Friday, June 29, 2007

Brazil Updates: The Swiss Connection

Without comment, here are some updates from the news in Brazil, translations by our Sao Paulo bureau chief Richard Pedicini. The Swiss Connection can be found in the final item.,,MUL60155-5598,00.html

Report points to problems in aviation sector
Air Force Department of Air Space Control makes diagnosis of country's situation.
2005 document reveals need to hire 1,400.
By G1, with information from Jornal Nacional [TV Globo evening news]

A report by the Air Force Department of Flight Control, received by the Senate aviation sector CPI (Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry) affirms that there is a shortage of controllers in the county and the system has reached its limits. ...

The report is from the end of 2005. A development plan for 2005 to 2009 and the Air Force winds up recognizing some of the criticism made by controllers [and cites] "rapid obsolescence and the limitations of equipment and systems."

In another section it says that "due to the increase in the demand for air travel, to the reduction of the separation between aircraft, (my italics) undesirable conflicts between air traffic sometimes occur." ... The document explains that "air traffic service organs are approaching the limit of their operational capacity, in terms of personnel and equipment." ...



Country has fragile control, official report attests
by Fernando Exman

Brasilia, June 28, 2007 - Poor quality aviation maps, gaps in communication and lack of personnel are bottlenecks in aviation. A secret Air Force document discussed yesterday in a closed session of the Senate Aviation Blackout CPI proved the fragility of the system for controlling air traffic and the country's borders. Produced in November of 2005, the system reveals that the systems of communications, navigation and surveillance have shortcomings. The Department of Air Space Control (Decea), the study demonstrates, has a deficit of personnel and equipment. Besides this, the maps used in Brazilian aviation have poor quality and the increase in demand has harmed the use of some airports and part of air space.

The document differs from the declarations of Brazilian Air Force (FAB) officials and repeated by president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who has turned back the accusations of professionals in the area that the Brazilian air traffic control system has imperfections. The document in question is the Air Space Control System Development Plan, a document in effect from November of 2005 to November of this year and to which this reporter had access.

"I been saying that there are weaknesses in the system for a long time. The lack of equipment and personnel is a reality. It's easy to put the blame on human failure", said the president of the National Syndicate of Flight Protection Workers, Jorge Botelho, referring to the investigations of the accident which involved the Gol Boeing and the Legacy. ...


O Dia

Gol Tragedy
Analyst alerted to control failure
In the House, Vinicius Gomes said that FAB knew of problem before accident

Brasilia – Air Traffic Control Institute systems analyst Vinicius Lanzoni Gomes, in testimony to the House Aviation Blackout CPI, said he informed the Air Force authorities of errors in the air traffic control system three months before the accident between the Gol Boeing and the Legacy jet, which left 154 dead.

According to Gomes, because of this, he was threatened with firing at the end of the year. "I cannot remain silent. I concluded that it's better for me to pay than the Brazilian population pay", he said.

The analyst said that the controllers are correct when they affirm that the system induces errors and harms flight safety. "They can't speak because they're in uniform but I am a civilian, I'm disposable and have nothing to lose," he affirmed. ...

And here is the Swiss Connection.

Paulo Henrique Amorim

CPI congressman denounces "plot" by controllers

Congressman André Vargas (PT-Parana), member of the Aviation Blackout CPI, accused that the military air traffic controllers are in "collusion" with the representative of the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers, the Swiss Christoph Gilgen.

Last Sunday, Gilgen gave an interview to the Folha de S. Paulo and said that "arrest and silence are things of dictatorships". During the interview, Gilgen said that "Brazilian air space has problems and there may even be another accident."

... Congressman André Vargas said in an interview with Conversa Afiada this Wednesday, the 27th, that he received accusations that Gilgen and the Brazilian military controllers, including those jailed, schemed to pressure the Government.

Vargas said that he received in his office, anonymously, copies of emails exchanged between jailed Brazilian controllers Moisés Almeida, Wellington Rodrigues, Carlos Trifilio and Gilgen.

In these emails, according to Vargas, they agreed on strategies to to put pressure on the air traffic system and strategies in relation to the media.

