NCAA Warns Pilots, Airlines over Thunderstorm

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Chinedu Eze

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has warned pilots and airline operators to exercise extreme caution during flight operations as rainy season sets in with attendant thunderstorm.

The regulatory body explained that the rainy season, which is torrential, is prevalent in the southern and northern parts of Nigeria, is usually accompanied by severe thunderstorms, which could threaten safety of flight operations.

The warning is coming at the time aviation stakeholders have called on the federal government to provide funds for the acquisition and installation of critical navigation facilities to enhance flight operations even at adverse weather conditions.

The NCAA explained that there are many other hazardous weather occurrences such as severe turbulence, microburst or low-level wind shear and occasionally hail, which are bound to affect air navigation.

The regulatory authority directed all pilots to recourse to utmost restraint whenever adverse weather is observed or forecast by Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET).

It added that pilots and flight crews shall mandatorily obtain adequate, en route and destination weather information and briefing from NiMET Aerodrome Meteorological offices before flight operations.

“In the same vein, Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) and Flight Crews/Operators shall ensure total compliance with all aerodromes operating minima. It is quite important for all intending air travellers and airline operators to note that in line with Standard and Recommended Practices (SARPs), Air Traffic Controllers (ATC), may temporarily close airspace during inclement weather conditions. These are adverse weather conditions such as severe thunderstorms, squall lines microburst or low level wind-shear as observed or forecast by NiMET”, the authority said.

The NCAA said it expected strict adherence to this directive to ensure the safety of air transportation in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, aviation stakeholders have called on the federal government to provide funds for the acquisition and installation of critical navigation facilities to enhance flight operations even at adverse weather conditions.

The stakeholders who made the call to the federal government, said it was very critical that navigational aids are upgraded and obsolete ones replaced to enable the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), deliver its services according to global best practices.

Speaking during the second quarter Business Breakfast Meeting organised by Aviation Roundtable, a group of industry think-tanks, immediate past rector of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Samuel Caulcrick, explained that globally, countries are reluctant to privatise the air navigation because private sectors are profit-driven, while air navigation is about safety.

He argued that it was important that enough personnel are trained in air navigation, which the facilities at the airports are modernised.

“We need to dedicate a certain sum of amount to aviation development. Over the years, NCAT had placed so much emphasis in flying school and this is gradually changing to give equal attention to air traffic controllers, engineers and other aviators,” he added.

Also speaking at the event, the President of Aviation Roundtable Safety Initiative (ART), Gabriel Olowo, urged the federal government to scrap the office of Minister of Aviation, saying the industry would perform better as a unit under the Ministry of Transportation.

He said whether senior or junior cabinet member, the aviation industry does not require a Minister.

During his opening remarks on the theme, ‘Safety Challenges in Air Navigation and Air Traffic Service Delivery in Nigeria,’ Olowo explained that having a separate aviation ministry or minister is a burden on the agencies.

The agencies in aviation are the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which is the overall regulatory authority, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Nigeria College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), among others.

Olowo insisted that the aviation industry doesn’t require a minister, saying without a minister, the heads of the agencies would be empowered to do their jobs effectively and efficiently.

“Aviation ministry is a clog in the wheel of progress,” he declared, adding, “We want aviation like it is done in other countries as a department under the Ministry of Transportation.

Olowo said the aviation industry has suffered from lack of plans in the past, saying there is the challenge of planning into the future.