Sunday, July 8, 2007

Boys of Brazil: Stop Fighting This Instant!

Wonderful Waldir Pires

(Carmen) Miranda Warning:

Boys of Brazil: Stop That Name-Calling This Instant!

Oh, they're turning on each other as the Investigations roll on in Brazil, where those behind the concerted efforts to scapegoat two innocent American pilots for the Sept. 29 air disaster are starting to look like thrashing pirannah. Too bad, because some of the testimony in the Senate inquiry has become riveting. Such as, a segreant in air traffic control saying that the secondary radar was known to be malfunctioning that day in the area of the crash, and controllers had been warned that aircraft transponders might be unreliable. More on that in a later post.

But really, this name-calling must stop! Yes, I know that way back in early October I began referring to Brazilian Defense Minister Waldir Pires as "Wonderful Waldir." Two weeks later, Wonderful Waldir denounced me as an "ignorant" and an "impudent youngster," the latter mild insult being especially delicious as I read it on the morning of my 60th birthday.

I am told the nickname "Wonderful" got under the skin of the octogenerian Defense Minister, and I myself kind of liked the way it was translated, non-alliteratively, in a few Portuguese-language newspapers: "Marveloso."

Wonderful Waldir, you will recall, is in charge of Brazilian air traffic control. His earliest and abiding impulse was to foolishly criminalize the accident, cover-up the manifest catastrophic chain of errors in air-traffic control that put two planes on a colllision course at 37,000 feet over the Amazon, and put all blame on the American pilots -- well before any investigation had time to get its boots on.

Wonderful Waldir, you might recall, ludicrously insisted the pilots were doing illegal "aerial maneuvers," like loop-d-loops, in the Amazon skies when the crash occurred, and never really backed down even after it was shown that Brazilian ATC radar has a habit of going heywire in the dead zones of Amazon air space that Pires and his cronies insisted did not exist.

The other day, a Brazilian senator who heads one of the congressional committees investigating the nine-months of air-traffic control chaos that have rattled air traffic in Brazil since the accident denounced Wonderful Waldir and called him a very bad word in Brazil:


One reason this is a graver insult in Portuguese than in English, evidently, is that the word, besides suggesting that the insultee is missing a few marbles, also could suggest the Banana republic era of South America and the odious military dictatorships that ruled in association with United States based banana-importing companies.

Obviously my blog postings on the Brazil crash and the aftermath over the last nine months have a strong point of view. Hey, I was there, and my six comrades on that lucky plane will tell you that I had this figured for a set-up within hours after we fell out of the sky onto that jungle air strip, literally unaware of what had hit us.

But I've tried to be very careful with the facts, even when I was the only one reporting them. (I'm still unable to figure out a way to import the Brazil posts before I broke out the Brazil news into this separate blog. To see the archives, please see

So let's set the record straight on one thing.

Wonderful Waldir was no friend of the right-wing military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 till 1985. When the military coup against populist (but not popular) President Joao Goulart occurred in 1964 (with support from the United States, as many Brazilians will never forget), young Pires was a Goulart cabinet minister. In the dotage of an old leftie in South America, a reflexive anti-Americanism must be viewed in a certain context).

As the respected Brazilian journalist Alberto Dines wrote back in December, Pires is "an honest, courageous poilitician with an undefiled biography."

However, as the head of Brazilian commercial and military aviation ... well, not so hot. On his watch, huge sums of money went to supposedly improve what had been a third-world air traffic control system, while Brazilian commercial air traffic soared. Whatever they spent the money on, it didn't buy them a first-class system. The crash merely exposed the huge technological and human problems with Brazil's military-run air-traffic system that international pilots have talked about for years.

After the crash last Sept. 29, Pires flew off the tracks and greatly contributed to the current mess. As Dines wrote: His "intention was to make the government look good, or at least the ruling party." Pires, Dines said, "politicized the tragedy from the very beginning ... The pilots of the Legacy were Americans, ergo they were preliminarily guilty."

Pires has a lot to answer for, and so do some of the government's flunkies in the news media, who have been flogging the anti-American donkey since day one, irrespective of the facts in this particular case.

More detail later on what's been happening in the congressional investigations, some testimony in which has not pleased the "hang the Americans" mob.

Of course, some Brazilian newspapers and their amusingly delusional columnists (who genuflect to the authorities for their "scoops" so reflexively that I worry they'll soon require knee-replacement surgery), are of course still doing their desperate level-best to denounce inconvenient facts and villify apostates whose testimony gets in way of the story as they have been instructed to report it. That false story is taking on water like the Titanic.



wondering ego said...

