The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority has issued an advisory following the dry season (harmattan) commencement, expected to last until March or April Next year, in a circular dated 19th December. The circular, initiated by the Directorate of Aerodrome and Airspace Standard and signed by its Director General, Captain Musa Nuhu, addressed all pilots and airline operators to adopt some safety measures during the long harmattan season.

In contrast, while the European and North American aviation industries battle the pilling heaps of snow during the harsh winter seasons, the Nigerian aviation sector and Africa at large battle with haze, dust, and fog during the dry season.

Due to the foregoing, the Nigerian aviation industry is being warned of a potentially lengthy battle against the dry season, which began in mid-December and is expected to last till at least March next year. As a result, the Civil Aviation Authority has warned all pilots and airlines to exercise extreme caution as well as adopt some safety measures during this period.

Pilots and airlines are admonished to stay alert

The warning, which came in an Advisory Circular Concerning AC: NCAA-AEROMET-34, addressed to airlines and pilots alongside a sequel to the seasonal climate prediction provided by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, admonished pilots and airlines to be on the lookout during the dry season. The sequel is a report of the nature of weather associated with the dry season in Nigeria, which often commences after the cessation of rainfall in mid-December and is expected to last up to four months.

With the Advisory Circular, pilots are to remain alert during the season and on the lookout for hazardous conditions such as light, dust haze, and early morning fog which can reduce visibility to below the Aerodrome Operating minimal.

image 7 - Travel Radar - Aviation News
5N-VNJ , Air Nigeria Boeing 737-300, Abuja © Wikimedia Commons

Flight cancellations are to be expected

Given that reduced visibility is usually expected during the dry season, the Advisory Circular highlighted the ripple effect the hazardous harmattan weather condition can have on airline operations. The effects are as follows:

  1. Air-to-ground visibility reduction due to haze, dust, and early morning fog.
  2. Aerodrome visibility may fall below the prescribed standard/minimal. In severe conditions, dust, haze, and fog could blot out runways, markers, and airfield lighting, making navigation difficult or impossible.
  3. Flights could be delayed until visibility is clear and diverted or canceled where visibility falls below the prescribed aerodrome operating minimal.

Given the possibility of the highlighted points above, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is commanding all pilots, airline operators, and air traffic controllers to follow its safety requirements which are as follows:

  1. Closure of the airspace by air traffic controllers when any of these conditions are observed or predicted to occur by NIMET.
  2. Strict adherence to published aerodrome prescribed minimal weather by flight crews/operators and air traffic controllers.
  3. Pilots/flight crew members shall obtain adequate departure, en-route, and destination weather information and briefing from NIMET Aerodrome Meteorological Offices and Stations before flight operations and exercise maximum restraint whenever adverse weather condition is observed; and
  4. Operators shall ensure that all necessary measures are put in place to cushion the effects of delays or cancellations on their passengers. 
image 6 - Travel Radar - Aviation News
At Lanseria International Airport © Wikimedia Commons

Safety is important and should not be overlooked

The harmattan season is always long, with specific domino effects beyond the aviation industry. However, in the aviation industry, safety is essential, especially during the dry season, where there could be so much dust haze and fog which could result in flight delays, diversions, and even cancellations.

All these could pressure airlines that want to help their passengers meet their traveling expectations and timing, which is an essential factor. As a result, airlines may not contrive to heed the advisory circular due to the pressure that could emanate from frustrated travelers.

Hence, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority has further advised all parties to heed the AC and observe strict adherence to the safety measures provided in the AC, as violations wouldn’t be handled with levity. The Aviation Authority is also urging passengers to be patient and give airlines their understanding during this period.

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