This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: NCAA Warns Pilots, Airlines On Harmattan Weather

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Monday alerted airlines and pilots on the dangers inherent in the current harmattan haze being experienced across the country, saying that they must abide by weather report to avert safety breach.

In a circular signed by the Director General of the agency, Dr Harold Demuren, the regulatory body said the call was to alert all pilots on the hazards of harmattan haze and offered guidance to help prevent accidents caused by this weather phenomenon.

"Hazards and operational problems associated with harmattan is comparable to that of heavy fog. Thus, air-to-ground visibility is considerably reduced. Others include poor aerodrome visibility which might fall below the prescribed minima and in severe conditions."

NCAA also noted that dust haze can blot out runways and markers over wide areas making visual navigation impossible; where terminal visibility falls below the prescribed weather minima, airlines and pilots should flights be delayed, diverted or cancelled.

The authority therefore advised pilots to recognise harmattan haze as a hazard and exercise maximum restraint when the condition is observed or forecast.

"It is therefore mandatory for all pilots to obtain weather briefing from the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) including departure, en-route and destination weather information prior to flight operations.

"The airlines and their flight crews should keep passengers informed of the situation and of the potential for flight delays and possible cancellations. Safety considerations must always be the highest priority," the agency said.

Early morning flights were disrupted last Friday in the nation's important cities of Lagos and Abuja as fog reduced visibility to non-flight levels.

Many domestic flights were disrupted and international flights were also affected as Virgin Atlantic Airways rerouted its flight to Lagos to Accra, while Arik Air flight from London to Lagos was diverted to Port Harcourt.

Passengers, who hurried to meet their flights in the morning yesterday, arrived the airports disappointed as the airlines rescheduled their flights from morning to noon, hoping that visibility would improve.

Thousands of passengers massed at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) and the Murtala Muhammed Airport domestic terminal, known as MMA2, hoping and waiting for the fog to clear.

Meanwhile, crisis erupted yesterday at the E Wing of the international terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos when workers of a concessionaire, A.I.C. Limited fought officials of the Aviation Security (AVSEC) of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) over a piece of land, which FAAN designated as temporary VIP car park.

A.I.C Limited wanted to take over the land which it claimed was concessioned to it in 1998 by FAAN for 50 years for the company to build A.I.C. Hilton Hotel, but when the company started building the hotel in 2001, it was alleged that FAAN stopped the project.

So Monday the owner of the company, Chief Harry Akande arrived the premises for a final claim of the land with some of his workers and when they accessed the place, which is now a VIP car park, the Aviation Security tried to stop them, an action that gave rise to exchange of fisticuffs and mayhem.

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