It is an historical error to associate Brazil with United fruit and Standart fruit and to a "Banana Republic". The Ghost of a Banana Republic yes, do haunt us, as well as the "Le Brésil n’est pas um pays sérieux" attributed to Charles de Gaulle. Sometimes we are on the verge that those nightmares may come reality, its true, but we have been able to scape from that, slightly. This would be the same as seeing the US as quite a Banana Republic under the Bush administration or as totally controlled by the profit-driven media and bankers... these are ghosts that haunt US too, but somehow you north-americans expect it may not come true... "this can't be true!" the common citizen will be wondering these days.

wondering ego said...

Anyway, I must recognize that you, Mr. Sharkey, as a journalist, is well versed at using those images to call the attention and to get us brazilians on our nerves. Clever!

CollisionAvoidance said...

Under it all, I’m just a little airplane user. Starting in 1979, I use a personal airplane to travel across the United States. My primary flight instructor insisted on coming along on the first trip (“You’re gonna WHAT?”). All this avionics development came along because, well, I could have been killed by that start-of-the-art crap in that brand new out of the box airplane from Cessna (VOR, DME, ADF, ILS, transponder, NavCom) that airlines still use today.

I have lost count of the number of times I have missed being killed while under positive control. That is what led to this stuff I have now (I use no FAA certified navigation and collision avoidance equipment). We kill, on average, one airline passenger per day (it’s bursty, you have to long term average, it’s going up).

We owe a debt of gratitude to Joe Sharkey. Every reporter covers the crash for one day, then nothing until the next big one, for one day. Joe is still going after 9 months and counting. No other journalist in the history of the universe ever got beyond one week. Thanks, Joe, owe ya, big time.

See, the deal is, if he keeps going, eventually, will probably take another year, we will get to, the specs are wrong. Ya know, you have no right to expect avionics (the navigation and collision avoidance equipment) to work if the TSOs are bad.

Yes, America does rule the world. But only because the world chooses to follow America, and we have absolutely no competence sufficient enough to find the errors in the TSOs. And you argue about bananas in Brazil...

CollisionAvoidance said...

According to the FAA, 4.5 miles is the new five miles. USA Today reported last week the agency has adopted new reporting standards for air traffic separation errors that, among other things, give controllers a 10-percent margin for error in maintaining the once-sacrosanct five-mile spacing. The newspaper paraphrases Tony Ferrante, director of the FAA's Air Traffic Safety Oversight Service, as saying the half-mile fudge factor is designed to encourage controllers to tighten up traffic at busy airports without risking being cited for busting the five-mile barrier. The new standards also, at the stroke of a pen, dramatically reduce the incident rate by reclassifying some separation errors, adopting new standards for others and eliminating 25 percent of those that are now reportable.

From Peshak: The ATCRBS (mode 3A and mode 3C) transponder packets propagating through space are 7530 meters in length, which is 4.68 miles. Why is this important? Because both airplanes are in trail to the airport, and the airport has the radar. If the packets overlap in space, then the radar exhibits drop out due to scrambled received data. The difference is, more than 4.68 miles apart, radar can see each airplane, displays where each airplane is. But at 4.68 or less miles apart, both targets are in coast mode (not seen by the radar, position projected by the video game computer between the radar and the u-tube).

Is there any question about total proof of technical incompetence remaining? Bananas are a weed, they spread unchecked in Washington.

Give the politicians another year for more investigations. They'll eventually get here, if Joe can keep up the pressure.

CollisionAvoidance said...

"Well, but, here in Europe, uh, we have an ATC system based on Mode S transponders."

OK, that's a 64 microsecond long packet. 5 miles in trail (radial separation from the radar within the beam width of the radar antenna) needs to go to 19,200 meters, which is 12.0 miles. Why do you think we tried Mode S transponders, made them mandatory for all airplanes in 1985, and immediately dropped the requirement?

"Well, yah but, we have this ADS-B/NextGen that we are gonna make you get."

Yah, using the internationally unstandardized double length Mode S packet...

Got it yet?

CollisionAvoidance said...

The Future:

“Keith, you don’t understand ADS-B/NextGen. A single message will not fit in just one 64 microsecond packet. To make one single message, we string together a large number of Mode S packets, repeating the 24 bit unique aircraft address to enable the receiver to tie the individual packets together into the message. And besides, we use long packets.”

Long packets are double length Mode S packets. A 128 microsecond packet is 38,400 meters long propagating in space, which is 23.9 miles long. OK, he don’t got it yet, but he can make us switch to this new Air Traffic Control system!

“Keith, you forgot about the new ADS-B/NextGen capability that no other collision avoidance system has. We can train a camera on the pilot, allow us to see if he just became Arab. Do that with any other collision avoidance system!”

This is what is called “creeping featurism”, make it do everything for everybody. OK, 1024 pixels wide x 768 pixels tall x (8 bits red + 8 bits green + 8 bits blue) = number of bits to transmit in one picture frame (18,874,368).

