Thursday, 01 September 2011 09:49 Sade Williams
A multi-million naira wind shear detector was recently installed at the Murtala Muhammed Airport to assist pilots in avoiding dangerous wind at critical periods. SADE WILLIAMS in this write up captures the essence of the hi-tech facility.
One of the great concerns of a pilot during approach and take-off is the wind direction, especially during inclement weather. Air transportation experts have found out that most of the time, a weather phenomenon (severe) that occurs suddenly for few seconds and may have a severe impact on an aircraft always occur during one of the two critical periods, hence the need for pilots to be cautious at these periods by mostly relying on flight instruments.
Referred to as wind shear, meteorologists say it is a sustained change in wind direction or speed that can be experienced by aircraft resulting in a change in headwind or tail wind. Experts say it is capable of brining aircraft down when encountered by an aircraft, especially at the low level.“With subsequent loss of lift, aircraft will descend below its intended flight path,” an expert says.
Anthony Anuforom, director general of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), said during installation of a state-of-the-art facility to prevent and foretell bad weather, that the aviation industry in Nigeria witnessed its darkest period in its history between 2003 and 2006 when several aircraft accidents and incidents occurred resulting in loss of lives and series of injuries as a result of wind shear.
The causes of Sosoliso, ADC as well as crashes involving other airlines which killed 32 persons were traced to wind shear. And to reduce to the barest minimum air incidences and crash resulting from such weather, the Federal Government took a step by installing a Low Level Wind Shear Alert System (LLWAS) at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), which installed the weather detector system, said it will enhance flight safety as this is the first time in the history of Nigeria such a critical safety system would be installed at the Laos airport. The oldest one is in Abuja airport.
The system is expected to detect and record wind shear, a dangerous cloud form and send the alarm to the NIMET office where it will in turn be sent to the Control Tower where the pilots would be informed instantly before taking off or landing.
Wind shear refers to a change in wind speed or direction with height in the atmosphere. When an aircraft encounters it at the low level, it is capable of bringing it down during take-off or landing.
Some amounts of wind shear is always present in the atmosphere, but particularly strong wind shear. Wind shear is important for the formation of tornadoes and hail.
Anuforom equally disclosed that the country was at an advanced stage of acquiring six multi-million naira Doppler Weather Radar for Abuja, Kano, Lagos, Yola, Port-Harcourt and Maiduguri airports, adding that when they are installed, they will be integrated into their system to ensure safer sky.
The wind shear alert systems, according to Anuforom, would complement the six Doppler weather radars for real time detection and tracking of hazardous weather around the country’s airports.
Modern weather radars are mostly pulse-Doppler radars, capable of detecting the motion of rain droplets in addition to intensity of the precipitation. Both types of data can be analysed to determine the structure of storms and their potential to cause severe weather.
On the newly installed Low Level Wind Shear Alert System, the NIMET boss stated that the site acceptance test for the system was completed on July 12, 2011, noting that the system is now operational at the Lagos airport.
“The installation of LLWAS at our airports has become very necessary because of high incidences of occurrence of wind shear at the airport vicinity; the equipment will detect and monitor wind shear during approach, landing and take-off to avert accidents associated with hazardous weather phenomena.
“It will also provide alerts and warnings with enough lead time. This achievement is truly historic because this is the first time in the history of aviation in Nigeria that this airport is equipped with this safety critical equipment,” Anuforom said.