Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Case Closed. Now Call the Witnesses!


You really didn't think we were going to climb up out of the Rabbit Hole now that the Brazilian military has concluded that the American pilots could not have inadvertently knocked the Legacy transponder off-line with a wayward foot or a laptop edge?

That just about eliminates the case, such as it was, against the pilots for the accident, which every single aviation authority in the world, the world beyond the Rabbit Hole, says should never, ever have been criminalized.

Hoooo no.

The federal court in Sinop, the godforsaken outpost in the Amazon where the trial has been under way for months, has denied a habeas corpus petition by the pilots, Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino.

Wot? And let them see the particulars of this mysterious case against them?! What do they think they are, innocent?

A judge also ruled that Lepore and Paladino -- who were detained without charge in Brazil for over two months after the crash, until the police finally cobbled together a charge hours after a judge ordered their passports returned so they could leave the country -- must appear before the court in Sinop. This was a denial of a petition by the pilots' attorneys that they testify before a Brazilian judge who would come to the U.S. and be free to pursue any line of questioning deemed necessary.

The new ruling says that "it is not reasonable that the judge who is holding the criminal trial[has] to go to another country for the pilots to be heard ... ."

A Brazilian lawyer for the pilots, Theodomiro Dias Neto, said that under applicable agreements between the U.S. and Brazil, the pilots have the right to be heard in the U.S.

"Based on the interpretation of the Code of Criminal Process and the Legal Assistance Treaty between Brazil and the United States, the American defendants have the right to be interrogated in their country of residence," he said.

There is no extradition treaty between the U.S. and Brazil that could force the pilots to go to Brazil, where they have been continually scapegoated since the collision. That's because the crime alleged (whatever it is, now that the inadvertent kicking of the transponder has disappeared) is defined as "unintentional."

And, I might add from my own personal experience and from that of the pilots' during their two months of being detained without charge, there is no reason to accept the good faith of the Brazilian government. In my opinion, the fix has been in on this case since Day One, and the evidence of that is overwhelming. It would be insanity for the pilots to place themselves in Brazilian custody again.

(And to any of my excitable Brazilian correspondents now rushing to protest once more that the pilots were not "detained" during October through early December of 2006 because they were holed up in a nice hotel in Rio: save it. The fact is, they were not free to leave Brazil, and the threat of an angry mob, easily summoned by a simple phone call from informants planted round the clock in the lobby, prevented them from leaving the hotel.)

Still, a guilty verdict even in absentia would mark the pilots as international fugitives in Brazil and in other countries that do have applicable treaties with Brazil.

Meanwhile, nothing, nothing, has been done to fix the fundamental Brazilian air-traffic safety problems that actually caused the Sept. 29, 2006, crash and a subsequent one that killed 199 in Sao Paulo last July.

Meanwhile, the authorities are still chasing after air traffic controllers -- not for malfeasance in the crash, but for protests that followed the crash. In the months afterward, controllers -- who are military personnel -- staged work stoppages and other protests that caused major chaos in the air traffic system. They were protesting poor working conditions and poor, unsafe equipment, but they were also sending a message that controllers were not about to accept any blame for the Amazon disaster. Some of the worst protests occurred last March. More are expected as the Christmas and wearm-weather holidays approach.

From Zero Hora, translation by Richard Pedicini in Sao Paulo:

FAB suspends controllers for March mutiny

Seven sergeants from Cindacta-1, in Brasilia, and 11 from Cindacta-2, in Curitiba, were suspended and seek to reverse the decision in the Courts before Christmas.

Seven career sergeants at Cindacta-1 (Brasilia) were discharged and another 11 at Cindacta-2 (Curitiba) were suspended by the Air Force due to the indictment for mutiny by the category on March 30.

Besides trying to reverse the situation in the courts, the controllers are asking for a response by the government before Christmas - when the Ministry of Defense will implant a plan to avoid airport chaos. Despite this, there is no threat of new protests.

"It's an act which seeks to undermine and disorganize the controllers who are on the job. Another resurgence is happening", said lawyer Roberto Sobral, who represents the controllers' association. "We need to have a response before Christmas", he added.

Of those discharged, one is detained for indiscipline and another belongs to the group involved in the Flight 1907 accident, according to the controllers' lawyers. They affirm that 10 controllers are in this situation and that they will appeal. The FAB said that there are seven and that the procedure of evaluation for reenlistment is standard, done annually for military personnel with less that 10 years of service (without stability).

In Curitiba, the controllers were suspended. For Sobral, the government is being "omiss" and "complacent" with a potential danger situation, because the new sergeants who will substitute them do not have sufficient training and experience.

On March 30, close to 200 professionals crossed their arms and, supported by controllers from several States, practically paralyzed the country's air space, causing delays at airports.

According to the Military Criminal Code, mutiny is a meeting of members of the military with the intention of acting against superior orders. It is considered a crime against authority. It differs from revolt because it involves unarmed military personnel.

What set off the controllers' strike on March 30 was the decision to transfer one of the category's leaders, Edleuzo Cavalcante, from Cindacta-1, in Brasilia, to a detachment in Santa Maria. the Air Force Commandant, Juniti Saito, decided to arrest 18 mutineers. With president Lula overseas and in the midst of a command crisis, the airport had a day of unprecedented delays.

***

Roberto Sobral, a lawyer for the controllers union, sent controllers the following letter, addressing the controllers' current push to remove themselves from military control and other matters:

"Dear Friends,

I have reasons to alert you against a possible strategy that is being adopted by the Air Force Command to destabilize the imminent process of demilitarization.

They have decided to make the persecutions more severe until they bring the controllers' category to lose control, who knows, an attempt at paralyzation.

If this happens the population, the press, the government, will all turn against us and we'll we'll be back to zero, losing all the gains we've already produced: the favorable report in the CPI, the adhesion of important personalities of the government itself, etc.

Demilitarization is inevitable. They know it, but they want to delay it as long as they can and this is where the danger lies. Delaying they hope to bring us to mistakes that will allow them to change course.

They are already ready to intervene in any paralyzation movement by us, or a work-to-rule operation. For this they count on a press that is omiss and irresponsible, without mentioning those that sell themselves, the good journalists won't even have space to defend us, in a situation of commotion.

Because of this, it is fundamental that all the leaderships recommend prudence and patience and that they be there on the day set for our meeting, where together we will establish the paths for the victory that is due us. With us are reason and the right.

We will know what to do for rationality to prevail. We are closer than ever to what we intend. I reemphasize the honor I enjoy in working for these great Brazilians that are our ATCs."

###

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Legacy Transponder: Case Closed?

The Brazilian Air Force panel still investigating the Sept. 29, 2006 mid-air collision over the Amazon between a Gol 737 and a U.S.-owned Legacy business jet, in which 154 died, has issued a startling conclusion.

There are no indications that the Legacy's transponder was accidentally turned off with an unintentional slip of a pilot's toe off a badly designed footrest in the cockpit, or by one of the Legacy's pilots inadvertently jostling the device with his laptop.

There is, furthermore, no assertion, at least by anyone who isn't a delusional anti-American wack-job, that the pilots deliberately turned off the transponder, which would have been an act of sheer insanity on their part.

(Early on, the excitable former defense minister, Wonderful Waldir Pires, did of course assert just that. Someone showed him a picture of a wildly oscillating reading on a malfunctioning radar screen, which persuaded the poor old gentleman that the Americans obviously turned off the transponder so they could perform undetected aerial loop-d-loops in the Amazonian skies, evidently to "show off" the new airplane to the reporter on board, me -- though that inattentive reporter subsequently and inexplicably (unless he was part of the loop-d-loop coverup conspiracy!) failed to make note of said loop-d-loops in his stories about the crash. Wonderful Waldir has since departed for a much-needed retirement rest to coddle his loop-d-loops in peace.)

Anyway, I direct you once again to a detailed report filed last November by Excelaire, the owner of the Legacy, which argues that the Legacy's transponder had a history of problems and was not "factory fresh" before it was installed in the new Legacy. The .pdf of the report doesn't have page numbers, but the pertinent part is Section 6, titled "Production and Pre-Delivery Problems ..."

Neither Honeywell, the manufacturer of the transponder, nor Embraer, the Brazilian manufacturer of the Legacy, has disputed that report, although neither has addressed it publicly, to my knowledge.

But the Air Force investigation moves us inexorably closer to the conclusion, argued here for over a year, that the collision occurred as a result of a series of things that went terribly wrong, starting with the fact that Brazilian air traffic control, understaffed and saddled with malfunctioning technology, made grave mistakes that put both aircraft on a fatal collision course at 37,000 feet that afternoon.

The transponder issue, and the American pilots' role in it, was secondary: A working transponder, with its tie-in to an aircraft anti-collision alarm, would have been the last safeguard that might (emphasize might) have prevented a collision that was already well set in motion through a series of errors and malfunctions on the ground.

