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Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Tale of Sir Flaperon

Submitted by Marcel Stieber

One of our previous blog posts hinted at a four-legged creature that was joining our team. I'm pleased to announce a new member of the Kpong Airfield family: Flaperon! Flaperon is our newly rescued Red Doberman dog that decided to adopt the airfield a few weeks ago. His name comes from the combined control surface on the CH701 aircraft wing and is also nicely descriptive of his flappy ears! We found him perchance in the water tower earlier this month; weak, dehydrated, and only a few hours from death on the rare day that our water went out. Over the past two weeks we've gently brought him back to life with lots of care and attention. He's been getting regular meals several times per day and is now barely showing his ribs anymore. He started as a bag of bones and skin and is now starting to look like a healthy little dog! We've had him on a course of antibiotics, dewormed him, bathed him, and brushed him frequently. Every day he looks a little stronger and becomes ever more sociable with the team. Flaperon is the calmest dog I've met with a demeanor more that of a cat. He loves getting stroked and brushed and has been following me around all day as I work about the airfield. In the evenings he follows me to turn off the generator and then back to lay on the sidewalk in front of my room. At lunchtime he comes and sits with the team at the tables, enjoying the company and the tasty aromas from the kitchen.

Flaperon is a funny dog and since he's a rescue, we're very weary of his past and any abuse he may have had from his previous owners. Up until the last few days he was not very approachable and would always lower his head and back away when you came to stroke him. He's already gained massive confidence and will answer to his name and come trotting up to you for a stroke with a big smile! He really has taken charge of the workshops and walks around with his supervisor hat on protecting and monitoring any activities at the airfield!

So for the time being, Flaperon has become our hanger dog and roams about during the day. He spends his nights with the aircraft and the tools and provides some good security for the area. He needs a bit if training to not go running to the windsock to do his business and stay behind the hangers during flying ops, but with a bit of time and patience, we'll surely see him as a seasoned veteran of the airfield. The only thing that he's missing is a doggie-sized hi-vis vest!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Water run.....

Submitted by Marcel Stieber

For the first time in a long time we have had to fetch water for the site. The mains has stopped flowing for nearly 5 days and all of our reserves are used up.

Add to that the fact that fuel for the cars and generator went up 20% on Sunday and cooking gas (propane) went up 50% and you start to get the idea that we have a tough time coming up. The city is on load shedding with power outages several times per week. Although we generate our own power at Kpong it just went up 20% with the fuel prices. ..and there are rumours of another fuel shortage on the way.

Not to worry, things are still better than in the past a and we strive forwards with cheer.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Drill Baby Drill!

Submitted by Marcel Stieber

We recently got some new windows installed in the workshop building and I got a pleasant surprise (or shock, you might say...) when I saw the condition of the power drills that the workers had brought. The window men had two very nice Bosch Professional drills that both sadly lacked a plug on the end of their power cables. My personal favorite is seen in this photo having a 2m "extension cord" made from low-voltage speaker wire (rated well under the 240V it was carrying) twisted and electrical taped to the end of the cord. To top it all off, the speaker wire ends were then balled up and crammed into the power outlet for final use.

The electrical engineer in me cringed at the sight and the handyman in me jumped at the opportunity. Obviously the existing cords on the drills were not suitably long enough for their usual operations, so simple putting a plug on it was not the solution. Instead, I gathered up some spare power cable and crimped it to the existing cord along with some cable ties for strain-relief and electrical tape for protection. A new plug later, and the window men have a beautifully functioning long-lead power drill for their installation jobs. It sure is satisfying to help improve the safety and reliability of their equipment. The next day they brought another drill to fix (this time for a small fee) and told me of 12 others they have back at the shop in need of similar repair! I hope to hold a repair session for them soon so they learn how to fix the drills safely for themselves and then teach their friends to do the same. Every little step counts and helps to bring the ideas of risk and maintenance into everyday living.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Septic tank

Submitted by Marcel Stieber

As you saw the foundations going up for the Agric Building in previous blog. Now you can enjoy the accompanying photo journey of the new septic tank being built for the additional bathroom for the airfield in there. The masons have been "hard at work" over the last two weeks to prepare the hole and build the tank. You can see that the septic system is almost complete structurally, now we have to wait for the sporadic workers to pour the concrete slab for the base of the building and start working on the walls. In theory, the building could be completed up to to roofing trusses within 2 weeks. In practice, we will be sitting on "Ghana time" and at the perilous whims of concrete prices, roofing availability, and the ever decreased productivity of those workers that always want to receive their paycheck without actually working to earn it. And so we march boldly forward and hope for diligent workers and a reasonable timeline. Rest assured that you will be one of the first to see the completion of the building in the coming months.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Afram Plains

During our visit to the Afram Plains we took the opportunity to drop off some walking sticks and crutches to Confidence, the new Medicine on the Move liason person based within the district. Originally given to us by Deso UK in October, have held back items that we felt appropriate for the needs in the remote area of the Afram Plains.