"That is so say, a Swiss comes, attacks our system, attacks Brazil, the national sovereignty, Brazil's image and says, "the pressure has to be kept up, the heading must be held, don't let any more fish out of the net'... Now, having access to these emails we perceive that it is a real plot to attack Brazil to solve one profession's problems", said Vargas.

Congressman André Vargas said that this movement can be classified as a mutiny on the part of the controllers. ...


Monday, June 25, 2007

All Fixed!

"Now that we've arrested a few controllers, the air-travel mess in Brazil is totally fixed. Yeah ... that's the ticket."

-- Tommy Flanagan ("Flan-AY-gen"), the man who cannot tell the truth, as portrayed by Jon Lovitz on Saturday Night Live.

Well, those of you stuck in the chaos of Brazil's airports can rest easy. It's all fixed, Lucky Lula announces. As reported today by Reuters:

BRASILIA, June 25 (Reuters) - Six days of chaos at Brazil's airports have come to an end, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Monday, after the government sacked 14 air traffic controllers and ordered two of their leaders arrested.
"There are no more delays due to air control problems," Lula said on his weekly radio program.
A work slowdown by controllers, most of them air force officers, had caused renewed chaos in airports last week. Hundreds of flights were delayed or canceled, affecting business travel between the main hubs like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in Latin America's largest country.
"In view of this fact of insubordination, I determine that the air force command put the house in order, do whatever needs to be done. But we have to keep the airports functioning well, maintain military discipline," Lula said.
Air travel chaos has persisted on and off for months, with some 100 controllers walking off the job on March 30, which forced a brief shutdown of all airports and triggered further air traffic problems in April as strike talks went on.
Controllers are demanding higher pay, modern equipment and a lighter work load.
The air force sacked 14 controllers on Friday and ordered the arrest of two union leaders. "An army" of new controllers would be trained to avoid problems in the future, Lula added.
He also said Brazil's air traffic control equipment was among the world's most modern, rejecting air controller claims it was outdated and risky. Lula said calling it outdated was tantamount to "terrorizing society".
Two passenger planes clipped wings late on Sunday while taxiing at Sao Paulo's domestic airport, adding concerns about the air travel safety. Nobody was injured and the incident was apparently unrelated to the labor protest.
Air travel has repeatedly been disrupted since Brazil's worst aviation accident last September unveiled a series of problems, including insufficient infrastructure and overburdened, underpaid staff. A Gol airlines Boeing 737 and a small executive jet collided on Sept. 29 in mid-air, killing 154 people.

My note: Wonderful Waldir Pires, the doddering defense minister who has loudly denounced all (like me) who have pointed out that Brazil's military-run air-traffic system is widely considered by international pilots to be unsafe and unreliable, remains in his job, part of which is to run air traffic control. He has a private plane, though.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

O.K., Back in the Game; Another New Air Travel Crisis

Yes, I know I've announced my retirement more often than Barbra Streisand, and I thought the last one was real.

Surely, I thought, official Brazil cannot become any nuttier than it had become nine months after the Sept. 29 mid-air collision. Surely, I thought, the mainstream U.S. media would try to catch up with this disgrace of a story in Brazil by now.

Wrong on both counts. It did. They didn't.

Brazil's air travel system is in chaos again, another consequence of the hopelessly botched investigations into the Sept. 29 crash by the Brazilian military, the Brazilian Congress and the Brazilian Keystone Kops ... I mean, Federal Police. For my critics among the kept and compliant news-media and official bureaucracies in Brazil who wail that I am a repellent xenophobe every time I do this, I offer once more the very popular photo of the actual Keystone Kops on the job investigating a case.

(All of the previous nine months of Brazil posts on Joe Sharkey At Large will be transfered to this new blog once I figure out how to do it).

Anyway, I'm back in the game. In for a penny, in for a dollar.

Here's what it looked like yesterday from Rio according to the Associated Press

Rio de Janeiro -- Authorities beefed up security at airports across Brazil on Thursday to
protect airline workers from fist-waving passengers angered by flight delays and cancellations.
Passengers shouted and tried to storm ticket counters at the Brazilian airports to demand transfers to other flights ... The air force, which oversees Brazil's air traffic control system, issued a statement blaming the delays on problems with radar screens and a communication link failure.

