Patricia Mawuli is a certified pilot, aircraft engineer and the only African woman qualified to build Rotax engines – which are used to fly light aircraft. She now helps run the Aviation and Technology Academy Ghana (AvTech), some 50km (30 miles) north-east of Ghana’s capital, Accra.
It is based at Kpong, one of the busiest private airfields in West Africa. AvTech’s planes are hired for tasks such as spraying farms, aerial photography and the distribution of aid. Private flying lessons are also available, and the money from these lessons fund the training of local girls and women.
Jonathan Porter is the British owner of AvTech, an engineer and flying instructor known locally as “Captain Yaw”. He moved to Ghana, shipping over his light aircraft in a container – with the aim of using light aviation to improve the lives of people in rural impoverished communities.
Lydia Wetsi and Juliet Kruuwa, two of AvTech’s students, are taught everything there is to know about light aircraft – from building them to flying them. At the end of their four-year training course, they will have earned an internationally-recognised qualification.
Lydia Wetsi, who has not had the use of her right arm since birth, once planned to be a hairdresser – until she got the chance to go up in a plane. Now her dream is to be a pilot – and to fly to rural communities to teach basic health care to children. She gets her wings in two years’ time.
Patricia Mawuli has been fascinated by planes ever since she was a child. She saw aircraft flying over Africa’s largest man-made Lake Volta, where her father was a fisherman, and used to shout at them, asking them to bring her family things.
Five years ago, Ms Mawuli was in this field removing tree stumps and helping to create Kpong’s two grass runways. She was so enthralled to be so close to the planes she had seen all her life that she persuaded “Captain Yaw” to train her.
The AvTech academy pays the students a stipend during their training, and guarantees them a job either in its Kpong workshop or associated companies.
AvTech’s flying girls and women are real pioneers in Ghana, a country where there are very few female pilots – and they have the added benefit of being able to build and maintain their own aircraft. (Photos and text by the BBC’s Sammy Darko)