If you are planning to travel by air in Nigeria during the harmattan season, you might want to prepare yourself for some challenges and inconveniences. The harmattan is a dry and dusty wind that blows from the Sahara desert over West Africa, usually between the end of November and the middle of March. It affects the visibility, temperature, humidity, and air quality of the region, and can have a significant impact on flight operations.
How Harmattan Affects Flight Operations
The harmattan haze can reduce the air-to-ground visibility severely, sometimes blocking the sun for days. This makes visual navigation extremely difficult or impossible for pilots, especially during takeoff and landing. The harmattan also affects the performance of the aircraft, as the low humidity and high altitude can reduce the engine power and increase the fuel consumption. The dust particles can also damage the aircraft’s instruments and systems, and pose a health risk for the passengers and crew.
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has issued an advisory circular to inform pilots, operators, and other stakeholders about the hazards of flying during the harmattan season, and the safety measures to adopt. According to the NCAA, pilots should obtain adequate weather information and briefing from the meteorological office prior to flight operations, and adhere to the aerodrome weather minima. Pilots should also exercise maximum restraint and avoid flying in conditions that are beyond their capabilities or the specifications of the aircraft.
How to Prepare for Air Travel during Harmattan
As a passenger, you might experience flight delays, cancellations, or diversions due to the harmattan haze. This can be frustrating and costly, especially if you have tight schedules or connecting flights. To minimize the inconvenience and stress, here are some tips to follow:
– Check the weather forecast and flight status before you leave for the airport. You can also contact your airline or travel agent for updates and information.
– Plan your trip ahead and book your flights early. Avoid peak travel periods, such as the Yuletide season, when air travel in Nigeria is usually at its highest. You might also want to consider alternative modes of transportation, such as road or rail, if possible.
– Pack light and smart. Carry only the essentials and avoid excess baggage. You might also want to bring some warm clothing, as the harmattan can cause cold temperatures, especially in the mornings and nights.
– Stay hydrated and healthy. Drink plenty of water and avoid alcoholic or caffeinated drinks, as they can dehydrate you. You might also want to take some vitamin C supplements or eat fruits rich in vitamin C, such as oranges, to boost your immune system and prevent colds or flu. You should also protect your eyes, nose, mouth, and skin from the dust and dryness by using sunglasses, masks, lip balm, and moisturizer.
– Be flexible and patient. Expect some changes and disruptions in your travel plans, and be ready to adjust accordingly. You might also want to have some backup options, such as alternative flights, hotels, or destinations, in case of cancellations or diversions. Be courteous and respectful to the airline staff and other passengers, and avoid unnecessary arguments or complaints.
Air travel during harmattan in Nigeria can be challenging and risky, but it can also be rewarding and enjoyable. By following the safety guidelines and preparing adequately, you can have a smooth and pleasant flight experience. Remember, the harmattan season is temporary, and it also has some benefits, such as the beautiful sunsets, the cool breeze, and the festive atmosphere. So, don’t let the harmattan stop you from exploring the amazing sights and sounds of Nigeria. Happy travels !