Modernising Weather Equipment for Improved Air Safety

Chinedu Eze

One of the major challenges in sustaining and improving flight safety is to ensure that safety-critical equipment and facilities are replenished and mordernised.

Funding for this infrastructure has remained a protracted problem in Nigeria because of priority issues with government and competing needs, where limited resources are jostled for by projects that are programmed to be initiated or completed in various sectors of the economy.

In aviation, providing modern infrastructure for aeronautical services, landing aids, accurate weather prediction and other essential needs have remained a challenge to the industry.

But at the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET), progress is being made. Recently the management of the agency procured and installed seven automatic message dissemination platforms at Abuja, Kano, Lagos, Maiduguri, Kaduna, Enugu and Port Harcourt airports.

The Director-General, NiMET, Prof. Mansur Matazu, explained during the maiden edition of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) National Aviation Conference (FNAC) held recently in Abuja that the equipment would further enhance safety of humans and equipment in the industry and ensure accuracy in information dissemination.

Matazu in the paper, ‘Enhancing Aviation Safety for Sustainable Development: The Role of NiMET,’ said that the same automatic message dissemination platforms would be procured for Sokoto and Katsina airports in the coming months.

According to Matazu, NiMET also has upper air stations at Abuja, Enugu, Lagos, Kano, Maiduguri, Jos, Calabar and Yola.

He explained that the agency has also procured and installed 10 NiMet-Earth network lightening detecting and Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) stations in Abuja, Lagos, Benin, Sokoto, Kano, Maiduguri, Ilorin, Yola, Enugu and Port Harcourt airports.

AWOS is a fully configuration airport weather system that provides continuous, real time information and reports on airport weather conditions. 

NiMET, he explained further, has six radar stations in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Yola, Maiduguri, Kano and Lagos airports.

“Prevention of weather occurrences is beyond human’s technological thrust. It took scientists and industry experts a great deal of effort over many years to understand the complexity of many weather phenomenonslike windshear and others. Early warning and detection mechanisms have proven to be the only dependable solution to the hazards of weather and climate. 

“In NiMet we work round the clock to provide continuous weather information. This weather information is perishable and must be consumed at the right time. We therefore encourage all our stakeholders, especially pilots and the flying crews to take advantage of our products and services and ensure safety of lives and property at our airports and en-route destinations,” the director general said.

He also appealed to stakeholders in every spheres of the economy, especially aviation to take advantage of the agency’s mobile app and website for regular information on seasonal climate predictions, maintaining that this would go a long way to save unnecessary losses.

He explained that NiMet had moved from just generating forecasts to producing forecasts with implications.

“Our clients and stakeholders are not only foretold but also forewarned of likely impacts of the predicted weather and climate events. In aviation, weather and climate information provides a safe and safe way of executing our activities in order to minimise risks, save lives and avert losses,” he added.

In order to reduce the risk of negative weather phenomenon like low level windshear system and other possible moving weather system, NiMETinstalled critical equipment, which are very sensitive and capital intensive like Doppler radar system, Runway Visual Range (RVR) across all our 24 airports and specifically for the four major airports, we have independent weather forecast offices.

“Some of these instruments have sensors installed in them, even at airports that have perimeter fences, we have very serious challenges of vandalisation and I will give an example of this. Low Level WindshearAlert System (LLWAS) has eight sensors, if more than three are down, it will not give a clear picture of the windshear and this is a major hazard to aircraft either landing or taking off.

“But, we came up with a model of integrating communities around in securing some of these installations and I can tell you since I came onboard, I instituted a task team on airport operations and parts of the task team, we have our safety officers who now engage the neighbouringhosting communities, involving them in securing the equipment. We provide them with some incentives and welfare to communities to help us to do that,” he said.

He also explained that NiMET came up with an alternative method of monitoring and forecasting these windshear without using a sensor;rather, it uses a Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) system. 

“Since I came onboard, we have spent a lot of money in upgrading our Numerical Weather Prediction Department with the assistance of Weather Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and out of these, we have what is called Satellite Milecasting Facility and this milecasting is giving us a diagnostic analysis any cloud over Nigeria and we believe we can detect also the possibility of potential of any airport of being affected by windshear.

“So, we are complementing these two and it is giving us a very clear result. In the first phase, we are earmarking 10 airports and out of the 10 airports, three have been addressed now and we are doing the other two in the next two weeks. We intend to cover the 10 airports before the end of the year and by the first quarter of next year; we are going to address the remaining airports,” he said.

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