With your help the people of West Africa have "a chance, not only to change their own lives and their own destinies, but to change the future of an entire generation".

Monday, November 22, 2010

Aid to Battorkope

Submitted by Jonathan Porter
For the past few weeks we have been desperately trying to fly into Battorkope. Sadly, the rising water had covered our airstrip and made a water landing more dangerous than ever - to the point of being impossible.

It is a challenging observation that flooded lands are not suitable for amphibian aircraft operations - due to the unknown hidden dangers below the surface and the massive increase in debris floating upon the surface. Add to that the fact that you cannot beach - for there is no beach - the water has moved half a kilometre up the bank, and now the trees are mid trunk in water - so you cannot get anywhere safe to moor up the aircraft.

The only option is to land at large and then to canoe ashore, but that means that the aircraft cannot be left out there. So, the pressure for a 4 seat Amphibian grows. In recent days a 4 seat would have been fantastic. We could even have landed, launched an inflatable dingy and then the aircraft take off leaving the dingy crew to row ashore with aid. Sadly, two seat aircraft do not have that lifting capacity, happily, our four seat aircraft (CH801) is nearing completion... slowly (funds constrained).

Under the circumstances, Paul offered his land-cruiser for the short trip. Of course, it is only 20minutes in a plane each way... so, with the land-cruiser we left the airfield at 09:00, arrived in Battorkope after 13:00 and after a brief aid visit and talks to the kids, got back to the airfield after dark, at nearly 19:00.... clearly, air is better than ground. Add to that the sheer exhaustion from the road trip, and it really was a massive effort - but one that has made a big difference in a lot of lives.

Audrey and Patricia took the rear seat, after the girls had loaded T shirts, books, seeds, etc. into the back of the Toyota Tank. Paul at the helm and Capt. Yaw riding shotgun, it was a beautiful ride, bumpy, dangerous in parts, but beautiful. This really is a magnificent country - and the route we took is one never taken by visitors - all their loss! Ingrid had decided that our expedition needed sustenance. We all love Ingrid - for she packed boiled eggs, German bread style sandwiches with precious sausage meat hand carried from Switzerland - and a tube of magnificent mustard. Much as we enjoyed this feast, the village we were headed to has lost all of its crops and is down to living on fish, fish and fish. A sharp contrast from our breakfast, eaten in the wonderful relief of an air-conditioned vehicle - we really have nothing to complain about, do we..

We were greeted by the outpouring of the masses from the school. Little faces beaming, slim little legs wriggling and jumping as the children's expectations maximised at the sight of the white supply vehicle parking in the school yard.

Before we provided any materials or talks, we asked to see the damage from the floods. All of us had our breath taken away by the magnitude of the devastation. Over 100 people are homeless, living under the skies at night, thankful that the rainy season is over. No lives have been lost, but livelihoods are in, for us at least, shatters. ALL of their hand cleared, hand ploughed and hand managed farmland is gone, under water, wasted. All of the Moringa trees planted after our recent visit, drowned and destroyed, all of the groundnut crop rotten, all of the cassava soaking under several feet of water, all of the rice fields, fortunately harvested, soaked and not available to plant for the next season. Homes, beautifully crafted from mud blocks, dissolving in the murky swirls of the Lake. Thatched roofs floating by signals of another lost home. Stick structures that once made the basis of a homestead, stand isolated far away in the water. Borehole pumps, sources of clear water - are now inaccessible, under water of a non-potable nature. At least some are still above the water line, but how polluted the water coming out is, well, we assume it is contaminated with the way the water is, and so advise them to boil all water. Sadly, the words are lost on the ears of those whom hear, it will need to be repeated - and soon. (Audrey is trying to get a typhoid and Hep A vaccine for all of the village, and of course the risk of Cholera is high... so many challenges for such a group, most of which they are blissfully unaware of)

If that scene shocks you, the next one should shock you more - and make you smile.
Children, smiling, happy and glad to be alive, playing on the boats now moored next to their homes instead of fifteen minutes walk away. Women cooking what they have, offering you a little as you walk past, their smiles as wide open as their hearts. Goats drinking from the edge of the water, whilst a young child taps them on their backs. The child is wearing used clothing, but is loved and cared for as best as possible by parents who know no different than the daily struggle that just got a bit harder. Struggling to survive is a practical motto for many in West Africa. This village is not as badly affected as others, but it is 'our' village, and we need to make this 'alpha village' a success for others to follow. Thankfully, we have support from the chief. We walk to meet the elderly chief, always dressed in what looks to some like ' fancy pyjamas' , but are really hand made clothes of great quality, and he welcomes us, as usual, as if we are royalty; he opens his village to us and then accompanies us to the school rooms, where today's events will take place.

