NCAA Warns Pilots, Airlines on Harmattan Haze


•Alerts travellers of possible flight disruption

Chinedu Eze

Few weeks to the end of the year, known for dry and dusty wind that reduces visibility, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has warned pilots and airlines to strictly abide by weather reports in order to fly safely.

The regulatory authority issued the advisory circular to intimate pilots, operators and other stakeholders about dust haze, known as harmattan and safety approach to adopt.

NCAA said in a statement yesterday by its spokesman, Sam Adurogoye, that “this Advisory Circular AC: NCAA-AEROMET-28 dated November 12, 2019 is intended to alert pilots to the hazards associated with dust haze which is a dry and dusty wind that blows south from the Sahara across Nigeria.
“This situation is expected to persist till March 2019.”

The agency said the advisory was in line with the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET)’s position in its Seasonal Rainfall Prediction Bulletin-2019, which noted that the cessation of the rainy season is predicted from mid-October (in the Northern part) to early December 2019 (in the Southern part).

“Pilots/operators are therefore directed to note the following hazards and operational problems forthwith: air-to-ground visibility may be considerably reduced due to dust haze; aerodrome visibility may fall below the prescribed operating minima and in severe conditions, dust haze can blot out runways, markers and airfield lightings over wide areas making visual navigation extremely difficult or impossible,” NCAA stated.
It also warned that flights are bound to be delayed, diverted or cancelled where terminal visibility falls below the prescribed aerodrome operating minima.

“On the other hand, enumerated below are series of responsibilities for pilots, operators and air traffic controllers: pilots shall exercise maximum restraint when severe weather condition is observed or forecast by NIMET; flight crews/operators and air traffic controllers (ATC) shall ensure adherence to aerodrome weather minima; all pilots shall obtain adequate departure, en-route, destination and alternate aerodromes weather information and briefing from the aerodrome meteorological office prior to flight operations; and operators shall ensure that necessary measures are put in place to cushion the effects of flight delays or cancellations on their passengers,” NCAA said.

The agency added that it expected strict compliance from all stakeholders as violation of the advisory would be viewed seriously.

NCAA had earlier warned pilots and airline operators to be wary of bad weather and attendant thunderstorms.
The previous weather alert was in lieu of the rainy season and the need to exercise what the agency had described as “extreme caution during flight operations.”

The rainy season, which is torrential, is prevalent in the Southern and Northern parts of Nigeria. It is usually accompanied by severe thunderstorms, which could impact the safety of flight operations.

There are many other hazardous weather occurrences such as severe turbulence, microburst or low level wind-shear and occasionally hail events are bound to affect air navigation.
The apex regulatory authority had directed pilots to ensure utmost restraint whenever adverse weather is observed or forecast by NIMET.