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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 3 Tamale to Accra

NovSubmitted by Patricia Mawuli Nyekodzi

SUNYANI to WATamale to Techiman

9G-ZAF : Pilot : Patricia Mawuli Nyekodzi, Photo-Comms: Capt. Yaw

9G-ZAC: Pilot : Dr Patrick Ata, Nav-Photo-comms: Martin Talbot

Target: Techiman.

Arriving at the Air Force station we were pleased to see our little aircraft tucked up nicely in a BIG hangar. The Air Force chaps were, as always, welcoming and supportive. We were allowed to take the support vehicle around to the aircraft for fuelling, where, once again, our mobile fuelling platform worked wonders!

For once the satellite image showed clear skies. All good with regard to rain, but a sign that the Harmattan was biting it way down the country. During the Harmattan you must avoid flying East in the morning and West in the Afternoon due to the visual disturbances and lack of horizontal visibility (vertical vis remains good). Fortunately, we were heading South and then East. Nonetheless, the sand particles in the air leave a salty taste on the lips and thin, fine dusty grey-brown layer on all the parts of the aircraft that presented horizontally to the airstream.

WE fuel up, called the airport manager and thanked him again for the reception committee, just at the ATC chap who had brought us in last night and provided transport to our hotel, came by to wish us well on the return journey. Aviation is about a mind-set, going places, doing things in ways that are so very different to other transport methods. With it the camaraderie is strong, at all levels. Light Aviation pilots tend to be more approachable, mainly because they are not flying a tight schedule, but also because they can do things the big planes cant; fly without worrying about the fuel costs so much! But that is also why this class of aircraft is ideal for Humanitarian Aviation Logistics in places where helicopters and bigger aircraft are simply orders of magnitude beyond the reach of the vast majority.

Our man from the ATC, the air force personnel and passers by all took an interest as we fuelled and prepped for the day.

We started up and taxied to the hold, waiting for the Beech 1900D to depart on its once daily route to Accra, and set off behind, at a much more pleasant pace and at altitudes that allowed us to see the reality of life in this wonderfully diverse country.

We had all decided to make the stop point at Techiman instead of Kumasi. It was a simple no-brainer. The Chiefs of Techiman, so excited about the trip, had made special preparations of their dirt strip and arranged a school bus to bring children to the airfield there. Those kids were now our priority.

Flying down we passed the White Volta and then the Black Volta, near Buipe, where we saw some communities completely cut-off by flood waters.


Later we go to the amazing limestone structures at Kintampo.

Before routing around Techiman, spotting the blue roofs of Ghana huts as we made our approach into the shortest strip of our journey. Barely 300m of land-able area, compacted soil with a smattering of grass. No problem for us, and a pleasant change from the mile plus tarmac runways we could have taken off across, of the previous landings. The chiefs and the children stood patiently and in orderly fashion to the right of the runway.


Both aircraft made the strip first time and taxied back to descend to the smiling team at the strip-side. Techiman is a key market town in an area the size of several US States put together, it is reportedly the busiest market town in West Africa – and we can believe it!

The Paramount Chief, or Techimanhene, called and congratulated the team on their efforts and then we did a short encouragement session with the young people. Patricia is a role model for many in Ghana, and there were clearly several young ladies looking at her and thinking ‘I can do that!’.


Techiman sponsors one of its daughters to the AvTech Academy in Kpong already, and so they have realised the potential.

Techiman to Kpong

9G-ZAF : Pilot : Patricia Mawuli Nyekodzi, Photo-Comms: Capt. Yaw

9G-ZAC: Pilot : Martin Talbot, Nav-Photo-comms: Dr Patrick Ata

Targets: Kumasi, Ho, Kpong

Sadly, we had to leave all too quickly, and we were soon back in the Harmattan laden sky, heading towards Kumasi. We decided to de-rate Kumasi from a stop to a touch and go, mainly due to time, but also due to the uncertainty of weather. The Harmattan cuts out your distance vision of oncoming weather, and after Kumasi we needed to head East – towards any developing thunderstorms.

As soon as we climbed out from Kumasi, it was clear that we needed to change our route. We would need to head further north, crossing the Mampong ridge at a lower point and thus gain access to the massive Lake Volta.

Visibility fluctuated around the minimum for VFR and access to the lake was imperative. Once we could get low over the lake the sand particles would be less, due to the water mass. Sure enough, as we descended from 2,500feet down to 1,500feet we returned to more comfortable flying conditions. However, it would not be prudent to attempt crossing to Ho.


We therefore decided to use Akosombo as a replacement target. The spillway had been opened on the day we departed, due to the highest ever levels in the lake – evidenced by the flooded villages below. Town and villages that normally had several hundred of meters from the home to the waters edge were now maritime villages to the extreme.

We crossed the last bit of the lake near Battorkope, sad to see the water up to the roofs of many buildings.

The sight of the plums of water from the spillway at Akosombo took our collective breath away and we slowed for a moment to enjoy it before setting up for a final to land at Kpong. Just one more flight from completion…


Kpong – Accra - Kpong

9G-ZAF : Pilot: Capt. Yaw, Photo-Comms:Patricia Mawuli Nyekodzi,

9G-ZAC: Pilot : Martin Talbot, Nav-Photo-comms: Dr Patrick Ata

Target: Accra

Taking on board an extra 20 litres of fuel each, and for the first time putting Capt Yaw in the pilots seat, since Patricia’s pilot privileges do not allow her to land at the international airport, we contacted Accra and agreed on a slot in their busy schedule.


15:30 we touched down for a split second and at that point, we had achieved the unimaginable of a few years ago.

We cleared the airspace for the busy international airport as quickly as we could – but we could still hear an impatient pilot at the threshold waiting for his clearance. ATC at Kotoka International Airport, learned later, came to a standstill for a few moments. All the floors of the control tower had faces pushed to the windows; a marshaller on the apron called to ask ‘what aircraft were they?’ and history was made…

Flying back we relaxed, waving to each other from the two planes and, for once, 9G ZAC took the lead. Patricia had flown all but the last little bit of this awareness journey without an aircraft ahead. She took the majority of decisions, only guided by Captain Yaw when this trip, naturally, lead to new experiences and risk management decisions.

Back at Kpong, a formation low pass and then we both landed – AC first and then AF.


But this is not over… we then went to Accra for a reception and now we are only beginning the next phases of taking Humanitarian Aviation Logistics to those people who we have seen, living happily, but in need of more support, in the remote areas of this fantastic, diverse and potential laden country.

Medicine on the Move and WAASPS are proud to be able to provide the solutions, but this trip has only been made possible by the sponsors:-

Expresso – Dare to Dream

UT Bank

Atlantic Group

Wire Weaving Industries

Business and Financial Times

Thank you all – and thank you, the readers, for the thousands of hits on this blog already…

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