NCAA notifies passengers on flight hitches during harmattan

Murtala Muhammed International Airport

Murtala Muhammed International Airport

Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has alerted air travellers to brace up for some delays that may be experienced due to harmattan haze expected in most parts of the country.

The apex regulatory body pleaded for understanding of the travelling public, urging them not to be lawless should the situation arise and flights had to be delayed or cancelled.

For safety reasons, NCAA has directed flight crew to adhere strictly to the prescribed weather minima for each of the airports, as violation would be viewed seriously.

Recall that the Nigerian Meteorology Agency (NIMET) recently warned airlines of harmattan haze sweeping across the country, saying the weather condition compels airlines to delay or cancel scheduled flights whenever horizontal visibility falls below the stipulated minima.

NIMET in October 2016 issued an advisory forecast for dust outbreaks to affect the country during the December to February dry season period.

The harmattan is a dry and dusty northeasterly trade wind, which blows from the Sahara Desert over the West African subcontinent into the Gulf of Guinea, between the end of November and the middle of March. In some West African countries, the heavy amount of dust in the air can severely limit visibility and block the sun for several days. This effect is known as the Harmattan haze. It costs airlines millions of dollars in cancelled and diverted flights each year.

Spokesman for the NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, said that the agency had issued advisory circular to help prevent incidents or accidents caused by such weather related occurrences.

Adurogboye, explained that the circular is in line with the forecast earlier made by NIMET, which indicated the occurrence of moderate to severe outbreaks of dust during the period of November 2016 – March 2017 in Nigeria, predicting that it will on many occasions reduce Horizontal visibility significantly.

He said the effect of the harmattan is comparable to that of heavy fog, which may considerably reduce air–to–ground visibility. Similarly, aerodromes’ visibility may fall below the prescribed minima and in severe conditions dust haze could blot out runway, markers and airfield lighting over wide areas, making visual navigation extremely difficult or impossible.

He added that “where terminal visibility falls below the prescribed weather minima, flights are bound to be delayed, diverted or cancelled.

“Pilots are, therefore, directed to observe that adequate departure, en–route and destination weather information and briefings are obtained from NIMET prior to flight operations, exercise maximum restraint when adverse weather is observed or forecast by NIMET and ensure that flight operations are scheduled with adequate input from NIMET to minimize delay or cancellation of flight operations.”

Director-General (DG) of NIMET, Dr. Anthony Anuforom, said occasional outbreak of dust, which will reduce horizontal visibility significantly to 1000m and below in some places was predicted.

Anuforom stated that the expected increase in concentration of the dust particles will lead to colder and drier atmosphere as well as increase in incidences of respiratory disorder.

In the course of monitoring the weather situation in and outside Nigeria, he said NIMET had recently observed dust been raised over the source regions in Niger/Chad republic, which will be transported by northeast trade winds into and across the country.

He noted that visibility is as low as 100m were reported by some stations in the Niger Republic.

“Current reports of visibility values across the country are good. However, deterioration is expected to set in beginning from areas in the far northern parts of the country over the next 24 to 48 hours.”

“There is prospect of fresh dust plumes being raised in the coming days, with its attendant consequence. NIMET will, however, continue to monitor the weather and climate conditions as they unfold and provide regular updates and advisories to the general public,” the DG said.

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