Thursday, July 19, 2007

An Editorial



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
Baumgartner.

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.
www.ifatca.org

###

12 comments:

Bo said...

Once again today's synopsis is on the money!

Imagine being an american residing in Brazil and having an american/brazilian child in this type of enviroment!

To say it's challenging is an understatement!

Bo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David said...

A correction: USA is, famously, a thin-skinnd country where politics are inexorably tied to public emotion [we need security, then let's invade Iraq], and where political skill is usually a matter of being able to manipulate that emotion [Bush knew how to make you believe that Saddam was hiding non-existing mass destruction weapons]. The United States media are, famously, an integral part of that process.

Brazil has many problems and the people are upset about them. Most Brazilians want Mr. Pires away from his job and the oposition support grows stronger.

Aviation is in crisis and one of the opposition deputies working on Air Traffic Investigations against Mr. Pires, Julio Redecker (PSDB-RS), was killed on that accident. But since October you seem to have dedicated your life to write against Brazil, and when you say that Whac-a-Mole should replace Football as the national sport you are offending the entire country, not only those responsible for Air Traffic Chaos. Please limit your comments.

The country [especially the Rio Grande do Sul and São Paulo State, from which most victims are] is in shock.

Last, but not least, if you are concerned about the "heroes" who are suspect to have turned off the plane's transponder or about yourself, nevermind. USA has no extradition agreement with Brazil regarding its citizens.

Then, if you don't want to help those who suffer from TAM and GOL tragedies, simply forget about Brazil.

Mike said...

Joe, I just wanted to voice my thanks (again) for staying on top of this story. I don't think too many people care that two pilots have been left hanging in the wind. I honestly didn't think about it (I'm not a pilot, but enjoy following the aviation world) but I would have to agree the professional organizations are amazingly silent on this incident. I anyone else worried that this might happen again to more international pilots? Joe - keep up the good work. And I know it is work. My best wishes to the two pilots. Hopefully they can get out from under this cloud sometime soon and put this behind them.

Felipe said...

Dear Joe,

There's no question that the Brazilian aviation system is broke. If anything, these two accidents show that incompetence can kill. But what bothers me and (I suppose) most Brazilians who were angered by your remarks is that you clearly have an axe to grind. You are desperately throwing any argument that might stick -- some quite prejudiced and misinformed -- to show that the American pilots are innocent. I believe they are.

Despite sleazy politicians looking to score cheap political points, the pilots will be cleared or prosecuted based on the investigations being conducted by aviation experts at CENIPA, not Congress’ silly display. You clearly don’t know much about the Brazilian judicial process. I’ve seen case after case of hysteria from politicians and the media over a high profile case and due process takes its course (though it takes a while). But I’m willing to bet a good amount of money that the pilots, if charged at all, will get a fair trial. In fact, because prosecutors and judges are not elected officials, I dare say that in the Brazilian judicial process public opinion matters much less than in the U.S.

And if you think the hysteria is restricted to Brazilian media and politicians, look no further than the case involving the Duke lacrosse players.

All the best,
Felipe.

Daniel said...

From my own experience from friends and people I interact every day in Brazil ( after all I am Brazilian ) we do not accept well the fact that we have several issues to deal with and a lot of problems to fix before we may call our selves the "greatest nation". It is obviously annoying that we cannot admit our flaws and mistakes and our condition. Economical growth and international respect does not come at force. It is hard to make everyone here see this. Instead, it is easier to proclaim us "perfect, genuine and so smart" and blame other countries for our flaws. Becoming a better nation implies that we first realize we have a long way to go through.

Felipe Gobe said...

Joe,

I´am brazilian and, since I was a child, I´ve been heard that our viation system was one of the most security and confiable in the world. Our sky was safety.

But, when that Legacy crashes in the air, in the Amazon, with a GOL´s Boeing, the things have changed. In fact, it was already changed some years before.

That terrible accident show us that our viation system wasn´t indestructible.

It hapenned cause in five years, the system had as increase of 50% in number of passengers. It isn´t something easy to handle.

Now, we´ve to rebuild it, and we will gonna do.

But, one day after the trird air tragedy in Brazil in the last 11 years, I ask you only one thing: please, don´t publish a picture of this ridiculous person who was Carmen Miranda, because it hurts a lot.

I know you have a problem with brazilian politicians and with some stupids guys who have written here. But it was very insensitive.

And about antiamericanism ou thing like this, forget. If you make a research in any brazilian city, 80% will show you a great respect for your country.

All of you will be always welcome here.

Joana said...

Joe,

I respect your opinions and I agree with a lot that it was said. I'm an American and a Brazilian citizen and it did hurt to hear you judge Brazil and Brazilian people like this - Is Carmen Miranda really necessary? People died. People that have no fault of what happened to the U.S pilots or you - Show some respect you can do better than they did to you.

The situation Brazil is in now is very shameful, some comments I read here made me extremely embarrassed to be Brazilian, however, your post today, made me embarrassed to be an American.

