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.



João said...


You cant give up on Brasil nor the Amazon jungle where you landed safely after the collision.It is your Karma, Joe.So dont retire,just keep on writing.

Service Comes First said...

Joe, on saturday all the flights were cancelled to the USA and Europe and internally it was an chaos you can't imagine. Don't let your flap down yet Mate, we need you. Did not see one mention on CNN,ABC, NBC or FOX on the mess.