We start by providing supplies. Thanks must go to Liebherr, Expresso, Femare, Matthew and WAASPS for their support in this event, as well as a BIG thank you to Paul for his part in getting us here (and being the photo-man).
I start with the replacement Moringa Seeds, Matthew gave up his stock that he had ready to sell upon hearing of the need. Thanks to Matthew they now have more seeds than before, and he included some literature, thanks to support from Keith at Anamed in Germany.

James, our resident volunteer and teacher in the village, often has problems communicating, so, we handed onto him a solar panel to charge his mobile phone. Thanks go to Yasser, who had kindly given us the kit from his last trip to Europe, but we felt that James's need exceeded ours.

We then provided items for the school, games, books, colouring pencils, paper, pencils and rulers - items that can help to stimulate creativity - a much needed resource for the development of this community - something to take you out of the day-to-day repetition of survival.

Expresso T Shirts, excess from the Air Show, made their way to provide additional clothing for children in the school, James was put in charge of making sure that the supply met the most need - a trust that is necessary in this line of work.

Of course, the trip would not be complete without a ' Femcare Drop' , although scheduled for last month, the floods had kept the supplies in our stores at Kpong.

Today, we brought supplies to see the village through to the new year. Patricia and Audry inspired the menstruating and soon to be menstruating girls in school to take hygiene more seriously, and to use the pads to increase their school attendance. It was sad that the older girls did not attend school as we had hoped, perhaps our reasoning about menstruation being a casue for drop out as the girls age is evidenced here. Certainly, there were plenty of older girls and women who crowded the windows pleading with us ' Give us a pad, please' . But we could not. They would have to continue to use the ' amoise' or rag system, for our support is limited, as are their funds. A months supply of pads is around $2 - a small fortune for many here.

Whilst The Lady-Mommers did their thing, Paul and I did a special event for the boys and younger girls - it was not easy... less than a handful of the children can read - by that I mean ' read and understand what they have read' . I resorted to becoming an aeroplane, dodging my wings above and between the children. Words of encouragement were given to the chiefs, the children and the teachers - who's motivational level lies somewhere low, close to the centre of the earth. We try to encourage them, but it will also need additional visits.

James provided translation, since, although English is the official language of the country, there are still many who cannot speak or read it - hence the national papers and TV programmes are often produced in vain for those in the more rural parts. Those in the cities quickly forget the fates of those in the village... whether intentionally or through pressures of living the accelerated city life, these are still a forgotten people.

The drive back was sombre. Relieved only by the magnificence of the landscapes. So much to see, so many in need. Our fight will be ongoing for many generations to come, but we are at least fighting with the local population to win their battle for survival. Standing by them, visiting them as we can, each time lifitng another person mentaly and physically up that little bit more... for that is true development - we cannot do it for them, we must help them to help themselves.

We will try to supply some thick plastic for makeshift roofing for those without a home, some temporary relief whilst they form the mud-bricks to build new huts, clear bushland, and start again, in the middle of nowhere, a place that they call home.

I guess, having had a German breakfast, if is only right that, at the end of this day, it is really clear here that the German playwright Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) hit the nail on the head when he said ' If you fight you can lose... if you don't fight you have already lost... '

Fight on my friends in Battorkope, for you are wining, and wining our hearts also, and, please, dear reader, help us to fight on... for the battle is hard, and if you are not yet fighting with us, help us now to win the battle - here in Battorkope and in the many other remote villages that are equally in need.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Education Day and Air Show in Ghana...

Submitted by Jonathan Porter
What a weekend... after having taken two CH701's around the country just two weeks ago, we then ran an education day - and an air show weekend!!! Errrr not like Sun n Fun nor like Oshkosh... more like.... well, I guess you will have to read on...