The crisis forced Defense Minister Waldir Pires to return early from the Paris air show, his
office said. Faced with rising tempers among passengers, authorities sent extra officers to airports in Rio, Brasilia and Porto Velho. ...

"The atmosphere is very worrisome. We are taking all the necessary measures but we are near the limit," Infraero President Brig Jose Carlos Pereira told reporters. [Infraero is the Brazilian airport authority.]

On Wednesday, the Air Force also ordered the president of the air traffic controllers' federation, Carlos Trifilio, to be imprisoned for giving unauthorized interviews to media.

Controllers allege that poor working conditions and inadequate training are putting the public
at risk."

{MY NOTE: "Allege?" ... "At risk?" Isn't this all in response to shifting blame and scapegoating and manifestly failing to fix the broken system following the Sept. 29 disaster that killed 154?}

Meanwhile, our Sao Paulo bureau chief, Richard Pedicini, has never stopped reporting. Here are some recent news stories he had translated from the Portuguese. Yep, the air traffic controllers are in full tantrum mode again.

Editorial (22/6/2007)

Aerial Chaos

The resurgence of the air transport crisis, this week, after being set off nine months ago, is beyond all levels of tolerance. It prefigures, as such, an environment of disgoverning, of disrespect to passengers, of vacillating command at the levels involved in teh problem and of insensibility to an extremely profitable economic segment.

Lamentable too are the missteps in solving the problem. While the President of the Republic demonstrated, once more, wanting to know the day, hour and month at which there will be a solution for the aviation crisis, the minister of Defense, Waldir Pires, had publicly foreseen the need for a year to find this solution. {MY NOTE: Welcome back to our non-oscillating radar screen, Wonderful Waldir Pires!}

The causes of the accident between the North American Legacy and the Gol Boeing - origin of the crisis - are timidly pointed out. However, the revelation of the supposed nonexistence of communications between air traffic control and aircraft flying in the transition zones in the Amazon, between Sindacta I (sic), in Brasília, and Sindacta IV, in Manaus, remain without a convincing response. {MY NOTE: This would be a reference to the radio and radar blind spots over the Amazon that the Brazilian authorities vilified me as a liar and worse for first mentioning nine months ago.}

In the confusion, the accusations of air traffic controllers of equipment failures and the disorganization of flight plans present a prato cheio [a full helping, a bonanza, a cornucopia] for the defense of the pilots indicted as culprits for the aircraft accident, along with the six on duty in the towers.

The deficiencies of air transport are, in fact, of disturbing proportions.

The solutions previously seen for the crisis, such as the reduction of part of the traffic concentrated in Brasilia, have not left the drawing board. Airports like Tom Jobim, in Rio de Janeiro, Tancredo Neves, in Belo Horizonte, and Guararapes, in Recife, continue to be underutilized. But Brasilia and São Paulo, from where negative impacts on flight plans spread, continue exhibiting their technical deficiencies, with the tacit acceptance of the civil aviation administrators. ..."


Well said!

They're not all crazy down there. But let's turn to the front-page headline from Folha, a newspaper that I fear is one day going to expire simply from the exhaustion of constant genuflecting to its masters:

"Air Force see sabotage and Palace authorizes arrests

Crisis worsens and affects almost half of flights; controllers foresee radicalization

"Faced with the worsening of the aviation crisis, president Lula authorized the Air Force to take a harder line with the air traffic controllers. ... Besides speeding up military inquiries underway, the decision is to arrest the leaders, described by the Air Force as "saboteurs'"

More headlines:

Lula authorizes Air Force to arrest "saboteurs"

Arrests will be based on military regulations, since military inquiries are slow

Yesterday, airports faced a third consecutive day of flight delays [after] arrest raised tempers among controllers.


Some news nuggets:

--Investigating Congressmen arrived at Cindacta-1, the air traffic control center where the most egregious errors were made on Sept 29, and found that "officers and controllers didn't even say hello" to the visiting dignitaries.

-- A congressional Referee leading one of the investigations "joked about the need to turn on transponders of officers and controllers, to avoid collisions."


Yup, we are back down the rabbit hole in Brazil.