From mud huts to cockpits
By Melissa Pemberton
By Melissa Pemberton
May 5, 2011 – Flying in West Africa probably isn’t the first thing that
comes to mind when you think of general aviation, but to Jonathan
Porter, this is aviation’s new frontier!
|M.O.M.'s Zenith 701 overflying the airstrip built by a farming and fishing village in Ghana that was destroyed by the floods.
This winter, my husband and I decided to travel to Kpong Airfield in West Africa to meet Patricia Mawuli 23, the first female Ghanaian to receive the Ghanaian National Pilots License through Medicine On the Move (M.O.M.).
|Jonathan and Patricia showing
the AvTech students at Kpong
Airfield in Ghana the new Air
Ambulance Zenith 801 engine.
M.O.M. was started by Jonathan, a Brit with a dream of general aviation in West Africa. Patricia’s story is one of advancing from mud hut to pilot, cutting sticks to building light aircraft, and now, teaching other young Ghanaian women to learn how to fly!
Rex and I had our first real taste of West African aviation when we went in search of a village that we would take the floatplane into later that week. Several minutes after taking off from Kpong Airfield’s grass strip we were over the vast rain forest circumnavigating the world’s largest man made lake! Lake Volta is both the key to the future of Ghana through electricity and power and the source of water born disease and flooding that destroys homes and farms.
Aside from the occasional mud hut village and hand carved wooden fishing canoe, we were on our own. With nothing but a copy of a 30-year-old map and a GPS with Kpong airfield’s coordinates keyed in to get us home, there were no reliable navigation facilities available to our little plane. With the rapid changing winds and weather it is VFR day flights only and we are our own search and rescue!
|Melissa Pemberton flies with an AvTech student who will visit Oshkosh in July.
Medicine On the Move’s mission is to take young girls like Patricia and her students and to train them to return to the villages from which they came to teach first aid and bring education to places where there is no road access. Lake Volta provides an air highway to millions of small communities using a Zenith 801 floatplane. Jonathan, Patricia and the MOM team are changing lives in West Africa, one flight at a time!
Visit www.medicineonthemove.org for more information.
Melissa Pemberton, a full time Air Show performer, and her husband Rex Pemberton, the youngest Australian to climb Mt. Everest and the 7 Summits, are creating a documentary on M.O.M.