- Says inclement weather coincided with replacement of Cat 2 ILS
- Qatar diverts Lagos flights to Abuja
- NCAA appeals for understanding, as airlines send out cancellation and delay notices
MINISTER of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika has apologized over the continuous hardship for operators to land at the Murtala Muhammed International airport Lagos stating that authorities were in the process of replacing the old Category 2 Instrument Landing Systems with the newly procured Category 3 system that allows for the lowest visibility landing before the current issues arose.
The Minister who expressed concern over the present situation that has been ongoing for three days now, noting that the experiences of air travellers to and from the MMIA regarding flight diversions and, in many cases, outright cancellations, due to highly inclement weather conditions were regrettable.
He further came out open explaining that there was a malfunctioning of certain components, which, coupled with the unforeseen weather conditions, made landing at the airport difficult.
A statement by Director, Public Affairs James Odaudu read,” While these developments are greatly regretted, we wish to let the public know that the authorities at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos was in the process of replacing the old Category 2 Instrument Landing Systems with the newly procured Category 3 system that allows for the lowest visibility landing.
“Unfortunately, there was a malfunctioning of certain components, which, coupled with the unforeseen weather conditions, made landing at the airport difficult.
“The procurement of the Category 3 Instrument landing System is in pursuance of the desire of the Federal Government to ensure the safety of air passengers by ensuring that airplanes can land with almost zero visibility.
“We wish to assure the public and the airlines, that efforts are on to return the system to full working condition and that normalcy of operations will be re-established in due course.
He, however, decried the diversion of flights to other country stating that the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja could have conveniently handled those flights informing that Qatar Airways is already doing so:
“On the diversion of incoming international flights to neighbouring countries, we wish to reiterate that the decisions are purely those of the airlines which we have no control over.
“However, it should be noted that those flights could, and should have been rerouted to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja which is shorter or equidistant from Lagos to the foreign airports to which some of the flights have been diverted.
“In recognition of Abuja as an alternate airport, Qatar airlines has applied to divert its flights to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International airport, to which the Minister granted immediate approval. It is left to be seen why some others decided to divert to another country.
“We wish to use this medium to assure the general public that the comfort, safety and security of the flying populace remains the central focus of this administration and that no effort would be spared in ensuring this.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has sent out an appeal to passengers for their understanding over the prevailing flight delays and cancellations experienced in airports across the country due to the adverse weather situation.
According to the Authority, the prevailing inclement weather is a global experience at the moment which had warranted cancellation of in-bound international flights alike; therefore, not peculiar to Nigeria.
This appeal is contained in a release issued by NCAA at the Aviation House on Thursday, February 13, 2020.
Earlier, the Authority had urged pilots, operators and other stakeholders to exercise restraints over harmattan dust haze and safety approach to adopt.
The Regulatory Agency issued an Advisory Circular (AC): NCAA-AEROMET-28 dated 12th November, 2019 alerting pilots of the hazards associated with dust haze. It is a dry and dusty wind that blows south from the Sahara across Nigeria which is expected to persist till March, 2020.
As issued by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency in its Seasonal Rainfall Prediction Bulletin-2019, the cessation of the rainy season was predicted from mid-October (in the Northern part) to early December, 2019 (in the Southern part).
With the issuance of this circular, Advisory Circular (AC): NCAA – AEROMET 27 dated 26th March, 2019 is accordingly cancelled.
Pilots/Operators are therefore directed to note the following hazards and operational problems forthwith in the interest of safety:
1. Air-to-ground visibility may be considerably reduced due to dust haze;
2. Aerodrome visibility may fall below the prescribed operating minima and in severe conditions, dust haze can blot out runways, markers and airfield lightings over wide areas making visual navigation extremely difficult or impossible; and
3. Flights are bound to be delayed, diverted or cancelled where terminal visibility falls below the prescribed aerodrome operating minima.
On the other hand, enumerated below are series of responsibilities for Pilots, Operators and Air Traffic Controllers:
i. Pilots shall exercise maximum restraint when severe weather condition is observed or forecast by Nimet;
ii. Flight Crews/Operators and Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) shall ensure adherence to aerodrome weather minima;
iii. All Pilots shall obtain adequate departure, en-route, destination and alternate aerodromes weather information and briefing from the aerodrome meteorological office prior to flight operations; and
- Operators shall ensure that necessary measures are put in place to cushion the effects of flight delays or cancellations on their passengers.
While Passengers must be informed of any development concerning their flights well ahead of time by the Airlines, the regulatory authority will expect strict compliance from all stakeholders regarding the Circular as violation will be seriously viewed.
Airlines from Aero, Dana, Air Peace, MaX Air, Azman have issued advisory empathizing with passengers and explaining the situation in a bid to bring calm, most of the airlines express hope that normalcy will be returned but asked for understanding.
Notices from Dana read, “We sincerely empathize with all our guests presently experiencing delays across our network due to poor weather conditions in major parts of the country”.
It also added,” We hope the weather situation improves soon but in the interim, we encourage our esteemed guests to contact our customer care on…”
While Arik issued an advisory which read,”The poor and persisting weather condition has affected their port-Harcourt, Kaduna, Benin, Warri, Asaba, Yola, Sokoto routes.
“This is to inform all our esteemed customers who have had the difficulty in reaching their various destinations through our flights that the current challenge is due to inclement weather.”
“We are notifying our passengers that there maybe delays and in some extreme cases cancellations.”