Nigerian airlines have lost revenues projected to amount to millions of naira due to flight cancellations, delays and aircraft damage due to bad weather.
Airlines said the rainy season this year was relatively longer than in the past years and was characterised by thunderstorm and low-level wind shear, which forced the operators to suspend some flights and delay others. Earlier in the year the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) had predicted that this year’s rainy season would be longer, noting that there would be heavy flooding and thunderstorm.
THISDAY gathered that one of the major operators had an aircraft damaged by lightening, so the management decided to ground it and a large body aircraft narrowly escaped damage when lightning struck at the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMIA), Lagos, creating a crater on the tarmac near where the aircraft was parked.
Corporate Affairs Manager of Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa, told THISDAY, that bad weather has affected the airline’s operations because it in some occasions to delay flights.
He said the management of the airline accurately followed weather’s idiosyncrasies to ensure that its takes the right decision at any time.
“Weather sometimes affect on time performance and as a safety conscious airline, we rely on a good weather report to fly and also ensure the passengers are comfortable and do not experience discomfort in case of meeting the bad weather en-route.
“Sometimes flights are delayed till the weather gets better and some passengers also get agitated. We try our best to also enlighten them and most are beginning to understand these issues. Irrespective, our on-time performance record has been good and we hope to maintain it,” Ezenwa said.
A major operator told THISDAY that aircraft are fortified against lightening but not all aircraft are fortified equally, so in ordering a new aircraft an operator must take cognizance of peculiar issues of weather and ensure that the aircraft is built with the ability to resist such natural phenomenon.
“We live in the tropical region where there is heavy lightening because we are very close to the equator. There is lightning and thunder resistant instrument installed in every aircraft called lightning rods and lightening arrester.
“There are about three whiskers in Bombardier CRJ 900 but we requested the manufacturer to add two more. Bombardier has a net of thunder arresters on its whole body, which helps it to resist lightening.
“One day the one of the Bombardier aircraft was struck while airborne and the pilot communicated the incident but because of the fortification, nothing happened to the aircraft. So for us operating in the tropical zone we have to take extra measure to fortify our aircraft against lightning and thunderstorm.
“This is the advantage when you order your own aircraft some of these things can be custom made to suit your operational environment,” the operator said.
The spokesman of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Sam Adurogboye, told THISDAY in Lagos, that the regulatory authority was aware of the vagaries of weather this year and noted that the agencies warned airlines and pilots at the onset of the rainy season that this year there would be prolonged rainfall and accompanying bad weather.
“We were aware. We issued a statement early in the year. We sensitised everybody. Weather forecast these days is accurate and that is very good for us so we were prepared and nobody was caught unaware. Weather is a natural phenomenon, which you cannot stop but you can take precautionary measures,” Adurogboye said.
THISDAY also gathered that some airlines were forced to cut down their flight schedules due to bad weather, which became more frequent in July and continued till the end of October.
Although it is hoped that the inclement weather will abate but there are indications that it will continue this November in some parts of the country while airlines will again brace for harmattan season, which would also cause disruptions in flight operations.