Of course, the history of this sad case has shown that some authorities in Brazil, having made the grave mistake of rushing to criminalize this accident even before the bodies were brought out of the jungle, are absolutely determined to somehow pin blame on the Americans. Don't forget, the basic criminal charge against them is "failing to ensure the safety of Brazilian skies." That covers a whole lotta sky.

The two American pilots are still on trial, in absentia, on those criminal charges, which also stipulate that they were involuntarily responsible for whatever role in the accident they might be found guilty of.

Still, a guilty verdict carries prison sentences. Though the U.S. does not have an extradition agreement on a conviction on unintentional homicide, the pilots, if found guilty, would be considered international fugitives in many countries that do have applicable treaties with Brazil. For a pilot -- one of them still flies internationally -- that could lead to real trouble.

The Brazilian authorities have not yet addressed rampant safety problems in the operation of their military-run air traffic control system.

But as to the American pilots, who have been scapegoated in this tragedy since the day the seven of us fell from the sky onto that forlorn Amazon air strip: If the transponder failed because of manufacturing problems, I have only two words to say:

Case Closed.

Here is the text of the Air Force report, as translated by Richard Pedicini in Sao Paulo:

Flight 1907 – Commission clarifies on transponder


Because of the release of information, on the part of organs of the domestic and international press, on the accidental interruption of transponder transmissions in the case of the Flight 1907 accident, which provoked the non-functioning of the anti-collision system, the Aeronautic Accident Commission of Investigation informs that:


1) Up to now, there are no indications that there occurred an intentional act on the part of the crew of aircraft prefix NX600L in the sense of interrupting the transponder's transmission (STAND BY mode) ;


2) Ergonometic studies, CVR (Cockpit Voice Recorder) data, and reconstructions demonstrate that:


- The interruption of transponder transmissions occurred during a period of silence in the cabin, lasting 1 minute and 43 seconds, while the pilots of aircraft NX600L performed flight planning calculations for the next stage of the trip, with the pilot on the right using a laptop;


- According to the report of the reenactment flight, there is no way that a laptop resting on the lap of the pilot on the right can touch the button on the RMU (Radio Management Unit) control screen twice, in less than 20 seconds, to put the transponder in STAND BY mode;


- There is no way to utilize the footrest during the flight with the seat in the normal piiloting position. It would be necessary to move it back. The movements of the seat positions are registered on the CVR and there is no register of movement (cabin noise) during the period in which the transponder ceases operation;


- The footrests have a protection which impedes a shoe sole from directly contacting the panel;


- If this occurs by an action by the pilot on the left, flexing and contorting his right foot, the buttons reached would be the first two, from top to bottom and on the left side of the RMU control panel, which have as their function the changing of the radio frequencies, and not the fourth button, which would permit changing the transponder mode (if it were touched twice in succession, in an interval of less than 20 seconds);


- Only the pilot on the left can, observing the description in the previous item, place his foot on the left side of the RMU);


- On the CVR, there is a commentary by the pilot on the left recommending not putting feet up in the cabin during the flight.


From all the evidence presented, the Commission reiterates that the conclusions aired by some organizations and press organs, domestic and international, on the use of the laptop or of the "footrest" on the flight in question, do not have any technical support in the work of the Aeronautic Accident Commission of Investigation, which is responsible for the procedure aimed at prevention.

Source: Aeronautic Accident Commission of Investigation / CENIPA

###

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Half-Flanagan


You remember Tommy Flanagan (pronounced Fla-NAY-gan), Jon Lovitz’s memorable Saturday Night Live character who was incapable of uttering the truth?


Well, here we see a half-Flanagan, from an interview in the November issue of Airline Business magazine with Richard Lark, the chief financial officer at the Brazilian airline Gol.


(A Gol 737, you will also remember, went down in the Amazon with 154 dead on Sept. 29, 2006, after colliding with a business jet while both aircraft were flying head-on at 37,000 feet under Brazilian air traffic control instructions.)


Said Lark, speaking of the crisis in Brazilian aviation:

“What is happening in Brazil are attempts to find the guilty parties, to initiate criminal proceedings rather than concentrating on discovering the cause of the accident. Once you introduce a blame culture people will start to withhold information. This situation creates a disincentive to find the truth. We have the best safety system along with Canada and the U.S.A., but this now is being questioned, with emotion taking over from rational thought.”

True Fact: “...What is happening in Brazil are attempts to find the guilty parties, to initiate criminal proceedings rather than concentrating on discovering the cause of the accident. Once you introduce a blame culture people will start to withhold information. This situation creates a disincentive to find the truth.”

(An assertion that, by the way, has been made repeatedly in this space for over a year).


Whopper: "... We have the best safety system along with Canada and the U.S.A., but this now is being questioned, with emotion taking over from rational thought.”

Well, let's apply some rational thought to that statement. Let’s see, 154 died in the still-inexplicable Amazon accident (to which Gol, it should be noted, has not yet addressed itself publicly, while the American pilots of the business jet and four low-ranking air traffic controllers are on criminal trial.)


Then in July, another 199 died when a Brazilian Tam airliner crashed at notoriously unsafe Congonhas airport in Sao Paulo.


Then last Sunday, eight people died when a business jet taking off from another airport situated in a crowded urban area of Sao Paulo crashed into a neighborhood – just days after three separate helicopter crashes killed another three people.


“We have the best safety system …”

Yeah, that's the ticket!

###

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Another Fatal Air Crash in Brazil


Top: Crash site in Sao Paulo, from Estado de S. Paulo.
Bottom: From Folha Online, showing location of the accident near Campo de Marte airport in Sao Paulo.

There was another disaster today in Brazil’s notoriously unsafe aviation system, while authorities do nothing to address fundamental safety issues.

At least eight people were killed when a Learjet 35 crashed into a Sao Paulo neighborhood after taking off from Campo de Marte airport, the main general aviation airport. The jet, bound for Rio, was operated by an air-taxi company.

Initial reports were that the pilot, co-pilot and six people on the ground were killed.

It was the fourth aviation crash in a week. In three separate helicopters crashes last week, three people were killed and five were injured. In traffic-snarled Sao Paulo, helicopters are often used for routine transport.

The first accident happened Thursday in a suburb of Sao Paulo, where a helicopter carrying four people crashed in a street. A woman and a child were killed and the pilot died later.

About twenty minutes later, another helicopter crashed in another suburb. Its two passengers were not injured.

Two hours later, a third helicopter chopper crashed in Riberao Preto, about 185 miles from Sao Paulo. The three people on the helicopter are in critical condition.

Last July, a Tam Airbus 320 commercial airliner crashed at Sao Paulo’s overcrowded Congonhas Airport, killing 199. Ten months before that, a Brazilian Gol Airlines 737 and an American Legacy 600 business jet collided over the Amazon, killing 154.

Since the Amazon collision 13 months ago, Brazilian authorities have steadfastly maintained that the country’s aviation system is safe, even though international aviation authorities have said it is not.

In the Gol-Legacy crash, Brazilian military and police authorities blamed the two American pilots, who are now being tried in absentia on criminal charges, along with four low-ranking controllers in Brazil’s air-traffic-control system, which is operated by the military. In that crash, both planes were flying on a collision course at 37,000 feet under orders from air traffic control.

###

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Brazil's Skies: 'If You Had Courage and An Airplane, You Had an Airline'

Our correspondent Richard Pedicini recently attended a seminar on air safety in Brazil. Here is his report:

In Northeast Brazil, aviation workers flock to flight safety seminar

In the Brazilian Northeast, unlike the country as a whole, air taxis are the category of aviation that suffers the most accidents. The "make-do" is dangerous in airplane maintenance. And the improvement of aircraft leaves the human factor ever more prevalent in accidents.

Those are among the lessons of the seminar on flight safety that packed the Infraero auditorium at the Fortaleza airport last Friday night and Saturday morning.

"We are at an extremely delicate moment in Brazilian aviation", said Lieutenant-Colonel Aviator João Carlos Beiniek, at the opening of the event. "There has never been so much said about the safety of flight."

He sees the current moment of chaos in Brazilian civil aviation as part of a transition from one stable situation to another. He cited previous moments in the history of Brazilian aviation. In the 1950s, there were 300 cities with scheduled commercial service. "But there was no regulation. If you had courage and an airplane, you had an airline."

When president Jânio Quadros canceled the aviation fuel subsidy in 1961, only four airlines survived. In the 1970s came the era of regional air transport companies, but only one of the five, TAM, continues operating today.

Col. Beiniek sees a big future for Brazilian aviation, with the potential of reaching a passenger public four times larger than at present. "The United States has 222,000 airplanes, and there's no one between them and Brazil, with its 11,000 aircraft."

Accident prevention

Organized by Seripa II - the Regional Service for Investigation and Prevention of Aeronautic Accidents, created this year - the seminary attracted more than 120 people from Fortaleza and cities across the Brazilian Northeast. The audience included pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers, and students and others interested in aviation.

