Almost an hour’s drive from Ghana’s capital city Accra and just 30km south of the Akosombo Dam at the Kpong Airfield is where WAASPS is located. It is the leading center for light aviation in West Africa. This is also where Patricia Mawuli Nyekodi, a 22-year-old plies her trade as a pilot and plane builder.
Patricia’s fascination with planes started while in school, seeing planes from the airfield fly past and wondering what it was all about.
After graduating from Senior High School in Home Economics and waiting for results she challenged herself to visit the airfield and get herself busy. There she helped the boys clear the bush for a start and got her breakthrough when one of the boys was caught stealing and was sacked immediately. While working on her usual duty of weeding bushes around the airfield, she saw some of her colleagues putting wings on a plane. Thinking they could do with a pair of hands, she went nearer, watched and repeated the same thing. Having surprised her colleagues, they asked if she had done it before, she retorted back by saying she learns by doing.
Hence, her story begins with building planes,putting together about 80% of the plane at the Kpong Airfield. First an interest was built, talking to people at WAASPS and being introduced to flying in mid-air by a colleague. From then on learning to fly took 6 months of training starting with SS Falcon and now flying the CH701 built on Rotax engines.
Another fascinating story about Patricia is what she does with her expertise. As a volunteer pilot for Medicine on the Move, a humanitarian aviation logistics provider, she flies frequently across Ghana.
Medicine on the Move was set up to meet the needs of the people who don’t have access to medical facilities especially in the remote areas. While in such places, residents are educated on healthy lifestyle and also taken through basic health checks by medical personnel on board. Villages like Battorkope,about 30 minutes’ flight from the Kpong Airfield with the nearest health center about 100kms away has benefited from services such as reliefs when flooding sets in during the rainy season. Helping to repair broken boreholes,distribution of clothing, sanitary towels to enables girls get back to school etc. Such services have proven invaluable in areas virtually cut-off from essential services.
Patricia’s story as a aeronautical engineer- an ambitious one at that is inspiring. Training provided by WAASPS did not end there but also took her to Austria where after learning the practical aspects of maintaining Rotax engines she is the only female black person to have undertaken the course worldwide, coming fourth in the final exam.
In an interview with the AfricaWacth magazine she sheds light on how Ghana can take advantage to become the aviation hub of West Africa with increased support for the WAASPS and the Kpong Airfield. For now, her exploits has convinced the Austrian government to provide money to train more young ladies to work on Rotax engines. However, funding sources will need to be diversified to promote sustainability.
Ambitious Patricia has set her eyes on becoming the first black woman to fly across the Atlantic. With the requisite funding and support- she might just fly over the sun.
Editor’s Note: This was first published in Spanafrica.