By Chinedu Eze
As the harmattan season approaches with its weather challenges, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has warned pilots and airline operators to observe safety precautions in line with Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARs) during flight operations in adverse weather conditions.
This warning was contained in an advisory circular with reference number AC: NCAA-AEROMET- 26: to all pilots and airline operators signed by the Director General of the authority, Capt Muhtar Usman yesterday.
The spokesman of the agency, Sam Adurogboye, said this circular became imperative as the rainfall cessation would likely herald a long and severe dust haze (harmattan) in the months ahead.
“With this information, pilots are expected to be cautious and uphold Standard and Recommended Practices (SARPs) while conducting flights during hazardous weather associated with dust haze at this period.
“This haze comes with – a dry and dusty wind that blows southwards from the Sahara across Nigeria in the months of November to March. Consequently, pilots should note that air-to-ground visibility may be considerably reduced due to the dust haze,” Adurogboye explained.
NCAA also noted that during this period, aerodrome visibility might fall below the prescribed minima and in severe conditions; dust haze could blot out runways, the markers and airfield lightings over wide areas, warning that this makes visual navigation extremely difficult or impossible.
“However, where visibility falls below the prescribed weather minima, flight operations are expected to be delayed, diverted or out rightly cancelled,” NCAA said.
The regulatory authority therefore directed that pilots are obliged to exercise maximum restraint especially when severe weather condition is observed or forecasted by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (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 crew/ operators and Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) should ensure adherence to aerodrome operating minima.
“Operators are therefore advised to ensure necessary measures are put in place to cushion the effects of flight delays or cancellations on their passengers in accordance with Nig. CARs, Part 19. All passengers are therefore required be patient, understanding and exhibit exemplary conduct during flight delays and cancellations as safety is paramount in flight operations,” said.
It also urged industry stakeholders to ensure strict compliance with this advisory circular as the authority would view any infraction very seriously.