Confidence is full of energy and ideas and will assist with coordination of arial supply drops later in the year.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wood and Chips

Submitted by Marcel Stieber

Mr Solo, our esteemed Master Carpenter, needed some hardwood boards cut for a project. Our equipment at the airfield is not quite powerful enough to handle the amazingly dense Odanter wood. So off we went on a trip to the local sawmill. An impressive building with a brand new roof, filled inside with saws, planers, joiners, and the lot. Not to mentioned the half-dozen workers milling about busily cutting wood and preparing materials for local construction projects.

It's honestly quite an impressive establishment, complete with lighting and an established electrical panel and fuse box! Sadly, as is often lacking, basic personal protective equipment (PPE) is nowhere to be found. None of the employees had eye or ear protection, not a glove in sight, and most importantly, no appropriate footwear. Flip flops are the closest thing to protective footwear that were worn. One man that arrived _removed_ his shoes at the door and proceeded to work at the table saw barefoot! Fortunately a fire extinguisher stands by the door to help with sawdust fires that are bound to happen amidst the piles of shavings throughout the shop.

We are again reminded that a little bit of training and knowledge goes a long way in protecting the lives and safety of everyone. At the airfield we have strict rules about footwear and PPE to help _prevent_ accidents and maintain a reputation and history of safety at our site. Maybe Mr Solo can speak with the manager about some improvements or maybe they will continue to test their luck into the future to avoid any major accidents.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Exhausting Repairs.....

Submitted by Marcel Stieber

Some things tire us, and some things are just exhausting. Broken exhaust pipes on the car do both! On a recent drive into Accra, we discovered an unpleasant putting of the engine that sounded like exhaust emitting from the engine compartment. A quick inspection on the side of the road had us knowing that a pipe joint just after the exhaust manifold had separated. This resulted in hot exhaust gases spewing through the engine compartment...not the ideal situation for our usual day or errands.

In surgery
Fortunately, we were close to one of the local towns that has a mechanic we had used before. He was not in, but one of his employees instructed us to go down the street to the "Otoo Exhaust Doctor". On the side of the road stood a small green shack with a precariously balanced acetylene tank out front and oxygen bottle leaned up inside. A few men were to the side busily fixing a radiator with a propane torch and some epoxy next to a rickety car ramp. We were met with a friendly smile by the owner who quickly encouraged us to drive the car up the ramp. A frightening idea given the skewed arrangement of metal parts that held the contraption together. After a short inspection and some careful personnel management, we succeeded in driving the car precariously onto the ramp.

Mr Otoo confirmed our suspicions with the broken exhaust pipe in the engine bay and to our amazement, jumped right under the ramp with his acetylene torch and proceeded to mend the pipe... in place! We were amazed. With a skillful touch of the acetylene torch, very aware of the heat shield around the part he was working on, "Doctor Otoo" managed to make a very nice and quick repair to the pipe in just 20 minutes! Service while you wait and at an excellent price!

It's really amazing to see the skill that finds its way onto the streets. Sadly, the safety training and realization of risk is not always present on the roadside. The "Doctor" welded with no eye protection or gloves. The ramp on which the car was perched could collapse at a moment's notice. And the call to his assistant for more gas, was met with a hearty shaking of the acetylene tank to get the carbine wet again, all while resting on the knob to open the pressure cap... With just a little bit of safety knowledge and understanding of the dangers of the equipment in use, skilled workers that are living on the edge could help move towards accident prevention. We're definitely glad the Doctor was in that day, his team made our day a success right from the start. Maybe if we leave an apple in the car every day, then we can keep the Doctor away!

She'll survive to drive another day thanks to to the good Dr

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Under pressure

Sometimes the pressure is just too much. In fact the water pressure has caused a lot of damage
since we got mains water last year.

Fortunately Jörg and George procured a pressure regulator and kindly donated it to the site at the end of last year.

This week we finally installed it and look forward to keeping the pressure under control.

Now. ... can we get something like this for the rest of what we do?

