Sunday, July 15, 2007
Brazil's Unsafe Air Traffic Technology, False Alarms and Aerial Maneuvers
Jungle crash site of Gol 737 (above left). Legacy 600 after landing at Amazon air base (above right)
They keep insisting, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that Brazilian air space over the Amazon is well protected by air traffic control. After all, the Air Force spent $1.7 billion a few years ago on new technology to fix the problem of black radio holes and blind radar spots.
Now consider this excerpt from the current Veja, the weekly news magazine of Brazil. Translation by Richard Pedicini:
"The system that cost $1.7 billion is constantly breaking down, brings risks to aviation, and is not capable of watching the Amazon.
... The system does not operate in minimally acceptable conditions for commercial aviation nor for military ends.
Its radars suffer constant breakdowns. When this happens, the screens show airplanes that don't exist and incorrectly inform the direction and velocity of aircraft which are, in fact in air space.
One Air Force report obtained by VEJA reveals that, at the beginning of the decade, these breakdowns were tolerated, because "few aircraft flew in the region." Since then, aerial traffic has increased and the frequency of breakdowns, too.
One example of the risk through which the people who fly over the Amazon pass is the episode that occurred last March 27, at the headquarters of Cindacta 4, in Manaus.
For twenty seconds, the flight-control console [falsely] indicated that a TAM Airbus A330 had collided in midair with a Gol Boeing 737-800 between the cities of Sinop, in Mato Grosso, and Cachimbo, in Pará. [My note: this is the area over the Amazon where the Gol 737 and the Legacy 600 would collide for real on Sept. 29]
Before indicating the disaster, the system showed more than 100 sudden changes of velocity, direction and altitude, as if the jets were performing acrobatic maneuvers.
All the information was false, including that of the accident. But, when the alarm sounded, the flight controller who monitored the planes went into shock. "The danger is in a controller ignoring a real danger, due to the constant signaling of false alarms,"alerts the document of the Air Force Command. "