By Okuneye Moyosola
Weather-related delays in the aviation sector will always occur, however, through effective delay management systems and improved weather forecasting, the impact and duration of such delays can be significantly reduced.
The effect of bad weather can also be reduced by improving the aircraft to be better suited for adverse weather. Weather observations, accuracy of forecasts, timely dissemination and presentation of these weather datasets to all the relevant parties, and the integration of the information into the flight management decision process would also be important in minimizing the losses borne by airlines during bad weather.
“I was on a plane from Kaduna to Lagos with my mum and mid way into the flight, there was turbulence. It was a very scary experience because it was like the wings of the aircraft was going to fall off. I was praying to God because I thought that I was going to die. The other passengers too were scared and they all started praying too. The plane was shaking and it almost turned upside down. Then all of a sudden everything went back to normal. I can’t remember the particular airline but the aircraft was substandard coupled with the bad weather and I wouldn’t want to go back to that situation ever again.”
These were the words of an air passenger who experienced the dangers associated with travelling during bad weather.
However, Mr. Emmanuel Biodun who travels regularly through the Lagos- Abuja route while recounting his experience noted that flying during the rainy season is just like every normal flight. According to him, he has never been scared of travelling during the rainy or harmattan season.
“There is no really big deal about flying during a bad weather. The only thing there is that they will tell you to fasten your seat belt and not to panic because everything is under control. The landing will also be delayed for some extra minutes pending the time that they will get clearance from the airport to land. Maybe we are supposed to land at a particular time, but we can be delayed for up to one hour because the weather is not good for the pilot to land. Sometimes when we are on air, we will just be hovering round.”
The growth of aviation industry in Nigeria and the increased adoption of air transportation as one of the best means of transport have been obstructed by various weather hazards. Aviation safety, efficiency and capacity are sensitive to weather, and adverse weather can have negative impacts to the sector.
The increase in aviation demand can push an airport’s capacity to its limits, and even a small weather change can lead to a reduction of the airport capacity. Weather conditions affect all aspects of aerodrome operations such as aircraft fueling, cleaning, baggage handling, catering, aircraft maintenance, and the actual scheduled flights.
The operational capacity of airports, and a region’s entire airspace, can be significantly reduced due to bad weather, resulting in delays, diversions and cancellations of flights . On average, weather accounts for nearly 75% of global aviation delays.
Passengers also share in the negative impacts of bad weather as their plans become disrupted. Some are left stranded especially if the airline is not one which makes provision for its passenger’s satisfaction.
It is also imperative that airlines reduce delays in order to maintain customer satisfaction and also attracting new customers. Therefore, a decrease in delays would lead to a positive effect for the air carriers, airport operators and passengers.
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) also recently warned pilots and airline operators to be wary of weather changes and their adverse effects on flight operations. The regulator, in an Advisory Circular issued to pilots and airlines, alerted the operators of imminent thunderstorms during the rainy season.
On his part, the General Manager, Public Relations, NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, said the circular was sequel to the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP) for 2019. NIMET had predicted when the rainy season will begin in the Southern and Northern parts of the country, which is usually accompanied by turbulence.
According to experts, this situation in addition to microburst, low-level wind shear can sometimes lead to events that could affect safety of flight operations.
Experts further explained that thunderstorm is caused by cumulonimbus cloud, which could form as low as 6,500ft and as high as 45,000ft. However, once the cloud is noticed, pilots should navigate around it and not fly higher or lower.
Efforts to reach the Nigerian Meteorological Agency proved abortive as they don’t have a Communications Department and the Deputy General Manager of the agency at Muritala Muhammed Airport could not be contacted.
The officiers in the Admin department told our correspondent to contact the Abuja office without providing contact details.
However, the NCAA has advised flight crew, operators and ATCs to ensure strict adherence to aerodrome operating minima in line with standard and recommend practices. It also added that all pilots must exercise maximum restraint whenever severe weather condition was observed or forecast by NIMET.
“For the purpose of safe flight operations, pilots and flight crew members should obtain adequate departure, en route and destination weather information and briefing from NIMET Aerodrome meteorological offices situated in all the airports prior to flight operations”.
“Operators are, therefore, required to play a key role in ensuring adequate measures are put in place to lessen the effects of the attendant flight delays and cancellations on their passengers as occasioned by the severe weather conditions in accordance with Nig-CARs, Part 19.”
NCAA urged all passengers to exercise patience and understanding during this period as their safety is of utmost importance. The Authority also advised stakeholders to ensure strict compliance to safety regulations as violations would be taken seriously.
Most passengers are usually angry when their flights are cancelled as some of them might think it is the fault of the airline.
However, in the aviation, it is better to cancel the flights of passengers than put their lives at risk by flying during bad weather. Passengers should learn to be patient during this period as their safety is of utmost importance.