1 December 2017

Nigeria: Accident Investigation Reveals Breach of Weather Reports By Pilots

Accident investigation reports by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) have revealed that pilots' non adherence to weather reports was the prime cause of some air accidents in the past.

The reports made available to journalists on Wednesday by AIB Commissioner, Akin Olateru noted that some pilots do not take weather reports seriously.

A senior official in charge of Aero Met at the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET), also told THISDAY in a telephone interview that some pilots do not abide by the rules, which stipulate that before take off, they must go through the weather briefing.

One of such accidents linked to pilot's failure to abide by weather reports was the incident that involved the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) Socata TBM 850 aircraft with registration 5N-BZA which occurred Near Kaduna Airport, Kaduna, Nigeria on May 21, 2013.

The report indicated that the pilot neglected the weather report, resulting in the serious incident. In fact, the AIB report showed that the decision of the crew to depart the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) "with the knowledge of weather forecast, and failure to follow the guidance provided by the weather radar advisory to avoid the impending adverse weather" led to the major incident.

In its recommendations, AIB said NCAT should classify all kinds of storms as hazardous considering the types of airplanes it operates (light weight) and the nature of operations it conducts (training), thereby delaying or cancelling any intended flight with warning for storm or any adverse weather phenomena.

The Bureau said NCAT should develop and incorporate TBM 850 in its Flying School Training Manual (FSTM) and also basic training on weather radar, its systems and operations procedures and adverse weather recognition and avoidance techniques, noting that "these topics would enhance the technical and operational knowledge of weather radar equipment for both the instructors and students."

AIB also recommended that NCAT should ensure that before the commencement of any admin flight, all necessary documentation is completed including flight plan and retrieval of weather information especially where such information is readily accessible.

The official of NIMET who spoke to THISDAY on condition of anonymity, noted that considering the rate of accidents caused by negligence of weather reports, pilots must abide by these reports in other to fly safely.

He said that presently there is weather transition in Nigeria, from rain to Harmattan which brings in the dry season that is accompanied by dust haze because "the dust is being raised from the Sahara Desert and it is spread in the northern part of the country but at a certain time it will spread to the southern part of the country and this could be dangerous to flight operations."

According to him, this weather from the desert is accompanied by reduction of visibility; "what we experience is visibility minima (minimum visibility) and most airports in the country have the visibility minima of 800 below which flights are not allowed to land or take-off."

The NIMET official acknowledged that there could be instrument landing system at the airport and in the aircraft but due to sometimes unreliability of the equipment in Nigeria, it would be unreasonable to take any chances.

"We are looking at safety so we have to strictly abide by the weather report because if we rely on equipment there could be power failure at landing at the runway and that will lead to fatal consequences," he said.

The official therefore cautioned that the weather reports must be obeyed; although it could lead to flight cancelations and delays but the aim is to save lives, adding that there had been occasions where pilots ignored the weather report and they were not allowed to land at the destination airports so they have to make air return back to the originating airports.

"When a flight makes such air return the airline loses revenue, fuel and other expenses in addition to its goodwill. So pilots must attend met briefing or get the weather report before taking off to its destination," the NIMET official said.

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