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Friday, September 9, 2011

Kete Krachi Girls Prepare for Re-activation of Rural Airstrip

Ghana has a growing international reputation for its growth in the light aviation sector, including having won several awards and has been the focus of several articles in the international aviation press related to the same. One of the key aspects of Ghana’s developing light aviation sector is that is led and run by principally by young Ghanaian women. Patricia Mawuli Nyekodzi, who built and flew an aircraft around Ghana last year, lead a team of pilots to fly one hundred young people from rural areas in March of this year. Students for that event were hand-picked from Techiman, Kete Krachi and the Manya Krobo district.

With the advent of the re-activation of the Kete Krachi airstrip, and with the possibility of selection for a four year programme that includes learning to fly, build aircraft, computing and robotics, five Kete Krachi SHS students, who participated in the March event, have been undergoing a workshop at Kpong Airfield. Kete Krachi is a community with an aviation history dating back over fifty years. The leaders of Kete Krachi have worked hard in the rehabilitation of the airstrip, assisted by a team from Medicine on the Move and with encouragements from the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority. Once the strip is approved for use, it will see regular movements, and as such the young people of the community need to learn how to care for their resources.

The ‘chosen’ girls, Freda Fafali Fiakwesi, Ellen Obimpeh, Cate Brabi, Beatrice Sarfo and Deborah Owusuwa had their transport to the event sponsored by the Volta Lake Transport Company, who clearly understand the importance of an airstrip at the mid-point of the lake. This week, each of the young aspirants has undergone an introductory flight with time on the controls of an aircraft as well as learning how to carry out the very necessary FOD (Foreign Object Debris) walks that must take place prior to air-operations at the strip in Kete Krachi. The week long programme is led by Patricia, assisted by Emmanuella Nyekodzi and Lydia Wetsi from the AvTech Academy.

One of the key aircraft that will operate to Kete Krachi is the CH801 four seat STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) aircraft currently being built in Ghana, and the girls have been involved in the production of parts for the engine cooling system called ‘baffles’. A sheet of 6061 T6 aluminium is marked out with the part outline in developed form (flat) and then carefully drilled, cut and filed to shape in preparation for bending and forming into the finished design ready for installation. According to Patricia ‘these girls are full of life; they are serious and are making excellent efforts...’ She continues ‘…considering this is the first time that they have worked with sheet metal, they are all doing really well – and will soon see the aircraft, that they have helped to manufacture parts for, flying into their community.’

The young ambassadors for the remote town are equally enthralled ‘we are learning so much and want to see our airfield being used every month – if not every week.’ they explained. Already two of the young ladies have expressed their desire to learn piloting skills and another is very interested in becoming an airborne health educator to rural communities.

The DCE for Kete Krachi, Kwame Moses Ponye has been very supportive of the initiative and has already organised community inputs to help ensure the success of their community airfield.

Once Kete Krachi is operational, movements between Kpong Airfield and the Kete Krachi facility should soon become a regular feature, opening up new potential for humanitarian aviation and many other developments.

According to Patricia, Medicine on the Move is already planning increased health education and related support activity along the lake, using land and amphibian aircraft, seeing Kete Krachi as a strategic location for safety and operational purposes. Medicine on the Move aims to help train more Ghanaians to learn to build and fly aircraft, under the regulations as laid down by Ghana Civil Aviation Authority, in conjunction with WAASPS Ltd and the AvTech Academy.

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