Sunday, January 6, 2008

Aviation Know-It-All Crashes Plane Into a Pole

One of the so-called aviation experts repeatedly invoked by those who loudly insist, despite evidence to the contrary, that the American pilots caused the Sept. 29, 2006 mid-air disaster over the Amazon is named George Sucupira.

Yesterday, Flyboy Sucupira flew his twin-engine plane into a power pole. He suffered only scrapes and bruises.

I am reliably assured that the American pilots, Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino, were nowhere near the scene of the accident. However, Flyboy Sucupira and Brazilian authorities undoubtedly have another case against the American Imperialists, who once again are manifestly guilty of the charge that they "failed to ensure the safety of Brazil's skies."

With translation from Brazilian media accounts, and background by the esteemed Richard Pedicini in Sao Paulo:

"Brazilian pilot George Sucupira, 67, who has repeatedly held that the largest part of the blame for the Gol 1907 tragedy lies with the American pilots of the Legacy jet, demonstrated his own piloting skills on Saturday by flying his twin engine plane into a high-voltage power pole.

Alone in the craft, he escaped with only scrapes and bruises. Some reports said that the aircraft was attempting an emergency landing on a highway when it collided with the power transmission line alongside the roadway.

Pilots who are not rated for instrument flight will sometimes navigate in conditions of low clouds by flying below them and following landmarks, such as highways.

Sucupira, president of the Association of Aircraft Pilots and Owners, has testified before Congress and in the press on the Gol 1907 crash, invariably blaming the pilots of the Legacy jet for the collision and the deaths of those aboard the Gol.

He has offered instant diagnoses of the TAM 3054 Airbus accident in July of 2007, and of the Learjet crash in November. While final reports have yet to be released in either of those crashes, current information disproves him in the Learjet case and is against him on the Airbus.
Sucupira, although reported to be "lucid" yesterday, has not yet publicly blamed anyone in connection with Saturday's accident.

Gol 1907 commentary at odds with facts Mr. Sucupira appeared on the Rede Record TV network on December 9, providing interpretation of a leaked copy of the Gol 1907's black box.

That tragedy, on September 29, 2006, occurred when Brazilian air traffic control put a Boeing 737-800 jetliner and a Legacy business jet on a collision course. All 154 aboard the Boeing died when it plunged into the Amazon forest. The Legacy's American pilots manged to land the damaged Brazilian-built jet at a nearby air base without injury to the seven aboard.

Investigations indicate that the Boeing lost seven meters of wing in the collision; Sucupira said "eight or nine" meters were lost. Widely published photos of the Gol wreckage show the wing upside down, with the landing gear extended.

The head of the safety bureau told a Senate committee that the landing gear lever in the cockpit was in the retracted position, and that the rotation of the craft as it spiraled downward and disintegrated deployed the wheels. Sucupira stated that the Boeing pilots lowered the landing gear.

Preliminary reports of the accident state that collision was between the left wings of the two aircraft. One clue given was that the Boeing's left engine showed fire damage, indicating that it was operating when damaged, while the right engine's condition showed it was not running, having halted during the craft's fall from 37,000 feet.

Sucupira said on the air that the Boeing pilots had turned off the engines to bring the plane down in a glide. If he offered an explanation as to why a plane with its engines off is more controllable, it was lost in editing.

The Record TV program includes a CGI animation of the crash which shows the Boeing's fuselage and wings intact as the nose reaches the trees. The widely scattered nature of the wreckage, major parts being as far as half a kilometer apart, and the moment at which the black box recording ceased, have caused investigators to conclude that the aircraft came apart above 7,000 feet in the air.

Sucupira, however, said that "I believe they died on impact with the soil", and that "Someone who was seated in the aircraft with their seat belt on reached the ground alive."
Most of the bodies were found with all clothing ripped off by the air during the long fall from the opened fuselage to the ground. Two Congressional committees and three police investigations have pointed to factors that contributed to the accident, including radio communications failures, incorrect air traffic control instructions, and software that misleads controllers.

The Legacy's transponder, necessary for the TCAS anticollision system to operate, was inoperative at the time of the collision. The reason for the transponder being off has still not been determined. The official report of the aviation safety investigation has still not been released.

George Sucupira, however, didn't wait for that report, nor rely on any of the others. He told TV Record that, "I know the Legacy pilots didn't want to cause this accident, they almost died, but they have total responsibility for what happened. I don't have the slightest doubt."

Sucupira testified on June 6 before a Brazilian Chamber of Deputies investigating committee, and the Chamber's news agency titled its report on his testimony, "Pilots' Association points out Americans' errors."

Sucupira affirmed that the Legacy's transponder could not be turned off accidentally, although the most recent news release on the official accident investigation affirms that the device was not turned off voluntarily.

That report also said Sucupira claimed the American pilots "contradicted all the regulations of aviation" and that they did not "respect the flight plan initially approved."

The committee's report, however, concluded that since the Legacy was flying in accordance with air traffic control orders, and that "considering the procedural rules, they have reason on their side."

When, in early November, a Learjet crashed shortly after takeoff in São Paulo, killing both pilots and six on the ground, Sucupuri offered an immediate diagnosis of mechanical problems, and then another, of adulterated fuel.

Safety investigators later attributed that accident to fuel not being balanced between the Learjet's right and left wing tanks, and the pilot having been distracted with administrative matters while taxiing, and then skipping routine pre-takeoff flight checks.

Brazil's worst air tragedy occurred in July of 2007 when an Airbus making TAM flight 3054 skidded off the runway of the downtown Congonhas airport, which has little or no escape area, and crashed into a building, killing 199 aboard the plane and on the ground.

Two weeks later, Sucupira warned the newspaper Valor Econômico of the "danger" of making interpretations from incomplete information, saying that "It's precipitous to blame the pilot."
He quickly advanced instead the suggestion that the blame might be Airbus's automatic control system, different from the more manual system of Boeing aircraft. "The pilot might have activated the throttle and the plane not have responded", was Sucupira's supposition.

Investigation of that accident is not yet completed, but pilot error is the leading hypothesis."