One strange thing happened on the day we installed this protective device. .. it is brown, has 4 legs, no tail, weighs around 10kg and was nearly dead in the water tower base... if it survives you will soon hear more!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Math Olympics

Submitted by Marcel Stieber

Last week, as the AvTech students finished their math quiz at the end of the day, they also got to share a very special moment with some students in California. 5th and 6th graders from Mr. Regan's class at Branch Elementary School had just finished participating in their very first National Skype Math Bowl, competing against schools from all across the USA. Our AvTech students got to join them in celebrating the event with a quick video Skype session live from Kpong Airfield. Branch Elementary School teamed up with Cal Poly University to use their computer lab in San Luis Obispo, California for the competition.

To test their skills, the AvTech students then posed a questions for the Math Bowl Participants: How many miles is it from San Luis Obispo to Kpong Airfield in Ghana? The answer was given as a product of 3 prime numbers: 89 x 43 x 2 = ??? that they had to calculate. For a short 30 seconds, the students in California scribbled on their note sheets and proudly raised they hands up with the answer: 7654 miles! Amazing! Several AvTech girls were there to greet the students and got to share in the excitement. It's really neat how we can use technology to enhance learning for our students on both sides of the globe. I'm sure that everyone that participated will be remembering this event for some time to come.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Bit by bit.......

A while back we were donated some trusses from an old building. As we are now working towards a place to keep and work on the tractors and implements needed to keep the airfield in good shape, we have spruced them up and got them ready for the roof.

I don't think that they will go up for a while - but they are ready, for the moment when we get the time and funds to complete the building. 

The success of our growth here has been in taking many different things and using them bit by bit, all the time with the bigger picture in our minds.

We have a BIG vision, with MANY facets, and bit by bit, by taking care of the small details such as cleaning up some old roofing trussed and painting them, keeping them in good condition, ready to use, we will succeed in the completion of this vision - and it will grow stronger as we learn each day.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

It all starts with the foundations...

Submitted by Marcel Stieber

Kpong Airfield is always under construction. Not a month goes by without some progress being made on some building on the site. Our newest undertaking for construction is the new Agric Building next to the 4 hanger bays. This building will be for all things agricultural. That means mowers, tractors, and tools will all be kept here, maintained, and otherwise cared for in their own area separate from the delicate aircraft. Once completed, the building will be a perfect place to work on the equipment out of the sun and store them under protection from the elements to prolong their life.

After some typical difficulties with labourers who did not labour and concrete that did not mix itself, we have finally seen some excellent progress on the foundations in the past week. The crew is now under careful oversight from our skilled Master Craftsman, Mr Solo, who is an amazing man that can do drawings and construction plans in his head, complete with dimensions! You can see the pillar bases and the wall foundations have been poured and over 500 6-inch blocks delivered ready for construction. With a lot of work and a little bit of luck, we will hopefully see the completion of this building in the coming month once funding for the roof and electrics are finalized.

Many buildings in Ghana are built without proper foundations or materials, often due to haste or lack of funding. Some of the recent building collapses in Accra show how critical it is that we build safely and carefully, especially when lives are at risk. At Kpong Airfield, we are especially aware of our construction methods and always make sure it is done right the first time. If funds and time do not allow us to do it right, then it does not happen then. Safety always comes first, and it all starts with making the right foundations.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Environment

Submitted by Marcel Stieber

Some things are just taken for granted in other parts of the world. Take for example stainless steel. Stainless steel was developed and designed to do just that, prevent stains from rust. High levels of chromium in the steel alloy prevent rust from forming by creating a layer of chromium oxide passivation. What really amazes me then is how my brand new Leatherman Knife managed to get surface rust within a few days of arriving in Ghana, despite being freshly oiled. It really is quite something to see how quickly a bit of heat and humidity can begin to wear on the simplest of things.

I was always amazed on my last visit how quickly the power outlets I installed in the workshop managed to corrode on the connections and how soon the light switches would need that extra flick to turn on. This time is no different.

One of the biggest environmental changes for me this time of year is the harmattan. Regular visitors to this blog will have read previous posts about this infamous dusty season. In the last few days, right after some rain cleaned away the dust, the harmattan is back in full force with the visibility as low as ever (often less than 3 km!). One of the noticeable results of this is the thin layer of dust on everything. Leaving your windows open at night for a nice evening breeze is complemented by a snowy dusting of bronze-colored dust in your room in the morning.

The harmattan also brings with it the golden sky. Blue skies and fluffy white clouds are a rarity this time of year. Instead we are treated with the brown haze that is similarly familiar to me from urban China and Southern California. Otherwise bland sunsets turn into shimmering golden spectacles as the light diffracts through the various layers in the atmosphere and ends in the thick lingering dusty skies with an orange glow. Some things in West Africa you never forget, these sunsets are definitely among them.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Pelly Pod progress

Work has begun on the aluminium prototype belly pod !

This is a massive step forward in the development and deployment of our future health education programmes.