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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

So what on earth do I do at Kpong Airfield?

Your humble scribe is working as a volunteer for seven weeks with Medicine on the Move and the Avtech Academy. Fundamentally, I’m a general dogsbody and will do whatever is needed.

I spend a good chunk of time in the classroom with the AvTech students, and we use Computer-based Training (CBT) courses as a basis for teaching. Currently, we’re going through the CBT sessions on Meteorology (for pilots), and so we have endless opportunities to delve into critical topics like fractions, graphs, metrics, and physics. When we were discussing the physics of pressure, we talked about the effect of carrying a bottle up to 10,000’ sealing it and seeing what happened after coming back to sea level. It so happens that we have a few airplanes close by, so it was easy to do a real live test (at least to see the effect of 2,500’ pressure difference)! It’s so wonderful to be able to bring the academic and the practical side of things into such close proximity.

The AvTech students are great fun to work with! A few days ago, we were discussing metrics and talked about estimating distances. The girls guessed the distance to the picnic tables when walking over for lunch, and then they paced off the distance marching forward silently as a very determined group! The estimates were amazingly close and you can imagine the loud whoops of delight when the estimates and the measurements came within a few metres of each other!

At an active and fast-paced operation like WAASPS / MoM / AvTech Academy, junk easily accumulates, and it’s tough to keep the place clean and tidy and de-junked. AvTech students are (almost!) always willing, enthusiastic and smiling when we call on them to help out!

There is much work to do around the airfield and things break a lot in the harsh conditions of strong sunlight, humidity, rainstorms, insects, plus general wear and tear. When the tractor used for mowing the runway recently ran out of fuel, I had to spend an hour bleeding the air out of the system before it ran properly. Plumbing is a constant problem, and I’ve blogged previously about the fun and games we have with imported fittings! The current bane of my life is getting some cellular modems to work in the data centre. Our internet access is reasonable reliable but somewhat slow, and so everything takes that much longer. Other related tasks include getting computers with odd operating systems to work on the network, and getting that wireless printer to work with all the student computers.
Keeping up with e-mail, writing blogs and doing administrative work means that I spend a surprising amount of time on my computer. We’re building a bit more structure around the AvTech Academy programme with additional documentation of the academic and practical training – that means more typing!

Every night I do a quick check of the hangars and workshops when I turn off our trusty generator soon after 20:00. Since it’s located in the complex of buildings on the far side of the field, this entails a short walk across the runway in the dark, and I have a fond hope that I’ll spot the snakes with my flashlight before they decide that they don’t like me. If it’s been pouring rain (we’ve had a lot recently), I get a bit more exercise plus muddy shoes, and walk the long way around the end of the runway to avoid spoiling the soft runway surface..

You see, there is no rest for the wicked (or anyone else for that matter). There is always so much to – plus we have those almost weekly and not-so-much-fun trips to Accra which consume a whole day and which I’ll ignore in today’s blog. With all that goes on, I’m always thrilled if I manage to get in the odd bit of time in an airplane!

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