NCAA Cautions Pilots against Unfavourable Harmattan Weather

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FG fortifies security at airports after stowaway incident

By Chinedu Eze

To ensure continuous safe flight operations in Nigeria airspace and beyond, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has issued an advisory circular, and alerted pilots about the hazards associated with current harmattan dust haze prevalent in some part of the country.

 The circular, which has gone out to the industry, also offers guidance to help prevent incidents or accidents caused by such weather situation.

 The agency said the current circular is in line with the forecast earlier made by NIMET which indicated the occurrence of moderate to severe outbreaks of dust during the period of November 2016 to March 2017 in the country, predicting that it would on many occasions reduce horizontal visibility significantly.

In a statement signed by NCAA spokesman, Sam Adurogboye, the agency said it is pertinent to note that the effect of the harmattan is comparable to that of heavy fog which may considerably reduce air-to-ground visibility.

Similarly, aerodrome visibility may fall below the prescribed minima and in severe conditions dust haze could blot out runway,     markers and airfield lighting over wide areas making visual navigation extremely difficult or impossible.

Where terminal visibility falls below the prescribed weather minima, flights are bound to be delayed, diverted or cancelled, the circular further indicated.

“Pilots are therefore directed to observe the following forthwith: ensure that adequate departure, en – route and destination weather information and briefings are obtained from NIMET prior to flight operations; exercise maximum restraint when adverse weather is observed or forecast by NIMET and ensure that flight operations are scheduled with adequate input from NIMET to minimize delay or cancellation of flight operations,” the statement said.

While pleading with the travelling public for understanding, and not to be lawless should the situation arises that flights are to be delayed or cancelled, NCAA directs the flight crew to adhere strictly to the prescribed weather minima for each of the airports, as violation would be viewed seriously.

Meanwhile, iop security officials from the Nigeria Air Force (NAF), the Department of State Services (DSS), the Nigeria Police and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) Aviation Security (AVSEC) at the weekend held an emergency meeting on how to fortify security at the nation’s airports.

THISDAY learnt that the federal government had ordered security upgrade at all airports, especially the international airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano and Enugu.

 Top security official told THISDAY yesterday that “we have set up a task force to upgrade security at the airports. We held an emergency meeting after the stowaway incident and we are reviewing activities of airport workers, especially at the airside of the airport and this include baggage handlers, security personnel, cleaners and others that have access to the sterile areas of the airports.”

Also, the acting General Manager, Corporate Affairs of FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, told THISDAY that the airside patrol has been intensified and all access points to the security restricted areas are now manned and properly controlled “to ensure unauthorised persons do not gain access to the airside.

“Airlines have been informed to take seriously the issue of guarding their aircraft, especially at night. The AVSEC is on top of the situation.”

At a breakfast meeting held after the report of the stowaway incident in Lagos by aviation security experts, the Chief Executive Officer of Centurion Securities and former Commandant of Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), accused NCAA of being responsible for the security infractions at the airports

He therefore urged the regulatory authority to immediately review all the security profiles of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMIA), Lagos.

Ojikutu noted that the frequent stowaway incidents were giving Nigeria a bad name in aviation circles and that the frequency of its occurrence speaks a lot about the nature of security at Nigerian airports.

He lamented that there were too many entrances to Nigerian airports, which, according to him, people use to gain access to the airside of the airports and the aircraft, regretting that most Nigerian airports don’t have perimeter fence.

However, spokesman of NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, agreed that stowaway incidents border on laxity of security apparatus at the airports, but it is not one agency’s responsibility to protect the airports. It is a collective responsibility.

“All agencies in aviation and, of course, airline operators have roles to play. It is an acceptable fact that safety of an aircraft lies with the owner and without shifting any blame, aircraft is parked at the airport owned and maintained by FAAN to which parking fees are paid by the airlines. It is true NCAA carries oversight functions but roles are clearly delineated,” Adurogboye said.