The Fortaleza seminar was the first undertaken by the Seripa, and had the declared purpose of spreading the SIPAER doctrine . Elements emphasized were that the investigation of an aeronautic accident has as its only and exclusive purpose the search for the contributing factors of each accident to prevent future recurrences, and also that accidents are the result not of a single cause, but of a series of factors.

Maintenane Questions

The "make-do" was pointed out as one of the major causes of accidents in small airplanes, as in the case of the pilot who added a homemake radiator to the engine block. The axle froze and the plane crashed, killing the inventor.

"Airplane maintenance has nothing to do with automobile maintenance", said Seripa's Leitenant Brito. An airplane, he said, is made with a minimum safety coefficient, because it needs to be light in order to fly. "While an airplane is large, it's fragile."

In accidents caused by maintenance, as in those that happen because of errors made in the air, there is also a chain of factors that culminate in an accident. An airplane is moved during maintenance, there's a change of shifts, it's not written down that tasks were not completed, a final inspection is made from the ground rather than by climbing a ladder, and a airplane takes off lacking half the screws that hold on a vital part. And fourteen people die in the crash.

Bird Psychology

Aircraft crews were the principal contributing factor in 70% to 75% of aeronautic accidents in the decade from 1985 to 1995, and the human factor may represent 90% of accidents in this new century. However, according to ICAO statistics, three out of every four accidents involve errors by people who are qualified and healthy, said Dr. Maria da Conceição Pereira Sougey, Seripa psychologist.

Dr. Pereira Sougey spoke of the importance of identifying psychological factors in accidents, and the importance of this in flight safety. She explained that an injured bird will try to continue flying, because air is his element. "But being that man is not made to fly, when he runs into a problem, his instinct is to try to land. Then, he loses the capacity to control the machine, that needs to keep flying."

The distinction between an error and a violation was brought out by the psychologist, who noted that just in the state of Bahia, this year, three accidents have happened because landing gear wasn't lowered. A simple error.

Some failures she qualified as "active failures", committed on the work floor, by those who work directly with the system. Others, "passive failures", happen at the management level, when weak points are not identified and defenses against errors are either absent or are, with time, neglected.

Vultures on the Runway

The human factors that cause accident aren't always employed in aviation. One important cause of accidents is collisions with birds. A news clip was shown which discovered the cause of a problem with vultures, which endangered planes landing at the Recife airport. An illegal slaughterhouse operated in the neighborhood, and the owner proudly showed the news crew that he washed the slaughterhouse every week, throwing the scraps of animals right at the head of the runway, where vultures leaned to wait in expectation. His understanding of the danger he was creating was at the same level as his notions of hygiene.

The Flight of Geese

Birds were also used to illustrate by Commandante Ilha, who used the flight of geese as an example of leadership. "The flight in 'V' diminishes air resistance . A goose flying alone looses up to 71% of its performance. " People, like geese, gain by working as a team.

Ilha emphasized communication as the most basic factor in CRM, and the importance of non-verbal communication, such as a pilot signaling with two thumbs up, or twirling his fingers to signal a mechanic to make the motor turn. One danger to which he alerted is the "power distance", which leaves subordinates with fear of their bosses, and unwilling to communicate problems.

'All Paths Lead to Sao Paulo'

Cel. Beiniek, besides speaking of Brazilian aviation's potential for growth, spoke of the obstacles at this moment. "It is a long path, and investment is the key." He hopes that Brazil will soon reach a moment where more is spent on the "air" side, such as runways and navigation aids.

Many airports in Brazil have only one or two runways. "If there's only one runway, and it's closed for maintenance, the airport is closed." An airport the size of Fortaleza's would have, in the United States, from three to five runways.

Another problem is that, in the flight network, "All paths leads to São Paulo." Brazil needs to have more airports in the future, with more widely distributed flights.

He also says that in as little as one year there may be a shortage of pilots in Brazil. "Without flight clubs, there are no pilots".

###

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Morning News: A Flawed Aviation System? Oh-My-God!


Thirteen months ago, when I lurched home after the Brazilian aviation system failed in its attempt to kill me over the Amazon (though succeeded in killing 154 other poor souls), I made a comment on CNN that pilots and other experts considered Brazil's skies unsafe.

Notoriously poor conditions throughout air-traffic control, coupled with internationally known poor conditions in radio and radar coverage, especially over the vast Amazon, meant that pilots flew carefully over Brazil.

I mean, this was not in dispute among international pilots.

But when I uttered those few sentences in a radio interview, you'd have thought I said that Alberto Santos-Dumont snatched the Lindbergh baby.

Unless you read the comments from Brazil on this blog starting last October (when I had to temporarily shut down operations because the reaction was frankly scaring my family) you simply would not believe the vitriol that poured in, including numerous death threats. Plus, I was being routinely denounced by politicians in Brasilia -- including the estimable, since-fired Defense Minister Wonderful Waldir Pires -- as a hateful, cold-blooded American imperialist killer for merely pointing out the obvious.

And 13 months later, with the death toll now at 353 in two air disasters in Brazil, nothing has been done by the Brazilian authorities to address the systemic problems in Brazil's air space. That is perhaps because they have been so busy pointing fingers of blame.

Anyway, here's an interesting column from today's news in Brazil. Note the quote from one Brazilian air traffic controller saying that controllers had been warning for a long time about the air-traffic-co9ntrol communications "black hole" -- in the very region where the Sept. 29, 2006 mid-air collision occurred. Translation, as usual, by our intrepid correspondent Richard Pedicini in Sao Paulo:


Flipperama of Death
Claudia Safatle

Now 93 days in the role of minister of Defense, Nelson Jobim simply ignores the demands of air traffic controllers, who for more than a year, since soon after the Gol accident on September 29, 2006, have gone public to expose a crisis of which society did not have the slightest idea.

It was after the collision of the Gol Boeing with the Legacy jet, which resulted in the deaths of 154 passengers that, placed in the center of the accident's causes, the controllers exposed their dissatisfaction with working conditions and opened a season of chaos at the country's airports, culminating in the mutiny in March of this year.

Today, representatives of the controllers protocoled at the Ministry of Defense their third request for an audience with the minister. The first two got no response.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva doesn't want to know about the existence of this problem and also isn't considering receiving them.

There are close to 2,700 controllers entrusted with the control of civil aviation traffic, 80% of these being military (sergeants and sub-officials) and the other 20% being civil service system workers and workers under the ordinary labor laws. All of them work under the command of the Air Force and demand, as an initial step toward the solution of all the remaining differences, the demilitarization of air traffic control.

Currently, besides Brazil, the military controls civil aviation traffic only in Paraguay and Uganda. One is not dealing with mere stubborn dislike for the model, the controllers argue. For them, militarization is at the heart of the enormous management difficulties for structural reasons.

"Dealing with the military is slow. We had already been complaining for three years about the 'black hole' in the Serra do Cachimbo range (where the collision between the Gol Boeing and the American jet occurred) and nothing had been done. But civil aviation is dynamic, it needs rapid responses", one operator evaluated.

After the March mutiny, Lula gave the Air Force commandant, Juniti Saito, carte blanche to resolve the controllers' case.
The commandant began to act to solve the contentions based on the principles of hierarchy and disciple which guide military action. He imposed a Law of Silence, which created a climate of apparent normality, and has been punishing with arrest any misstep of those under his command, suspended all those who were union leaders to eliminate what is called in the area "negative leadership" and at the Integrated Center for Air Defense and Air Traffic Control 1 (Cindacta I), all the higher level employees were removed from management functions and substituted by military men who do not have, necessarily, the same knowledge and experience.
Saito tamed the movement, producing, as a counterpoint, a climate of enormous tension among the controllers, who continue to work to guarantee the safety of passengers basically under the same conditions that they denounced as improper last year.
"This year there were already five cases of AVC - cerebral vascular accidents - among controllers after the mutiny", recounts an experienced worker. Besides the reformulation of salaries and the creation of a single career path for the three cases (military, civil service, and ordinary labor laws), the controllers insist on demanding the demilitarization of the sector as a solution for the grave management problems that they've identified.
As an example, several controllers cite the adoption of a software program developed by the Atech company which the controllers condemn for more than five years as not being trustworthy. "The target, at times, disappears or the software provided the wrong position", an operator observed. At the Air Force Command, however, there's a refusal to discuss the question.
The Gol tragedy in 2006, followed by the disaster with the TAM Airbus A320 on July 17 and two Parliamentary Commissions of Inquiry (CPIs), show an aviation crisis without precedents.
The country discovered that air traffic control has very grave flaws, that the routes were dangerously concentrated on a airport in the middle of the city of São Paulo, that the organs charged with managing the sector did not function, among various other evils.
The government filed away the report produced by an interministerial working group created last year to propose solutions. Suggestions there included the creation of a civilian body linked to the Ministry of Defense, to deal with civil aviation; the maintenance of a shared system of monitoring air space; reformulation of the controllers' career path and salaries; new hires; and an independent audit to evaluate the conditions and needs of the system not only in personnel but also in infrastructure and technological updating.
For the air traffic controllers' movement, besides an audience with Jobim, it's worth opening negotiations with the Secretariat of Human Resources of the Ministry of Planning to correct salary distortions - a civilian controller who leaves São José dos Campos in December to work for the Cindactas will begin with a monthly salary only R$ 100,00 less than that of controllers with 30 years of experience.
And they will continue with the work of persuasion behind the scenes, with the staff of the ministry of Defense. On the government's side, the worst that Jobim could do is to believe piously in the declaration he made the day before yesterday, in Rio, when he said that of the three pillars of the sector, punctuality, regularity, and safety, only the last is already settled. On this theme, there is no room for plays of words nor for volunteerism. Really, there's no room for any kind of game.
###

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Morning News: Fingerpointing Fandango (Cont'd).









