As the Harmattan season approaches, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has warned pilots and all airline operators that the period is precarious for flight operations; therefore extra caution should be exercised in embarking on flights whenever the weather is reportedly bad.
This precaution is against the backdrop of the seasonal rainfall prediction issued by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) which alerted that the prevailing weather condition was likely to herald a long and severe dust haze in the months ahead.
Already the harmattan has started disrupting flights in the northern parts of the country and before the end of November, it is expected to be felt everywhere in Nigeria.
Last Thursday, fog occasioned by the harmattan prevented flights from the Ilorin airport for hours before the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) intervened with equipment that enabled flight operation to the airport.
The spokesman for the NCAA, Mr. Sam Adurogboye, said in a statement that this warning was important as Harmattan is known to pose an obvious threat to aircraft particularly in areas of challenging terrains due to low visibility.
"This circular is intended to alert pilots of the hazards associated with dust haze which is a dry and dusty wind that blows southwards from the Sahara across Nigeria during the months of November to March. The effect of the dust and sand stirred by the wind is known as Harmattan Dust Haze. Therefore, Pilots should note that air-to-ground visibility may be considerably reduced due to the dust haze," the statement said.
NCAA noted that that aerodrome visibility may fall below the prescribed minima and in severe conditions, noting that dust haze could blot out runways, the markers and airfield lightings over wide areas.
This makes visual navigation extremely difficult or impossible. Resultantly, where visibility falls below the prescribed weather minima, flight operations are expected to be delayed, diverted or outrightly cancelled", the statement said.
The statement also urged Pilots to obtain adequate departure, en route and destination weather information and briefing from NIMET prior to flight operations at all the airports and instructed all pilots to exercise maximum restraint especially when severe weather condition is observed or reported by NIMET, the Flight Crews/ Operators and Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) so they should ensure adherence to aerodrome operating minima.
Airlines Operators are also advised to ensure necessary measures are put in place to manage the effects of flight delays or cancellations on their passengers.
The NCAA has therefore sent a circular to all concern regarding the development.