The system, the government, beyond other things in Brazil is flawed. However, kids died, innocent people died.

Most people that posted here I believe are instead of "crazy", ignorant. No excuse for their behavior, though. What's your excuse?

Sincerely

Cláudio said...

Joe, one thing you have to learn is that brazilians love to make fun of other people's tragedy, but they are not that tolerant when shit happens to them. When the planes hit WTC my wife saw people CELEBRATING! She was embarrassed to see such a behavior.

We are always requiring that people treat us with the respect that we don't demonstrate to others and even to ourselves.

I saw here that sombody wrote that brazilians have respect for american people. I really don't know where this idea came from. If you go to any newspaper forum where the news is related to USA, you gonna see exactly the opposite rate: 80-90% bashes USA (whithout even having been there). During the Pan-American Games opening, the American delegation was booed (while the Cuban was cheered). It's very weird because American Embassy and consulates barely can handle the amount of visa requests (three to four months waiting time for an interview). To me it's a clear combination of envy and cheap nationalism that results in this blind and stupid anger.

Of course not everybody is like this, but the overall feeling about the American is not positive in Brasil. I saw a much more positive feeling in Caracas.

Probably, instead of going after this crappy government that we have elected (twice!!!), we are going to chase you because of a picture whose meaning was cultivated by ourselves.

My best regards

PATRICIA M. said...

Looks like the crazy leftists have gone away. They came here because some leftist Brazilian journalist paid by the government much probably called their attention to your blog yesterday. They act like a little army, and invade blogs constantly. Those guys are dangerous. They love Venezuela. They hate the US.

Let's focus now on what President Lula, the great stupid, is going to say tomorrow to the population of Brazil. Some stupid nasty thing, as he's used to doing.

Joe, it's truly a pity you cannot understand Portuguese, I think. You should read Reinaldo Azevedo's blog. He's one of the only truly independent journalists in Brazil right now.

CollisionAvoidance said...

I started studying this stuff in December 1978 (first time at the controls of an airplane, social interactive exposure to people who drove airplanes), you only started last September 30th. Maybe you are ready to listen:

"But the crazies seem to have control of the microphone" - that's the way it has always been. Congress, who makes the rules, only responds to public noise, and money. If you are not a source of either, you get no attention. If congress were logical, it would be noticed that the technical means and procedures are woefully obsolete, and would eliminate the FAA.

"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" - yes. The NTSB is the only source of knowledgeable and skilled investigation. But it must balance the interests of the few FAA certified avionics manufacturers, the public's confidence in their government, the incompetence of the FAA (means and procedures), and the foreign relations health of our country (we don't run the world anymore).

"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" - yes. That is what they do.

"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" - yes. That is what they do. Remember, every single pilot has no science or math or engineering understanding. I don't know who made the rule, but I have discovered that there are few exceptions. Except for me, they sell their airplanes and buy a boat, before they get killed. Those that rail against a stupid and corrupt systems of rules and equipment quickly get marginalized by both the regulatory agencies and their peers. Certificates (licenses, permissions) can be pulled, with no day in court for the victim (flying is a privilege, not a right); and there is noplace else for a person with no education to make this kind of money. Have you noticed that most pilots believe in fate, rather than the ability to interact with control over environment. Think of that dichotomy, a pilot who believes that there is no control...

"We haven't heard a word from the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers since that organization roused itself many, many months ago to issue forth the most faint of peeps about the clearly unsafe conditions in Brazil's air traffic control system" - yes. The deal is, those who make noise and hold certificates are the first to be silenced.

"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" - and you won't. To react would be an action against self interest. Yes, you are statistically in danger (severe danger), but statistically it is a big sky. There is assurance that you will be locked out from access, should you protest and achieve voice.

"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" - and we kill, over a long term average, one person per day in the United States. There is no reason for the governor or Missouri to have hit a hill under ATC advice, JFK Jr. to succumb to a death spiral under ATC advice, ...

"It is time now for the world aviation community to summon the courage to speak. Before somebody else gets hurt." Yah, well, you can start with my peer reviewed papers from notable venues (one from the FAA itself in the Library of Congress). You personally pay any attention to any of that yet? http://www.gtwn.net/~keith.peshak/Papers.htm The lecture tapes from Oshkosh are listed there, you can get them if you prefer listening to reading. A fun investigation would be, you ever wonder why I got thrown out of Oshkosh? So far, nobody has said that I am wrong.

PBR said...

Goodness gracious! I read the comments posted on your previous post and many of them were filled with hate - I am sad to say - mostly by brazilians brainwashed with PT-ist/marxist propaganda.

Not all brazilians are as densely ignorant as those but a great number of them should just stick their heads in a toilet and press the flush button.

I look forward for more of your comments, Sharkey.

If you want to, please take a look at the web site Reservaer (www.reservaer.com.br), where former Brazilian Air Force (FAB) members have been posting news and information about this mess.