No, they haven't fixed anything in the faulty aviation system in Brazil since the disaster over the Amazon just over a year ago (unless you count drastically reducing the number of flights allowed to use Sao Paulo's dangerous Congonhas airport after the July air crash disaster there).



They're too busy pointing fingers, as they have been now for over for a year. Undoubtedly, corruption is rife in the aviation system. But financial corruption had nothing directly to do with why two aircraft were placed on a collision course at 37,000 feet over the Amazon on Sept. 29, 2006, resulting in 154 deaths. And note, in the second item, that action has been taken against an air traffic controller -- for talking to the media.

Some fresh excerpts from the news, translation as usual courtesy of Richard Pedicini in Sao Paulo:


"Via FAB clipping

O Estado de S. Paulo

Controller is under arrest for giving interview

The director of mobilization of the Brazilian Association of Air Traffic Controllers (ABCTA), sergeant Edleuzo Cavalcante, is since yesterday serving in Brasila the eight days of administrative jailing that he received from his heirarchical superiors, for having given an interview, in which he criticized the FAB Command, without authorization from his boss. During the day the sergeant works normally and at night stays at the barracks of the 6th Regional Air Command.

xxx

Via Aeroclipping

O GloboVoting of Aviation Blackout CPI report is put off Report referee asks for accusation of 23 people and accuses ex-president of Infraero of heading gang

BRASILIA -- The final report of the Senate Aviation Blackout CPI [my note: that's one of a handful of investigative committees] accuses the ex-president of Infraero, congressman Carlos Wilson (PT-PE), of commanding a "gang" set up in the state-owned firm, accused of diverting close to R$500 million in construction work at 11 airports. The voting of the report, authored by senator Demóstenes Torres (DEM-GO), was put off until Tuesday, after the PT party congressman Jogo Pedro (AM) asked for time to read the report, at the government's direction.

With this, the Planalto [presidential palace] gained time to lay out a strategy to remove from the document the names of directors of Infraero accused of fraud. Despite saying that the supposed scheme of corruptions crosses party lines, the report harshly attacks the management of [now congressman Carlos] Wilson. The ex-president responded strongly accusing Demóstenes of being "long known for the practice of talking loud". The senator talked back, ironically: "(Carlos Wilson) is the St. George of a brothel, seeing everything and doing nothing."

The report recommends the accusation of 23 people, among them Wilson and National Civil Aviation Agency ex-director Denise Abreu. And asks for the Federal Police to trace the bank accounts of 18 contractors and consortiums supposedly benefited by the [airport construction] bids. Though them, almost R$1 billion flowed, the CPI points out.

The document accused the state firm's ex-director of engineering, Eurico José Bernardo Loyo, of "being the patron and intermediary of private interests along with the administration of the Infraero firm."

xxxx

Folha de S. Paulo

Marcelo Neves: Anachronistic Militarism

I only found five countries, besides Brazil, which maintain total control of air traffic under the reponsibility of the military

THE RECENT crisis in the aviation sector may throw light on the question of the linking of civil aviation, especially air traffic control, to the Air Force. The constitutional consistency and the social adequacy of militarization of this highly globalized sector are questioned.

In relation to the consitutional consistency, it's verified that, as per Article 142 of the Constitution, the Armed Forces "are destined to the defense of the Country, the guarantee of the constitutional Powers and, for initiative of any of them, of law and order".

Within the orientation of the strict delimitation of the attributions of the Armed Forces in relation to the redemocratization set down in the 1988 Federal Contitution, the amplification of its functions on the level of infraconstitutional legislation is debatable.

However, Brazilian legislation led the the hypertrophy of the Armed Forces by means of militarization of a civilian sector in prejudice to the constitutional model of strict delimitization of its functions.

More problematic still is the question relative to the capacity of one of the Armed Forces, the Air Force, to respond to the demands of civil aviation in a complex global society.

In this particular, it's relevant to consider the solution of the problem in comparative law. I only found five countries, besides Brazil, that maintain total control of air traffic under the responsibility of the military: Eritreia, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uruguay, and in transition to demilitarization, Argentina.

Among the developed countries in Western Europe and North America, civil aviation is out of the field of competence of the military sector. Some examples are illustrative.

In the United States, the greatest military and warlike power, the cornerstone of the regulation of civil aviation was set in 1926, when the sector was subordinated to the Department of Commerce. In 1958 was created, in this department's sphere, the Federal Aviation Agency, which had its name changed to Federal Aviation Administration in 1967, when it was linked to the Department of Transportation.

At no time, in the USA, a country which supervalues "national defense," were the Armed Forces given the role of regulating of operating civil aviation, including air traffic control, except for interference in time of war. ..."

###

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Aviator Day in Brazil


That's Santos Dumont, of Brazil, and some people believe, though it's in dispute, that he and not the Wright Brothers of America is the founder of modern aviation. He is at least one of early powered flight's great characters. Certainly, unlike the secretive, workmanlike Wright Brothers, Dumont was among the first to luxuriate publicly in the sheer joy of powered, manned flight.

{On the other hand, he really didn't live all that much time in Brazil, which had little to do with his accomplishments. See a reader's note at the bottom.}

No need to impose any further irony on the current situation. It's Aviator Day in Brazil, and attention should be paid. Thus this from the Jornal do Brazil, translation from the Portuguese as usual by Richard Pedicini in Sao Paulo. But do note the slightly defensive undercurrent with the side current of xenophobia. Sounds familiar to me:

"Dahas C. Zarur

There is no doubt on Santos Dumont's flight. It was undertaken on October 23, 1906 under the eyes of an immense crowd and the French Air Club, under the presidency of Ernesto Achdeacon, signed a historic document, giving to the Brazilian aviator priority as the first human to fly in a heavier than air craft, impelled by a motor - an achievement never reached in the long history of Mankind.

Any sort of propaganda is useless that has the objective of usurping the glory of Santos Dumont acclaimed by kings and by the people on dismounting from his 14 Bis, formed by a set of Hargrave-type kite cells, made of a a bamboo screen, with a 50 hp motor. Santos Dumont flew in the eyes of Paris, then the capital of the world, and covered 200 meters in 21 seconds, corresponding to a velocity of 41km/h. Citizen of the world, on returning to Brazil, in a visit to his family, singer Eduardo Alves saluted him: "Europe bows to Brazil and shouted congratulations in tender tones; there shines in the sky one more star. Santos Dumont appeared."

Nothing will destroy the glory of that Brazilian who, tired of being news, stopped flying in 1910, dedicating himself to literature. He traveled the world, spreading the sensations and risks of being an aviator, his hard life, the hard tests he was submitted to (painful and difficult tests) until he made his first flight, and from this after flying without knowing if he would reach his destination, if they would return to their homes, to their families, hours and hours, days and days without setting foot on earth. That is what happened. Man could fly like the birds. Today, distances have been made shorter, thanks to the airplane and the expertise, the dexterity of aviators. A trip that was made in months, can be realized in hours. Today the skies are full to gigantic aircraft, carrying hundreds of people, on comfortable and secure voyages to the most distant points of the universe, with highly qualified personnel.

Santos Dumont, in 1904, wrote "Dans l'air" translated by Miranda Bastos, with the title "My Balloons" ["Meus Balões " is the Portuguese].

"My Balloons" was carefully written. In it, Santos Dumont tells of his infancy and his life as an argonaut before inventing the airplane. He had no greater concern than in describing the emotions of the Deutsch Prize - which he won on October 13, 1901, when in a dirigible balloon he circled he circled the Eiffel Tower and returned to Saint Cloud within the rigorous time of 30 minutes. It was at this moment that pacifist leader Jean Jaurés wrote:"Today were are all in the shadow on one man."Tired of being in headlines, he stopped flying in 1910, after playing in the skies of Paris with his minuscule Demoiselle. He dove deep into literature and wrote a series of articles for the principal newspaper of France and the United States. He traveled the world and stopped again in Brazil, going to Petrópolis, where he would write his third book, " What I saw and what we will see", in whose pages already appear symptoms of a disturbed mind.

