Submitted by Jonathan Porter
The 8th of March was a busy day - and the end point to one chapter as well as the opening point of another, perhaps more exciting chapter. We set out to Launch the Flying Doctors and Nurses, introduce loads of girls to engineering and aviation and to fly 100 girls and women as part of the centennial of women pilots.
At Kpong Airfield Patrick and Martin flew the majority of intro flights assisted by Patricia and Capt. Yaw and the weather held good for most of the day.
Some wonderful comments came from the young aviatrix's (if that is how it they spell it) as they took to the skies, in most cases, for the first time. 'I want to do this again' was perhaps the most comment as well as 'I want more'. Only a couple of thegirls and women (estimated at over 90, subject to scrutiny in the next 48 hours) felt uncomfortable - and here were no 'scared' passengers or pilots all day! (I invite the pilots to add their favourite comments from the day below). The airfield recorded over 200 movements (take off or landing) - making a record which will have to be beaten.
The youngest flyer was 2 year old Isabella, and the oldest was her Grandma at over 70. Manye Esther, the Queen Mother, also flew early on to boost the confidence of the young people from Manya Krobo and the impact of the event grew and grew.
Patricia and Dr Zee did a couple of circuits to the delight of the crowds as they demonstrated a 'box-office' c onversion of the cockpit! The landings were text book and the demonstration of short fields ops took on a new meaning with four aircraft landing in under two hundred meters and taking off in under two hundred meters consistently and safely all day long - at one point it looked like a miniature re-enactment of the Berlin Airlift with the queue of aircraft landing and taking off in rapid, but safe succession. There were also no go-arounds required thanks to the vigilance and self-co-ordination of the crews.
Ground Operations were carefully managed by Cyril (doing walk-around and engineering checks every five flights), Marcel (loading and un-loading co-ordination), Bill (photography and hand holding), Paul (chief photographer), Ingrid (hand holding), Mary (hand holding and gopher), Rosina (hand-holding and MC), Pascal (crowd control), Maxwell (signing sheets), and all the others who are just as important and not forgotten. The bet part was the natural, inspired and self-managing aspect from the instilled safety culture at the airfield, a culture to extend to the rural communities. Martey and Daniel from GCAA made sure that appropriate oversight was in place and smiled incessantly as they witnessed a first for West Africa. Medical cover was provided by Franklyn Medical services, but they only had one case of a headache to spoil their enjoyment of watching events.
At one point it was hard to tell who was smiling more - the pilots or the passengers - as this day of aviation sharing injected enthusiasm and energy into the team on the ground and all those around. The event has made the news on all three major stations (TV3, Metro and GTV) and GCAA were happy with the safety aspects. A real team effort from all concerned and at all levels.
Dr Zee, Ghana's Flying Medical Doctor, made a speech from the heart, as she made it clear that the time for the flying doctors and nurses has come. Rural villages and remote communities can now make the effort to open a small strip and gain access to services not before imagined or achievable with the resources in the country. One visiting Doctor made a commitment to help and a retired ER room nurse has promised to give one or two weeks a year to help boost this initiative.
Twimea, the nearest village to the Techiman Airfield, sent a wonderful group of young ladies to the event and a 19 year old Juliette declared that she wanted to follow in Patricia's footsteps in a career in social aviation and engineering. WAASPS has agreed to give Juliette, a bright and incredibly well spoken young lady, a one week trial in the workshops to assist in the final stages of the build of the 4 seat air-ambulance there.
The time has come for all to join hands and to help push this initiative into those communities. There is no denying we have come a long way, but our resources have been stretched to get here - so if you know anybody who is interested in supporting the next phase of MoM Ops, please put them in touch - and send them an invite to the MoM ning (click on invite above).
Be safe and remember MoM is changing lives - one flight at a time, thanks to your support and encouragement.