Those in the United States still trying to figure out how it would be possible for authorities in Brazil to railroad two innocent American pilots, and shift blame from their own misfeasance and malfeasance in running an air-traffic system, might have a look at some of the 170-plus comments attached to yesterday's innocuous post.
(Some of the most obscene ones and the direct death threats have been deleted).
Brazil is, famously, a thin-skinned country where politics are inexorably tied to public emotion, and where political skill is usually a matter of being able to manipulate that emotion. The Brazilian media are, famously, an integral part of that process.
Imagine trying to have a rational discourse in that climate. Imagine, as the two American pilots must, standing falsely accused in that climate.
On the other hand, you might note among yesterday's heated comments a good number of sensible, reasonable statements from other Brazilians, even when they disagree. And keep in mind that crazies are usually the first to react.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which knows exactly what happened on Sept. 29, is remiss in sitting on its hands and letting this farce play out in Brazil, meekly invoking garden-party protocol as an excuse for its silence.
The State Department's reaction has been effete and ineffectual since Sept. 30, when it sent a consul to Cuiaba who failed from day one to intervene in, or to even make the mildest of protests against, the illegal detention of the American pilots for what would turn out to be 71 days.
And what about the professional organizations? After some initial harrumphing about the dangers of criminalizing accidents, the International Air Line Pilots Association has gone to ground, strangely silent on articulating what every pilot who flies the Brazilian skies knows: that Brazil's aviation system is unsafe.
We haven't heard from the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers since that organization roused itself many, many months ago to decry the unsafe conditions in Brazil's air traffic control system. [Later note: The air traffic controllers group has issued a statement that's available today. It's appended at the bottom of this post]
Nor have we heard from corporate and leisure travel agents in the United States and elsewhere who are blithely dispatching travelers into manifestly unsafe skies and an unsafe air-traffic system.
The death toll now exceeds 350 in two separate aviation accidents within 10 months, both eminently preventable, both caused by Brazil's inability and disinclination to develop an aviation system that ensures safe skies.
It is time now for the world aviation community to summon the courage to speak. Before somebody else gets hurt.
Here is the statement issued yesterday by the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations:
"Air Safety Compromised in Brazil
IFATCA offers its condolences to the families of this tragic accident involving TAM, which
happened in Congonhas Airport in Sao Paolo. We received the news of this accident with horror,
but not total disbelief.
Following the mid-air collision in September 2006, this is yet another disastrous civil aviation
accident in Brazil in a short period. In both cases numerous warning signs, multiple risks and
safety relevant reports were ignored.
IFATCA has condemned the stance of the Brazilian Government to let the military FAB introduce its so called Plan B. This plan was to jail leaders of the air traffic controllers’ association and replace highly skilled and trained ATCOs by military air defense personnel who are neither
trained, nor qualified to control civilian traffic.
'How many more people will be killed before the Brazilian governments stops the FAB's live
experiments on the traveling public's safety?' says the President of IFATCA, Marc
The Brazilian government has focused much energy in chasing scapegoats
instead of re-engineering the necessary safety oversight and risk assessment to prevent
Brazilian civil aviation from falling into deeper chaos.
By delegating safety oversight, safety management and safety provision to the FAB, the Brazilian government is endangering the lives of the traveling public in Brazil. Warnings on the conditions at the airport in Congonhas have repeatedly been ignored by the authorities.
IFATCA urges the government of Brazil to stop the current repressive organizations of Air
Traffic Control and civil aviation in Brazil. Air safety is currently compromised and is a danger to the traveling public, the Brazilian economy and the credibility of the Brazilian state as a great
nation of this world. Continuing to ignore internationally agreed standards on Air Traffic
Management and Airport design (layout) will only lead to further hardship and possibly more
accidents,' warns the President of IFATCA.
IFATCA is the worldwide organization representing more than fifty thousand air traffic
controllers in over 130 countries. Amongst its goals are the promotion of safety,
efficiency and regularity in international air navigation and the protection and
safeguarding of the interests of the air traffic control profession.