The title "The mechanical man" was published, whose originals he locked in his office, not delivering the work to his publishers. Diplomat Aluísio Napoleão, however, revealed stretches of the work, in which Santos Dumont, in contrast to the previous book, showed full rational capacity when he wrote: "It was, I can say, (said about 1929), a very painful trial for me to watch, after my work on the dirigibles and heavier than air aircraft a few years earlier, the ingratitude of those who covered me with laurels years earlier. I feel embarrassed on having to speak of myself - "I" is odious to me - in order to defend these witnesses and this consecration that sometimes seems to have been forgotten".

"There is in this more a proof of my gratitude, than a claim. This last would be, alas, useless, because history will not be written except with the passage of time and with facts and documents. Some years pass and everything is forgotten".

The millions of dollars spent in publicity, with the objective of destroying the glory of Santos Dumont in favor of the Wright Brothers, did not have the least result. Alberto Santos Dumont, however, will eternally have the primacy of flight. Destiny wanted him to see an aerial combat in Santos, São Paulo, in 1932, among legalist and rebel airplanes, during the Constitutionalist Revolution, with the apparatuses falling into the sea. Commenting to a relative who was with him, he said:"It was not for this that I invented the airplane!"

No longer was Santos Dumont feted by kings and princes. His happiness was to walk along the beach, with a group of children. Santos Dumont lies under an enormous Icarus, in São João Batista Cemetery, in Rio de Janeiro, a copy of the Saint Cloud monument, a long ways from the mausoleum of the Brazilian Academy of Letters. His immortality is in the skies full of aircraft and spaceships. ... "

{On the other hand, a reader adds:}

Hi, Joe!
As you are well aware, Santos Dumont did invent AN airplane. He did not invent THE airplane. Many cobbled together flying machines about the time that the Wright Brothers ENGINEERED, thus invented the first airplane and flew it successfully prior to Dumont and others. The Wright flights after 1903 developed into more and more capable machines. Dumont faded after his first flight a year at least after the Wrights.
Santos Dumont was a citizen of Brazil, but resided in France. He had access to French facilities and materials, likely not available in Brazil then. Other than producing Dumont, Brazil had little to do with it. The talented Dumont accomplished many things and deserves credit for them. However, it seems to me that he used his common sense, but not thorough engineering systematic analysis and study leading flight as did the Wrights. The aviation industry grew due to the efforts of the Wrights and Glen Curtiss as did nothing else. Of course, they were both citizens and residents of the United States.
I check your blog every day for the latest down South. Sometimes Brazzil.com, too. The current attitude of Brazil reflects poorly on Dumont.
Ralph M.

###

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hey, Here's an Idea: Stop Blaming People and Fix Your Busted Aviation System Before Somebody Else Gets Hurt



More than 350 dead in a year, and what have Brazil's government and Air Force done to address manifest major problems in its aviation system, which has been called flat-out "unsafe" by international aviation agencies? Nothing, actually. Rather than taking the effort to make their skies safe, thereby accepting responsibility, they just keep blaming individuals, which is ever so much easier. Translation by Richard Pedicini:

Air traffic controllers' leader is charged
October 9, 2007 – 13:15

The Air Force Command has asked for the administrative jailing of the vice-president of the Brazilian Federation of Air Traffic Controllers' Associations (Febracta), Moisés Gomes de Almeida. According to an article published this Tuesday by the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, the military accuses Almeida of having planned the mutiny which paralyzed air traffic in the country starting on March 30 of this year.

The accusations that weigh against Almeida – of incitement and insubordination – are based on messages left by him on the relationship site Orkut in the month of August. There, the vice-president of Febracta urged the category to make donations for the payment of a legal opinion requested from jurist Marcelo Neves on air traffic control in several countries.

In the text, Almeida made veiled criticisms of the Brazilian Air Force (FAB). The Air Force was not, however, cited directly. When the content of the posts reached the knowledge of the Air Force command, it was decided to begin an administrative inquiry.

###

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Unsafe Skies? Why, I Oughta....


How DARE They Say These Skies Are Unsafe!

…Uh, because more than 350 people died in two separate horrendous accidents in Brazil in the last year, and that’s not counting the close calls. Uh, because the Brazilian military (which runs air traffic control) has toiled endlessly to assign blame to the American pilots in the Sept. 29 accident (no one lived through the July accident to get blamed. Uh, because Brazilian air traffic controllers are underpaid, unhappy, poorly trained and in many cases even unable to respond to or speak English, the lingua franca of aviation the world over.

Every significant international aviation and pilots and even air traffic controllers associations have condemned Brazil's atrocious performance, including its extremely unwise politicization and criminalization of accidents.

And now we again have the spectacle of Brazilian military authorities again going into their familiar defensive crouch. The latest salvo at Brazil comes from the international association of

First, this from today’s Brazzil Magazine (www.brazzil.com), whixh is published in English. Evidently, Wolderful Waldir Pires – the Colonel Blimp-like defense minister who insisted the American pilots were doing loop d loops when the crash occurred, has been replaced by more of the same. Where do they GET these officers! (Oh, I forgot, the country was a military dictatorship for about 25 years):

Brazil Outraged by Suggestion that New Air Accident Is Matter of Time

Sunday, 07 October 2007

Brazzil Magazine

Brazil Outraged by Suggestion that New Air Accident Is Matter of Time

Written by Newsroom

Friday, 05 October 2007

The head of an international air traffic controllers organization who said that it was only "a matter of time" before there was a new air disaster in Brazil was rebuffed by Brazilian Defense Minister, Nelson Jobim, Brazil's top aviation official.

In a interview to Brazil's official government news agency, Radiobrás, Minister Jobim defended Brazil's air traffic control system and said comments that another air accident was inevitable were politically motivated.

"This is a game within the corporation, in other words, they're playing politics. We can't excuse this type of manifestation," Jobim told Radiobrás.

Jobim's remarks came in response to comments Marc Baumgartner, president of the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers made to the BBC Brazil Wednesday at a seminar in the United States.

According to BBC Brazil, Baumgartner said "it's a question of time before a new air accident happens again in Brazil."

Baumgartner also harshly criticized the Brazilian Air Force, which oversees the nation's air traffic control system, for trying to punish the controllers involved in the Sept. 29, 2006 crash of a Boeing 737 operated by Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA over the Amazon, killing all 154 people aboard.

"The Brazilian Air Force invested lots of energy to arrest and prosecute its own workers but none to fix its (air traffic control) system," Baumgartner was quoted by the O Globo news agency.

The September 29 crash was Brazil's worst air disaster until July, when a TAM Linhas Aereas SA Airbus crashed into a warehouse in São Paulo killing 199 people. The second accident had wide ranging political repercussions, with many accusing the government of failing to act on problems exposed by the Gol crash.

Following the accident President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva sacked Defense Minister, Waldir Pires, and named Jobim who was given full support to implement all reforms he considered necessary to improve the Brazilian air system.

One of the steps taken was to redistribute operations from Brazil's busiest air terminal Congonhas in São Paulo to other airports and drastically cutting flight delays and cancellations. Jobim is also considering the possibility of handing air traffic control from the Air Force to civilians.

However Jobim admits that to a certain extent the "feeling of lack of safely and chaos persists" and has repeatedly requested for support from travelers.

Earlier this week, a military court declined to indict five Brazilian air traffic controllers in connection with the Gol crash. Military prosecutors want to try four of the controllers on charges of breaking regulations, and the other one faces charges of involuntary manslaughter.

Four of the controllers and two American pilots who were aboard and executive jet that collided with the 737 still face charges in a civilian criminal court in connection with the accident.

A Congressional commission investigating air chaos in Brazil just issued its final report. The report excluded a request to indict four air traffic controllers in connection with the Gol crash but supported the indictment of American pilots Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino.

FROM THE READERS COMMENTS SECTION:

That is Brazil excluding to indict the Brazilians at the source of the plane crash, but wishing to indict innocent foreign pilots !!!!!!

Ohhhh and a cheap but good safety idea for your airports :

DONT PUT YOUR FUEL RESERVES TANKS.....AT THE END OF A LANDING STRIP !!!!

Even idiots know this, but Brazilians are more idiots...than idiots !

Brazil is an arachaïc and medieval country.

Proof of it is that you still harvest most of your sugarcane as you did....200 years ago, when Australia has mechanized 100 % of their sugarcane harvests.....over 25 years ago !

Brazil is simply a shame to humanity, a shame to justice and social inequality !

Are you not ranked within the WORST 10......on this planet ?

YESSSSSS.....you are !

Viva Bin Lula and his 4000 thieves !

Ch.c did you take your meds today?

written by Shelly, 2007-10-06 21:03:41

Ch.c "but Brazilians are more idiots...than idiots !" Do I need to take the spoon off your ass? Or you forgot to take your meds today? You generalize, should I say all Swiss citizens have blood in their hands? Dirty money from the sale of drugs, kidnapping, corruption, flows in your banking system with no questions asked, dear, should I generalize it too?

