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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Down - but not out!

Submitted By Jonathan Porter
Thursday 24th June - up early, checking the satellite images and forecasts as Audry was coming up from the city to meet with the ladies of Battorkope by Amphibian and to set up a series of health education events.

ll looked good, but there was a growing breeze. Whilst waiting for Audry the crew set about some additional engineering works we had decided on for the aircraft (3kgs of lead on the tail and some other tweeks). Once fitted and checked I took AD to the skies with Morgan Thomas, a French Survey pilot. As soon as we got airborne it was clear that the 'breeze' was more than that at altitude. Undaunted we set out to the practice area for splash downs.... and did we splash.... the chop on the water was more than expected and we got a lot of buffet as we touched down in the Volta River near Senchi. It was not a dry experience.... As we added power to get airborne the bow waves grew and the chop broke rhythmically against the rapidly accelerating floats. It was even more wet in the cockpit... We waited for flying speed and was glad to be separated from the wet stuff.

Landing back at Kpong Field, the test flight was a success - the machine was much less heavy in flight and more controllable in the, albeit shallow, flare - but now I had to brief Audry that we would not be landing in Battorkope - safety measures such that if the chop were to increase, the flight would be outside what I would accept for a first time passenger to go into a remote area.

Disappointedly, she accepted that we should carry out a land plane flight over the area - and at least encourage the community on its work on the landing area for the land planes. We crossed the ridge and Audry could not stop smiling (pictures to follow)... as we flew around the village the people were excited, but we were disappointed on two counts; 1) we could not land with the float plane due to choppy water - which was far worse now and 2) the community had done no more work on the land landing area.

We flew back and landed, using the remaining time to carry out valuable planning for forthcoming events.
Rosina and Patricia both spoke to the senior people at Battorkope, explaining that just because we COULD land on water - we would still prefer a land plane for operations. We wondered whether we had made a false start.
Then, on Saturday during the GFT for Marcel (who passed, congratulations) we routed over Battorkope, with him unaware that I would simulate an engine failure to see where he would choose... As we descended I started to see people on the runway area - over 100 of the village folk were clearing and cleaning that strip. Marcel carried out a good 'alternate' selection and we flew on with the Test. My heart felt as though it was smiling as we climbed back over the hostile terrain. The people of Battorkope did not let us or themselves down. The 'non-event' due to weather sparked the enthusiasm to clear more areas and prepare for regular land plane visits. It may sound tiny - but this no small thing - this is real progress of a whole community.

On Sunday Paul J and I flew over - to see people washing their clothes on the sides of the runway bisected peninsular. As they saw the plane they waved the clothes in their hands - as if they were Marshalling us down to help them with their lakeside activity!

Let us hope for better weather for float plane operations, and speedy approvals for the use of the landing area at Battorkope! Another mission is planed for later this week - taking in some children's library books - probably to start the library!

Well done Audry (who even came with a change of clothes in case she got wet wading ashore - NOW THAT'S THE SPIRIT!!!)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mission Accomplished

Submitted By Jonathan Porter
We are pleased to report that MoM's first Humanitarian Aviation Mission has been accomplished. Not only that, but history has been made.

At 11:00 on Thursday 17th June 2010, 9G-ZAD beached at Battorkope, in the Eastern Region of Ghana, carrying gifts for the school children and to arrange further flights of medical education volunteers.
Capt.Yaw, Chief Pilot and Rosina Matey, Safety and Community Relations Officer, left Kpong Airfield at 10:30 after being dispatched by Mary Adjei Bram, Patricia Mawuli and Ann Amponsah.

The aircraft climbed slowly to 2,500', weighted down by floats, we flew over mountains and valleys and the aerial views were beautiful. In under 20mins we were ready to descend over the village where there awaited a large crowd.

Once a suitable landing area had been identified from the air, a first pass was made, looking for debris and trees in the lake. On the second pass a motorized canoe cut across the landing area and a go around was initiated. This is all part of the safety procedures for this type of mission.

On landing, or rather splashing-down, the water taxi was challenging due to undercurrents, floating debris and tree stumps sticking out of the lake. Nonetheless, careful use of power, drift and water rudder allowed for a safe beaching in front of the waiting crowd which grew suddenly to around 800 rural community folk.

The crowd was jubilant as they waited to welcome us - the young, the old, men and women, boys and girls, all impatiently standing at the river bank for the first landing of an amphibian aircraft at heir village. History in the making!

After shutting down the engine and removing shoes and socks, Rosina and Capt, Yaw threw ropes to the crowd to be tied to 'stick' quay posts on the bank where the impromptu gathering had occurred.

With the community Health volunteer and Rosina acting as animators and interpretors for Capt. Yaw, the gathered mass of enthusiastic faces were eager to learn the names of the four forces of flight, aircraft part names and how the airplane flies.

Later the elders had a small meeting with the MoM crew and expressed a great desire for further flights, as well as promising to work to increase safety on the site.

Capt. Yaw looked at progress on the land area for future use and informed them about the necessary finishing touches to the cleared area by removing stones, termite mounds and tree stumps as well as encouraging that cattle should not be grazed on the new area.

When presented with the gifts, including pencils, erasers and coloring books courtesy of Liebherr, the whole community expressed their heartfelt thanks and expressed that they were happy that Battorkope was becoming famous!

The people of Battorkope are predominantly farmers and fishermen and they speak Ewe and Krobo. Grateful for this first visit, they assured MoM and its supporters that they will do all that they can to enable flights to reach them safely.

The whole crowd waved as one as we got wet pushing back on the water! Then, after one aborted take-off, a better run area was identified and the return flight completed in 25 minutes - compared to well over three hours by road - or much more after a heavy rain!

This report is jointly prepared by Rosina Matey with Capt. Yaw - who are both thrilled to have made history for MoM, for Battorkope and for Ghana - for this is the first time a Ghana registered amphibian aircraft has been approved for operations in over four decades - and the plane was built and engineered in Ghana, by Ghanaians, assisted by Capt. Yaw. Thanks go to WAASPS for their support as well as to the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority and Ghana Maritime Authority for their approvals.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dear Friends of MOM...

Submitted By Jonathan Porter
On Tuesday (8th June), a group of MoMmers met with the representatives of Battorkope, Ghana Civil Aviation Authority and Ghana Maritime Authority. It was a fruitful meeting with much active discussion and a passionate heartfelt presentation from the girls (text below). For the authoriiteis it was the first time they had to meet face to face the people 'with need' and the people 'wanting to help' who were being seperated by the lack of approvals. It all comes down to understanding, encouragement and working together....

The regulatory authorities were fantastic and very encouraging....As a result, on Thursday the 10th June, WAASPS were presented a letter allowing Amphibian operations, at last! Only 8 months since the first demonstration - safety always being the catch word. Sadly, during the 'grounded time' the battery has failed on the WAASPS Amphibian X-Air Sparrow, but the girls are working on fixing that right now as I write (the new battery is a different size, so a new battery cradle is being made too, then we will need to add balast to match the weights). We are so blessed to have such dedicated young ladies who see the bigger picture!

Of course, this is not the end of the struggle, we are still working on approvals for humanitarian strips that can be established without massive fees and long delays... but this is a big step forward. You can also download the PDF of the new MoM/WAASPS operations booklet, which you may pick up the 'sentiments' as to how we are working towards solving problems within a regulatory framework that is very different to Europe and America!!! Clay will be adding the pdf to the new MoM public site too.