The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in conjunction with the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has lowered minimum visibility for takeoff and landing of flights for 18 airports which have improved navigational aids, including Performance Based Navigation (PBN) and other equipment that enhance visibility during inclement weather.
This new minimum visibility would take effect from thursday.
Before now, the average minimum visibility was 800 metres below which flights were not allowed to operate to the airports, but now flights can operate when visibility is about 150 meters, depending on the available navigational aids.
The implication of this is that flights that were hitherto stopped from operating to airports when the visibility were below 800 metres can now operate; so even at the height of harmattan haze last December, airlines would have operated with the minimum visibility.
In the statement signed by NCAA spokesman, Sam Adurogboye, the regulatory authority said it carried out a review of Aerodrome Operating Weather Minima for 18 airports in Nigeria in recognition of improvements in visual and navigational aids within the affected airports.
NCAA said the review was in compliance with the provision of Part 8 of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARs Part 8), and in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Doc.9365.
“In this review, the Regulatory Authority took cognisance of improvements in visual and navigational aids within the affected airports. The reviewed Aerodrome Operating Minima would serve to enhance the operating capacity of the aerodromes. This is due to the fact that it will avail the operators with improved minima for low visibility operations,” the regulatory authority said.
According to the review, the landing minima specified for all the 18 airports were determined based on applicable criteria as defined in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) regulations and these includes all relevant amendments, as well as available navigational facilities, including Instrument Landing System, Voice Omni directional Radio Range and Distance Measuring Equipment (ILS,VOR/DME, etc) or PBN Navigational Specification (RNAV/GNSS).
“On the other hand, the reviewed operating minima provided for a performance based takeoff minima for the affected aerodromes in Nigeria is determined by available visual aids for takeoff. These are Runway Centre Lights, Touchdown Zone lights, Runway Edge Lights, Threshold Lights, Runway End Lights and Runway Surface Markings.
The 18 aerodromes where the operating minima and takeoff minima have been reviewed are Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Dutse, Eket and Enugu. Others are Gombe, Ilorin, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Owerri, Sokoto, Uyo, Yola and Zaria,” the statement said.
NCAA said the last time weather minima were actually reviewed was in 1983, but a semblance of revision undertaken in 1993 only stated that the takeoff minima shall be equal or greater than landing minima at all airports.
“This is to allow for an air return to the same airport should there arise an emergency,” NCAA said.
“However, this present review allows for takeoff as low as 150 metres Runway Visual Range (RVR). While some airports in the country with Category Two Instrument Landing Systems (ILS Cat II) can permit landing with 300 metres Runway Visual Range (RVR).
“Before this review, the lowest visibility with Category Two ILS in the nation’s airports was 800 metres/550 RVR (Runway Visual Range). Based on the review, the following airports now have ILS Cat II approach and landing minima, Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, Kaduna, Ilorin, Gombe, Owerri, Sokoto, Uyo, Yola, Dutse, Calabar and Enugu,” the regulatory body said.
NCAA said the implementation of these revised aerodrome operating minima (both takeoff and landing) shall be based on compliance with applicable Standard Operating Procedures for Low Visibility Operations at the affected airports, adding that this is executed by Flight Crew, Air Traffic Controllers (ATC), Aerodrome Operators and the Meteorological Agency.
“To ensure the seamless operation of these revised minima, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET) shall continue to ensure prompt and regular provision of required meteorological information. These will include flight visibility and Runway Visual Range (RVR) values to all ATC units in the airports. Thus NiMET and NAMA shall ensure constant updating of the Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) with the available RVR values as appropriate.
All airlines, Aerodrome Operators and Air Navigation Service Providers are required to ensure adequate training of their personnel and flight crew that would be involved in low visibility operations. The Air Navigation service provider is expected to ensure regular flight calibration of all available navigational aids. This is to ensure safe and efficient flight operations, especially during low visibility operations,” the statement also said.
The agency added that with this review it has provided a pragmatic solution to the incessant flight delays and cancellations occasioned by inclement weather, noting that it is expected that passengers can now heave a sigh of relief as their travel plans would now be in real time.