Why would the head of a air traffic controller trade association play politics - more annoying fake bravado by a Brazilian politician/ government figure

written by ADD, 2007-10-06 23:34:49

I have lived in Rio for 4 years married into a good Brasilian family.

The Brasilian constitution needs to be overhauled. One of the most flagrant flaws is the immunity enjoyed by elected officials from serious punishment for stealing from public coffers...to the extent of not having to return the stolen money or forfeit future positions or pensions. There is absolutely no real punishment if a crooked politician gets caught. They all posture acting highly insulted when someone demonstrates they are crooks or they are incompetent or mendacious or all of the above . Its absurd.

Why would the head of an international air traffic controller trade association play politics? Its absurd. I'd be inclined to believe that Mr.Baumgartner sees problems with the Brasilian Air Traffic Control functions.

...

Once again Brazilians like you, just as usual, point their fingers elsewhere instead of at themselves. Just the same as for the plane crash when you want to indict the innocent foreign pilots but not those Brazilians at the source of the tragedy.

As to bloods, you forget that due to the voluntary mess in your society created by your politicians and governments, Brazil is one of the most violent country.....on this planet.

Did you know that 50 % of youths deaths in Brazil, aged 15-24, is due to violent deaths ?

Is this how Brazil controls its population growth ?

Yessssss Brazilians are more idiots than the average idiots.

But you truly EXCEL in cheating, lying and hiding !

"Baumgartner is a Swiss"

Who is this Junkie BUM GARTNER? Is he from Geneva? Do you know him personally? He sounds to me like another card carrying member of the "Party".

You better keep a close track on this fellow smilies/grin.gif

"Why would the head of an international air traffic controller trade association play politics ? It is absurd"

written by ch.c., 2007-10-07 05:17:33

It is not absurd...in Brazil, where they firmly believe that everything is politic.

(The comments go on, and on)


Meanwhile:

How DARE They Say These Skies Are Unsafe!

And here's a new one. In terms of odious outrage, this one ranks right up there with the nitwit band of reporters who confidently parroted some victim's lawyer's utterly false assertion that I had testified that the Legacy was doing illegal maneuvers at the time of impact.

For the record (and this is means for the U.S. readers trying to keep track of this insanity, the Legacy's radio was not turned off. Brazilian radio coverage over the Amazon is notoriously and without dispute in very bad shape. Only a sociopath would turn off the radio.

Translation by Richard Pedicini in Sao Paulo:


Legacy pilots flew with radio off
The pilots had omissive conduct, because they were only under "radar surveillance"

Agência Estado

A year having passed since the collision between the Legacy jet and the Gol Boeing, which killed 154 people on September 29 of last year, the official Air Force documents produced until now on the investigation leave no doubts: despite the controllers performance having been a "contributing" factor in the accident, the "determining" factor in the tragedy was really the two North American pilots Joseph Lepore and Jan Paul Paladino.

The Military Police Inquiry (IPM), which investigated and indicted the controllers for "carelessness" and "lack of diligence", is explicit on proving that the pilots had "omissive conduct", since they were only under "radar surveillance" by air space control, and not under "radar vectoring". This, in aeronautic language, means the following, without margin for subjective interpretations: the Brazilian controllers served as a bridge for contact and support, but, under radar surveillance, "the responsibility for navigation is that of the pilot in command of the aircraft", as the IPM says.

Brazilian Air Foce (FAB) officers listed for a reporter some point of the omissive conduct of Lepore and Paladino, who were taking the Legacy, purchased by the ExcelAire firm, from São José dos Campos (SP) to the USA. The pilots had to follow a flight plan registered in São José dos Campos and had to follow the indications on the aeronautic chart, which is a required document in the command cabin. The controllers were "careless" is supplying support services to the pilots, giving information that was truncated or in half, but Lepore and Paladino were always advised that they were flying in a condition of "radar surveillance".

The most objective point of the omissive conduct of the North American pilots is in respect to radio communication. Neither they nor any other pilot in any part of the world needs controllers to know at what frequencies they should position their communications apparatus. The navigation charts register the frequencies sector by sector. Lepore and Paladino knew that in Sector 9, between São José and Brasilia, the frequencies are 125.05MHz 133.10MHz and 121.50MHz. On entering Sector 7, in Brasilia to Manaus, the frequencies are 123.30MHz, 128.00MHz, 133.05MHz, 135 90MHz and 121.50MHz. The frequency 121.50MHz appears in all of the sectors because it is the universal emergency band.

On September 29 of last year, it was not because the Brazilian controllers supplied some incorrect radio frequency that the Legacy pilots did not communicate with Brasilia (Cindacta-1) and Manaus (Cindacta-4) or fail to make the so called communication "bridges" [relaying via another aircraft]. According to the IPM, the reason was this: their airplane had the radio turned off, just as was also turned off the transponder, a set of antennas which make contract between the airplane, the ground radars and the anticollision system (TCAS). And everything was activated by the pilots, after the collision with the Boeing.

For about an hour, between 18h50 e 19h48, the Legacy made a blind flight, with all the communications systems turned off, thus not permitting that the Brazilian Cindactas entered in contact with it. What another inquiry, the Investigation of Aeronautic Accidents (IAA) is checking is why the Legacy apparatus was turned off. The TAB does not understand how the pilots flew so long without noting that they were without radio.

###

Here's the latest. In terms of odious outrage, this one ranks right up there with the nitwit band of reporters who confidently parroted some victim's lawyer's utterly false assertion that I had testified that the Legacy was doing illegal maneuvers at the time of impact.

For the record (and this is means for the U.S. readers trying to keep track of this insanity, the Legacy's radio was not turned off. Brazilian radio coverage over the Amazon is notoriously and without dispute in very bad shape. Only a sociopath would turn off the radio.

Translation by Richard Pedicini in Sao Paulo:


Legacy pilots flew with radio off
The pilots had omissive conduct, because they were only under "radar surveillance"

Agência Estado

A year having passed since the collision between the Legacy jet and the Gol Boeing, which killed 154 people on September 29 of last year, the official Air Force documents produced until now on the investigation leave no doubts: despite the controllers performance having been a "contributing" factor in the accident, the "determining" factor in the tragedy was really the two North American pilots Joseph Lepore and Jan Paul Paladino.

The Military Police Inquiry (IPM), which investigated and indicted the controllers for "carelessness" and "lack of diligence", is explicit on proving that the pilots had "omissive conduct", since they were only under "radar surveillance" by air space control, and not under "radar vectoring". This, in aeronautic language, means the following, without margin for subjective interpretations: the Brazilian controllers served as a bridge for contact and support, but, under radar surveillance, "the responsibility for navigation is that of the pilot in command of the aircraft", as the IPM says.

Brazilian Air Foce (FAB) officers listed for a reporter some point of the omissive conduct of Lepore and Paladino, who were taking the Legacy, purchased by the ExcelAire firm, from São José dos Campos (SP) to the USA. The pilots had to follow a flight plan registered in São José dos Campos and had to follow the indications on the aeronautic chart, which is a required document in the command cabin. The controllers were "careless" is supplying support services to the pilots, giving information that was truncated or in half, but Lepore and Paladino were always advised that they were flying in a condition of "radar surveillance".

The most objective point of the omissive conduct of the North American pilots is in respect to radio communication. Neither they nor any other pilot in any part of the world needs controllers to know at what frequencies they should position their communications apparatus. The navigation charts register the frequencies sector by sector. Lepore and Paladino knew that in Sector 9, between São José and Brasilia, the frequencies are 125.05MHz 133.10MHz and 121.50MHz. On entering Sector 7, in Brasilia to Manaus, the frequencies are 123.30MHz, 128.00MHz, 133.05MHz, 135 90MHz and 121.50MHz. The frequency 121.50MHz appears in all of the sectors because it is the universal emergency band.

On September 29 of last year, it was not because the Brazilian controllers supplied some incorrect radio frequency that the Legacy pilots did not communicate with Brasilia (Cindacta-1) and Manaus (Cindacta-4) or fail to make the so called communication "bridges" [relaying via another aircraft]. According to the IPM, the reason was this: their airplane had the radio turned off, just as was also turned off the transponder, a set of antennas which make contract between the airplane, the ground radars and the anticollision system (TCAS). And everything was activated by the pilots, after the collision with the Boeing.

For about an hour, between 18h50 e 19h48, the Legacy made a blind flight, with all the communications systems turned off, thus not permitting that the Brazilian Cindactas entered in contact with it. What another inquiry, the Investigation of Aeronautic Accidents (IAA) is checking is why the Legacy apparatus was turned off. The TAB does not understand how the pilots flew so long without noting that they were without radio.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Day One of Year Two, and Dines From His 3-Inch Perch



It has now been a year and a day, and a few dozen things are going to be set straight starting today.

The lies and distortions, the vilification, the malicious slander and ugly threats that have been directed this way from Brazil in the last year are firmly on the record.

What is it I had done?