OK, 64 microsecond Mode S packet is 64 bits – 8 bit clock synchronization and packet type – 5 bits downlink format number – 24 bits aircraft unique address = 27 bits useful data in 64 microseconds if no error detection or correction and no channel arbitration (421,875 baud).

OK, so, (number of bits to transmit / 27) x 64 microseconds = transmission time during which no other transponder can use the channel (radar total blackout duration is 44.8 seconds for each individual picture sent). Think about driving down the curvy freeway, at minimum distance behind the vehicle ahead of you, and closing your eyes for 44.8 seconds. Do you really need to see the driver to avoid hitting the other vehicle (is this feature really necessary for collision avoidance)? Is this an increase or decrease in the level of safety afforded by a system that already suffers from too much electronic packet traffic to work (the Los Angeles Basin problem)?

We need Joe. Joe can tell this story so that people can get it. Investigators can get it, if Joe keeps after them long enough. But Joe needs to keep on it. Without Joe, who still hasn’t quit after 9 months and counting (only journalist in the universe that has), nobody will ever get this stuff. Certainly, there is no government agency anywhere that gets any of this stuff yet.

CollisionAvoidance said...

“Ya, but, Keith, that was just the Administrator popping off after nine one one, you know, trying to look good on the TVs. We aren’t dumb enough to put picture TV transmissions on the radar beam.”

Sure you are, been doing it for years. It’s called TIS for Traffic Information Service. You send up the U-tube so that us pilots can all enjoy the drop out, and phantoms, and ring around, and unannounced coast mode, and track jump. I think you do this so that we will quit hollering at you for the near miss. And, as expected, you black out radar when you televise. You spent billions putting up new radars to broadcast TIS pictures. And, now, you are spending billions more putting up replacement radars that don’t. Here is a map of those scheduled for shut off right now, as soon as you can find the money to turn it off:

And that’s a pretty good radar coverage map of the US while you are at it. Shows those “Amazon” areas in the US...

And, but also (as the lawyers say), you are advertising sending up weather pictures. Yes, we need weather in the cockpit. Talking on the radio to some fool reading from a teletype is not weather. But not at the cost of jamming radar. Don’t need long radar blackouts for weather, put the data link on an old DME channel (nobody but the airlines use VOR DME navigation anymore).

You guys don’t listen to engineers, have to go try it anyway, then after you cause a disaster, you gots ta goes and doos it again, just to see if it will work this time.

Where's Joe? We need to get Joe on this. He can explain this. Hopefully he will irritate some of your people, like the new Administrator.

CollisionAvoidance said...

“But, Keith, if we don’t send pictures up the radar beam, how are we supposed to get weather pictures to the cockpit that we promised 20 years ago?”

And, if you have ever visited you know that internet weather is far better depicted, far more up-to-the-minute than anything from the FAA. Get the internet to the cockpit.

You could change the DME box in the airplane so that it sends URL requests, instead of pulse pair interrogations. Change the TACAN or VORTAC on the ground to have internet access, and reply with IP packets, instead of pulse pair replies. You know, bring the system from the 1940s to the 2000s utilizing the same hardware that exists out there now. Nobody uses this start-of-the-art crap for navigation anymore anyway, except the airliners.

And, if you have to telecast, how about sending one copy to everybody (like TV works) instead of sending the same thing over and over to each specific airplane address (you guys haven’t a clue about how 1950s television works, or 1990s internet works)?

Common, guys, ask Joe Sharkey to explain this stuff to you over at the FAA. He knows, and he can teach.

Sandra said...

What do ya say now Joe?? The brazilian congress wants the U.S. pilots to return to brazil and be charged with.....murder!

Tell ya guys something, I'm an american that has lived in this country for close to ten years and it never ceases to amaze me. The brazilian gov't. nor the brazilian population NEVER are at fault for anything.....NEVER.

cmacedo_25 said...

Shut up !! Take care of you business,u Fucking fagat

Denice said...

Meu amigo, respeite a dor dos Brasileiros. Espere as conclusões dos especialistas pra se pronunciar. Eu prefiriria que voce ficasse calado no que diz respeito ao Brasil. Fica nítida o seu oportunismo trágico e de mal gosto. Pra mim fica claro que você quer dizer pro mundo todo que não foi culpa sua o desastre com o a aeronave da Gol e isso só te culpa mais. Liberte-se da sua culpa interior e esqueça o Brasil, já que você não nos respeita! Ah, we love Congo!

We Sit and Watch Umbrellas Fly said...

Shut up, Murder!
Stop doing these shits on your blog and begin to prepare your defense here in Brasil.


oh, I forgot:
"We love Congo"