The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has warned airline owners and pilots of severe weather conditions that could pose as threat to safe flights in the weeks ahead following the onset of the harmattan season.
A statement by the NCAA spokesman, Mr.Sam Adurogboye urged pilots to obtain weather forecast from the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) and adhere strictly to forecasts that suggests adverse weather conditions from harmattan dust haze could be hazardous to flight, crew and passengers.
The NCAA said the warning had become important as harmattan is known to pose an obvious threat to aircraft particularly in areas of challenging terrains due to low visibility. “NIMET has reported that the prevailing weather condition is likely to herald a long and severe dust haze in the months ahead and pilots should note that air-to-ground visibility may be considerably reduced due to the dust haze,” Adurogboye said.
The dust haze is a dry and dusty wind that blows southwards from the Sahara across Nigeria during the months of November to March.
The effect of the dust and sand stirred by the wind is known as Harmattan Dust Haze.
Adurogboye also said airports visibility may fall below the prescribed minima and in severe conditions the dust haze can blot out runways, the markers and airfield lightings over wide areas. “This makes visual navigation extremely difficult or impossible and resultantly, where visibility falls below the prescribed weather minima, flight operations are expected to be delayed, diverted or outrightly cancelled,” Adurogboye said.
“Hence, all pilots are obliged to exercise maximum restraint especially when severe weather condition is observed or reported by NIMET.
“Pilots should obtain adequate departure, en route and destination weather information and briefing from NIMET prior to flight operations at all the airports.
“The Flight Crews/ Operators and Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) should ensure adherence to aerodrome operating minima.
“Airline operators are therefore advised to ensure necessary measures are put in place to manage the effects of flight delays or cancellations on their passengers,” Adurogboye added.