Oh, as the only survivor who was free to talk and write about the disaster, I told the truth of what I knew and sought the truth of what had happened.

I was painted as a villain for doing so by people, in the government, in the lickspittle Brazilian media, and among those with dollar signs (emphasis on the dollar, which remains quite fungible under favorable circumstances) in their eyes.

That's me above, in a charming graphic from Brazil that seems to suggest that I either had something to do with 9/11, or that it served me right. And yes, I have aged.

First let me deal with the allegations of my allegedly manifest lack of respect for those who died, which is one of the more odious lies that have refused to die a year later Down the Rabbit Hole. This particular canard was cooked-up during the media-fanned anti-American hysteria that followed the crash. It is routinely repeated by people in Brazil who perhaps do not know better, but who need to be reminded that grief does not exempt them from the common laws of libel and slander.

My father died several weeks after the crash, and in the delirium of his last excruciating pain-filled weeks he became convinced -- because he had just seen me on television with those awful pictures of the crash -- that I had died in a plane crash.

He was my father for 60 years, and he went to his grave believing that his first-born son had died in a crash in a jungle. As I stood at his bedside on his final night, in his delirium he said to my mother, "That man looks a lot like our Joe."

We all know grief, each in our own awful ways.

I have always expressed deep sorrow over the deaths, and deep sympathy for the relatives of the deceased, most of whom are now plaintiffs in a lawsuit against ExcelAire, the American owner of the Legacy, and Honeywell, the American company that manufactured the transponder unit in the Legacy. (The two Brazilian companies, Embraer, the manufacturer of the Legacy, and Gol Airlines, the operator of the 737 jet that went down, are not named in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court).

There is, in fact, abundant evidence of my often expressed sympathy for the dead and their relatives -- on the record, in print and in video. You could, and some did, look it up.

Some people with certain agendas Down the Rabbit Hole forget, or deliberately overlook, two major material facts:

One: I was a victim of this crash. (Oh, just watch the toadies take that sentence out of context!)

No, I didn't die or get physically injured. But to this day, none of the seven of us on the Legacy have any idea how we managed to walk away from a mid-air collision that every pilot I know says was not survivable. And every one of us (I assure you) relives those horrible moments repeatedly in our minds.

I can only imagine what goes through the minds of Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino, but I can do so knowing personally what emotional turmoil they went through when we learned, three hours after the crash, that there had been a collision between our plane and the Gol 737, with 154 dead.

You don't have to be an expert in human emotion to imagine the effect on anyone living through that.

From my strictly personal point of view, defined by everything I now know about that disaster, Brazilian air traffic control and the shoddy, disgraceful Brazilian air-traffic system very damn nearly killed me on Sept. 29, 2006, and afterward plunged me into what I will only describe as a very difficult period in my life, greatly aggravated by the vilification and lies.

I did not kill those people. I was merely a hitchhiker on an airplane, minding his own business when the world around me and those with me suddenly exploded.

I know it is desirable and expedient Down the Rabbit Hole to blame the Americans, but the Brazilian government and its air traffic control system put that crash firmly, and arguably inexorably, in place.

And if you claim otherwise, you are going to need better evidence than a transponder and TCAS system that may or may not have been inadvertently knocked off line, perhaps as a consequence of a badly designed foot-rest. You had better, for example, have an explanation for why that transponder went BACK online seconds after the crash -- and don't tell me you know that the pilots turned it back on. They did not.

And you had better be able to explain the following, among other things:

1. Why did Brazilian air traffic control fail to alert the Legacy to the fact, obvious to ATC, that the transponder wasn't signaling for nearly 5o minutes before collision? Why was there no attempt made to contact the Legacy?

2. Why did the Brazilian radar scope consistently show misreadings of the Legacy's altitude, in several instances indicating wild oscillations that in fact never occurred?

3. Why are we still hearing about a discarded "flight plan," when it is not in dispute that the Legacy was ordered to maintain 37,000 feet, and that ATC orders routinely override flight plans and are always to be followed?

4. Why have we heard so little on the record about the Gol's flight plan and clearance? Why have we not seen a transcript of the Gol cockpit voice recorder?

5. Why is the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, which now knows precisely what happened on Sept. 29, sitting on its hands, citing procedure, when two American pilots are being criminally scapegoated?

Those questions go on, and will be revisited here.

Two: Literally from Day Two, very significant portions of the Brazilian media energetically abetted the government's cover-up and readily accepted outright lies as fact, by way of fanning the flames of anti-American hysteria. So many lies were flying my way that it took me months to realize the futility of trying to swat them all away.

Here is an example. It is on the record, if you choose to look at that particular shoddy record, that I supposedly told Brazilian investigators that the Legacy was performing dangerous aerial maneuvers over the Amazon right before the collision. On the record! You could look it up! The report on what I supposedly said, which turns out to have been conveyed to a group of reporters in Brazil by a lawyer putting together a lawsuit on behalf of the victims, was even carried worldwide by the Dow Jones News Service until I made them correct it.

Obviously, I never said any such thing.

What I did say, which created the initial storm of furor, was that international pilots were telling me that Brazilian air traffic control was unreliable, and that there were well-known radio and radar problems over the Amazon. (By the way, an Air Force investigator looking over our damaged plane at the site where we landed told me the same thing in confidence). I said this not in a newspaper story, as was widely claimed in Brazil, but in a quick interview with CNN a couple of days after the crash. Both assertions about Brazil's unsafe skies, of course, are now widely known to be true.

And that brings me to the Brazilian media itself. In the early stages of this long process of trying to hammer out the truth on this blog, I responded to most Brazilian media requests (or in some cases demands) for interviews. I did these print and television interviews, which I hate to do, as a matter of journalistic responsibility.

But again and again and again, I found that reporters wanted merely to confront me with bogus claims, which I then was expected to refute. Here they were, talking to the only survivor who was free to speak about the crash, and all they wanted to do was argue with him!

I'd never before experienced anything remotely like it in journalism. Subsequently it struck me as being probably a bit like the experience one might go through if one were foolish enough to be on the other side of Bill O'Reilly's microphone and kill button.

Which finally brings me to this Alberto Dines, a misdemeanor in the Brazilian media whose unfortunate job it is to scold the felonies. Mr. Dines is a press critic and political observer, something, I gather, of a Latin American David Broder, puffing reflectively on that pipe while ruminating about Lessons Learned by the Media Gentry.

Now, this is an unkind thing to say, but I am not feeling kind:

Being a press critic in Brazil is kind of like being the sheriff in the town with the 100-room whorehouse. Every so often the sheriff has to ride down Main Street blowing his tin whistle and shooting his cap-gun in the air and scaring the girls, just to make it look good for the Proprietors and other respectable citizens.

Sheriff Dines recently wrote the following, which asserts that the big problem seems to be the "humiliating" experience of the two recent air disasters in Brazil, rather than that nation's manifest failure to do anything to fundamentally improve safety in the 12 months since the first one:

"In Brazilian society there remains the bitter taste of revulsion for the humiliating aviation collapse which paralyzed the country along the ten following months, but, overall, for the second catastrophe which took the lives of another 199 citizens.

"It was not the government that was to blame for the collision of the Gol Boeing with the Legacy jet in the Amazon's air space, nor for the explosion of the TAM Airbus on striking a warehouse next door to Congonhas Airport.

"But one can affirm that the Brazilian state, managed by a pusillanimous Executive - visibly worried about the runoff ballot in the presidential elections - was incapable of avoiding the climate of political emotion that impeded both the emergency actions designed to avoid chaos in air traffic as well as, afterward, braking the irresponsibility of the duopoly which dominates commercial aviation.

"It must be recognized that the performance of the then minister of Defense, Waldir Pires, was calamitous following the collision. Well intentioned, conscious of the dangers that a catastrophe of those proportions represented to the candidate for reelection in the final runoff on October 30, the minister delivered himself to a shouting match with the American journalist who was aboard the Legacy and, soon after, with the jet's two pilots, of the same nationality.

"A Minister of State does not get involved in corner brawls, and besides that, it wasn't his line of work, the Air Force has experience and highly qualified personnel to handle situations of this sort. ..."

Wait a minute! Somebody get the key to the gas-mask locker! "It was not that the government was to blame?" If not, who?

Oh.

The obsequious Dines, lost in whatever mists surround him on his three-inch-high parrot perch, seems to think that I chose to draw the "well intentioned" Defense Minister into what he calls a "shouting match" and "corner brawls." In fact, as anyone with the sense of a turnip ought to be able to guess, I never heard of the fellow until he started denouncing me in public.

And, in what sounds like a bad line that didn't make it into "The Sopranos," this Dines darkly suggests that "the Air Force has experience and highly qualified personnel to handle situations of this sort. ..."

Jayzus, Dines! What are you intimating there? "The Air Force has highly qualified personnel to handle situations of this sort"!