We live, work and operate in areas where light aviation is poorly understood (did I hear somebody in America or Europe say 'me too!' - well, think again!). I often say we are living in the 1930's with regards to light aviation acceptance - but rapidly moving up the decades through hard work, determination and a lot of awareness activities - and the help and support of you.

We opened the airfield at Kpong just five years ago - from scratch in the bush-lands of Ghana... and this is the fifth annual light aviation air show -or the biggest little air show in West Africa.

Education day was aimed at the young people, a day where they could talk to their corporate 'heroine', Patricia Mawuli Nyekodzi - who has shot to fame for building and flying aircraft in her country (with a little help from some friends). With the help of Theo Ago, an Air Traffic Controller from Accra, Paul Joosten from the mining industry, Captain Yaw and all the team that made it physically possible, we gave the children a chance to interact and to watch some practice routines for the air show.

Some of the children came from Battorkope, a village devastated by floods, and where $1 is an absolute fortune, others came from more 'relatively affluent' communities where it would $10 to make an absolute fortune... These kids, some dressed magnificently, others wear their tattered uniforms with tack stitches to 'smarten' them up for the day - but all proud to be present at this event - and all ready to clap and cheer for their sister, who only three and a half years ago still lived in a traditional hut with reed roof, no electricity and fetching water on her head each morning...

Two of our girls who we are training, Juliet and Lydia, took advantage of Paul's camera and posed in their new yellow T shirts we recently gave them . For Lydia it is a massive achievement to pose like this with her disability - and a great step forward to her recovery. Aeroplanes really are more than metal magic carpets - they are fantastic, almost surgical, tools for touching the hearts and minds of young and old alike.

Patricia had 'Dared to Dream' and this weekend was a weekend of inspiring the daring spirit of dreaming against the impossible. It was also a weekend of gaining public support for light aircraft, informing the general public about the potential, erasing some of the false rumours and moving steps closer to approvals for further operations.
We displayed our two X-Air Falcon primary trainers, although tube and cloth, they are very forgiving and with the high prop, less expensive when 'things go awry' in training people who may never have ridden a bicycle to fly. They are also great for giving 'first flights' in, forgiving and although a little odd to look at, they really do provide a safe training platform..

Of course, our workhorse aircraft are the Zenith birds, and they performed magnificently, blue and white 9G ZAC was flown by Dr Patrick Ata, the first Ghanaian to obtain the national pilots licence, and the first Ghanaian to own a CH701 (built by Patricia and the girls). Red and white 9G ZAF was flown by Martin Talbot, Patricia and Capt Yaw, depending on the display in hand.

Cross wind landings - and even some sudden wind direction change tailwind landings added to the skills demands...

Formation flights of each aircraft type and a four ship, with a remembrance day 'missing pilot' flight were all part of the weekends entertainment and education.

One of the displays was the 'communications cannister drop' and we did that in conjunction with express Telecom who gave three phones to be dropped and given to the public. The crowd loved it and once again our low-cost delivery system from the modified 701 demonstrated an ability unmatched in its class. Other sponsors include UT Bank, Wire Weaving Industries, Atlantic Group and the Business and Financial Times.

One of the show-stoppers every year is the landing on a land rover - we don't actually try to land - rather get the crowd excited about how precise you can be with flying. This year we ran two land rovers and slid an aircraft between them. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. It is a tricky manoeuvre, and one that we have grown over the five years - but it is a manoeuvre that gets people excited about the possibilities. Thanks go to the drivers for working to the radio calls of the pilot...

At the end of the weekends events, we are all happy that we have raised the tempo of light aviation, inspired a new generation of future pilots, lit the flame of hope amongst those in need and made great strides towards a brighter light aviation in West Africa.

What do you see when you look upwards... clouds or opportunities....One thing is for certain, I know what they will see now...but I also understand the responsibility that rests on our shoulders to provide all we can to meet those dreams and visions and to turn them into history. The number children who now want to be flying doctors and nurses is quite surprising, and incredibly inspirational, despite the challenges...

Thanks to all those who support what we do in West Africa...

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…