applied; we make sure every cent or penny is used to further the efforts of our work here – every single one gets used more than once, it seems!
Of course MoM is part of a bigger picture, led by WAASPS, the commercial light aviation activity that supports MoM and, the AvTech Academy. We believe that social entrepreneurship is the ultimate solution to the needs of developing nations – and, thanks to you, are making inroads to proving that way beyond a shadow of a doubt. WAASPS has gained approvals and recognitions that are to the benefit of MoM and AvTech. AvTech is a source of support to MoM and WAASPS, and MoM’s activities show case WAASPS potential… a complex vinaigrette with a tangy taste on the tip of your tounge – that together ‘changes lives, one flight at a time’.
Over this year we feel that we have made great inroads, probably the best year of achievements so far, and here is a summary of the key points:-
1. GCAA (our CAA or FAA) approval to use amphibian aircraft to operate on the Volta Lake (the largest man made lake in the world), to take support to villages, and to begin amphibian training.
2. GCAA gave approval to develop our aerial supply solutions ready for needs of the future. (our supply canister programme is now proven, and ready to roll out).
3. Mr Solo, our Ghanaian craftsman, and his team have achieved 95% completion of our the new hangar block, thanks to the support of many. With that, new working areas for teaching aircraft construction and the best servicing area we have ever had – pretty much up in the best 20% of the worlds light aviation service facilities.
4. Patricia, one of our Ghanaian young ladies, fully trained in house, is now an effective assistant flying instructor.
5. Patricia also lead two of our built in Ghana CH701 aircraft around the country on an incident free flight of a nature never before seen in West Africa, at this level, raising awareness of the Humanitarian Aviation Logistics that are the heart behind all of our activities. You can read more at http://www.medicineonthemove.org/blogarchives/aogf/2010aogf.html
6. Several successful visits to Battorkope, both by air/water with the amphibian and by land in a MoMmers 4x4. Providing support to their school, health care programmes, infrastructure and raising awareness of their potential medical needs as the ongoing floods that have ripped away nearly 100 homes (about 20%) of their lakeside community.
7. A successful demonstration of an extraction from a community using a rough hewn wooden canoe to bring a person out to the amphibian aircraft and successfully transferring and departing with them.
8. Breakthroughs in understanding of first aid in our Fulani camp work. After working successfully on a badly infected hand, there is now a change in an entire Fulani communities approach to first aid, hygiene and education. Subsequently, the Fulani camp leadership have now designated an area for an education ‘hut’.
9. Matthew (tractors, generators and landscape responsibility) has completed and as much as possible perfected the roller we use for working on the 2,000m of runways and taxiways as well as the 4km of service roads that we look after at the airfield site. We have also completed a tractor ‘sled’ used to carry up to ½ tonne of materials and to level out many areas (although he is now thinking about a mark II of this). Developing agricultural attachments/implements is part of the long term goals of our operations.
10. Thousands of safe and incident free movements at the airfield. Mainly training flights, which are the highest risk flights, for which are thankful to Rotax, Zenith Aircraft and X-Air for their products and support.
11. Provision of 100 introduction flights to young ladies on the 8th March.
12. The opening of the AvTech Academy, supported by WAASPS and Medicine on the Move, providing a training school for up to four girls per year, as they study aircraft engineering, basic piloting skills, computing, Robotics and production methods, airfield maintenance, car and tractor driving and maintenance
13. Mentions in Parliament by the Hon Emmanuel Bedzrah of the work that we do.
14. Establishment of extended safety areas at 19/01 ends of the airfield.
15. Development of a new Website for Medicine on the Move.
There is so much more, and we thank all of you who have supported it, financially, physically, morally and prayerfully, for this is a team effort. You can start now to support the activities in 2011.
So, since we have a new year around the corner, it is time to plan. In aviation we MUST have our plans, but it is rare for a pilot to stick perfectly to the plan they made before entering the cockpit. There are too many factors that change the plan. We plan to use one heading, but the wind changes and hence the heading changes; we plan a straight line, but find a storm in our path and route around it; we plan to make a landing, only to find the runway unsuitable, and have to work out a solution; we always work towards to reaching the end point and to meeting all of our targets, but in a pragmatic, safety conscious and professional manner. And so, a plan is needed, but we know that it will require some working around to get to the end point. We also know that this can be achieved – with your support and encouragement.
We have established a comprehensive plan, not a wish list, not a ‘new year resolution’ list – no, a serious plan – with many points, some of which will require great efforts and plenty of sacrifice. Rest assured that, together with support of others, we will achieve most of it and far much more, upholding out motto of ‘Changing lives, one flight at a time’.
May your family have a fantastic final few days of 2010, and may your plans for 2011 be safely conducted as you climb into your cockpit for ‘Flight 2011’…