Dammit, now, I forget what the hit men are supposed to do -- take the cannolis and leave the gun, or vice versa? For protection, I'd go find Tony Soprano, but he was killed at Holsten's, which is now just a neighborhood soda fountain and candy shop again.

To those accustomed to genuflecting to power, even while sweetly whispering the gentlest of admonitions in the hush tones that might be heard in the Vatican apartments ("Ah, dear Cardinal Dines! We do so appreciate your counsel!"), speaking the truth evidently sounds a bit like shouting.

Oh, I remember now. It's leave the gun, take the cannolis. If I turn up in a trunk in the Meadowlands, please drag this Dines and find out where he was on the night in question.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Empty Skies

Why pilots of two aircraft on a collision course at a closing speed of 1,000 miles an hour wouldn't necessarily see anything before impact, and other mysteries of the Sept. 29 crash, as addressed by a commercial airline pilot.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

For the Record

I recently posted the gravely flawed congressional-investigation (CPI) report into the Sept. 29 crash, which is riddled with erroneous mistranslations by congressional officials from English to Portuguese and back, as noted by our own eminently reliable translator Mr. Pedicini.

Events are closing. The criminal trial continues. Civil litigation over the claims of victims -- filed against Gol Airlines as a matter of procedure, with the other principals included in the defense -- is moving inexorably toward a settlement, and my guess is that an out-of-court deal will come with gag orders. There's a lot of money on the table. Obviously, the families of the 154 victim have to be compensated. By whom? More later.

[Added Sept. 26: The perils of linking to the unreliable and selectively edited Brazilian documents are manifest. For example, the pilots of the Legacy had some difficulty trying to figure out how to turn on the cabin in-flight entertainment system (basically that screen display that shows passengers altitude and course). Their discussion on that subject is part of the transcript, but casual readers from Brazil have e-mailed me demanding to know why I don't admit the transcript of the pilots' conversation on that subject indicates they were unfamiliar with the Legacy. The "Air Show" cabin video system, of course, has no more to do with the flying an airplane or with aircraft avionics than the galley coffee pot does.]

The first anniversary of the crash is Saturday.

For those who have been carefully following this story, here are previously published links to key documents, to be considered along with the CPI draft report. As regards the ExcelAire report, it is interesting (and important) to note that no one has disputed anything in it.

The links:

IFACTA REPORT (from the international air traffic controllers organization)

http://js.biztravelife.com/IFATCA-Brazil-Mishap.pdf

IFATCA MAGAZINE SPECIAL

http://js.biztravelife.com/IFATCA-magazine.pdf

EXCELAIRE REPORT (It's long, about 70 pages)

http://js.biztravelife.com/Submissions.pdf

FAA Airworthiness Directive on transponders (Sept 2006) Note the section on Honeywell transponders in EMB-135 jets, which is the airframe of the Legacy.

http://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgAD.nsf/0/1BDDC176AC629452862571E70059100D?OpenDocument

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Monday, September 10, 2007

The CPI Report on the Sept. 29 Crash

Here is a link to a pdf file of the 170-page report by the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) on the Sept. 29 crash and the crisis in Brazilian air traffic.

Richard Pedicini in Sao Paulo tirelessly translated this from the Portuguese, and has added Translator's Notes at appropriate spots to point out slips, errors and outright mistranslations in the Portuguese version of English radio transcripts from the American pilots.

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Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Truth Finally Gets Its Socks On

Given that the two American pilots of the Legacy 600 are now on trial, in absentia, on criminal charges that carry prison time in Brazil, it’s interesting to see how conventional wisdom has finally evolved in Brazil to accommodate realities that were violently in dispute for many months after the Sept. 29 crash.

Take this article by Concetta Kim Martens of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a think-tank whose interests include “the formulation of rational and constructive U.S. policies towards Latin America.” The article was published on the organization’s Web site, www.COHA.org, and republished by Brazil Magazine (www.brazzil.com), where it drew lively reader comment.

Obviously, I have no quarrel with the essence of the article.

That’s because nearly every assertion in it was first made a long time ago on this blog. But that was way back when no one else in the media was even raising the issues of the soundness of Brazil’s air-traffic control system, or criticizing the reckless rush by the Brazilian government, military and Federal Police to criminalize the Sept. 29 accident and scapegoat the American pilots.

Now that accuracy is winning the battle, we need to encourage perspective to march forward. So I need to point out that the COHA article, while essentially correct in its points, shades history a bit. And as I sense we are nearing the point where journalism must tip its fedora to history, I am sure Ms. Martens will forgive my nit-picking.

F
or one thing, she muddies the facts a bit on the demeanor of air-traffic controllers after the accident. “Since the September 29 Gol crash over the Amazon, controllers felt unfairly targeted for splenetic criticism [my italics] they were receiving from the public, and reacted by staging several work stoppages …” she writes.

Didn't happen quite that way.

Here is what did happen:

First the American pilots were recklessly and, it seemed to me universally, scapegoated. It took a while for the public in Brazil to become aware of, or concede, the role of air-traffic control in the accident.

Remember how long the ex-defense minister, Wonderful Waldir Pires, loudly insisted that the pilots caused the crash by performing reckless aerial loop d loops over the Amazon? Nobody in power told him to put a lid on that nonsense, including his boss, the President, who won a runoff election amid the passions of the disaster, which had occurred two days before the polls opened.

Only in time did the general public, but not the authorities, acknowledge that the Sept. 29 crash had been set in motion by a series of egregious errors by air traffic controllers, who themselves were working in deplorable conditions with faulty equipment within a system beset with major technological deficiencies in radar and radio communications, especially over the Amazon.

Initially, as I argued last October, November and afterward, the air-traffic controllers' protests were basically a warning shot across the bow of government and military to not implicate air -traffic control in the blame.

What actually happened was that low-ranking controllers – fearing that they, too, might become scapegoats along with the pilots (which in fact ultimately happened) – clammed up while the American pilots remained in custody in Brazil.

While the pilots twisted in the wind, the core group of controllers who were on duty during the accident -- the people who knew, for example, that air-traffic control was aware of the transponder malfunction on the Legacy for 50 minutes before the crash and failed to raise the alarm -- remained silent, went to ground and refused to answer any questions, citing psychological trauma.

As the protests continued for months, air traffic in Brazil was thrown into chaos.

For months after the Sept. 29 accident, public sentiment, whipped up by xenophobic Brazilian media, had focused sharply and exclusively on the Americans as culprits. There was no “splenetic criticism” in Brazil of the air traffic controllers that I am aware of. Of course, I was raising criticism of air traffic control on this little blog. It wasn't splenetic -- though the outraged and verbally violent reaction to it certainly was.

Ms. Martens does zero-in effectively on some of the official nitwits who continually brayed that all was well in Brazil’s skies; that the Sept. 29 disaster was caused strictly by reckless, arrogant Americans; that Brazil’s skies and airports were under world-class supervision and that to say otherwise was a base calumny and an insult to the honor of the nation.

Of course, the official indignation all rang a bit hollow again in July, when another airplane crash killed 199 people at overcrowded, unsafe Congonhas Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s busiest.

Wonderful Waldir Pires, the obstinate Defense Minister responsible for air-traffic control, was finally out the door. So was Jose Carlos “Sunshine” Pereira, who ran the airports authority and suggested that it was slander to suggest that anything, anything might be wrong with Brazil’s aviation system.

Sunshine Pereira ranks right up there near Wonderful Waldir as a classic character in this story. Pereira steadfastly insisted after the Sept. 29 crash, even as the evidence became manifestly clear that both aircraft had been put on a collision course at 37,000 feet by air traffic control, that “it is not the best moment to carry out changes” including addressing the inept military control of civilian aviation.

Later, as international aviation groups expressed outrage at the way Brazil had clumsily politicized and criminalized the Sept. 29 accident, and even after the second horrible accident in July, with 350 now dead in two disasters in 10 months, Sunshine Pereira stood by his rusty guns.

Brazil does not need international help,” he proclaimed, inanely. “The crisis is ours. The dead are ours.”

Shortly after, he was ducked-walked off the deck.

But as Ms. Martens writes, the President remained in a defensive crouch. “The security of our aviation system is compatible with all other international standards,” Lucky Lula proclaimed. As recently as three weeks ago, Lucky Lula was still scoffing at the fact, otherwise widely accepted all over the world, that there are black holes and blind spots in air-traffic control radar and radio communications over the Amazon.

I assume Ms. Martens’ small deficiencies in context and nuance are a consequence of the demands of concise summary. She writes: “President da Silva’s government has come under a great deal of fire for failing to properly address the nation’s air-travel safety, an act that according to several aviation experts, and the adamant belief of a good deal of the public sentiment, led to the air disaster” [s]

Well, I'm here to repeat, for the record, that this "public sentiment" took a long time getting its socks on, and even longer to reach the level of being "adamant."

And I should also point out that, while public sentiment may well have finally come around to the truth, as Ms. Martens asserts, two American pilots remain on trial on spurious criminal charges that public sentiment realizes were trumped-up.

--end