Flying in Brazil 2.0

By Robert Mark on February 7th, 2007

A friend in San Paulo and I spoke the other day so he could update me on the situation in Brazil since the two American Legacy pilots were released in December, especially since it seems that many have relegated the problem there to the “situation solved” list.

I asked my friend what Brazilians seemed to be thinking about ATC there and the case against the U.S. pilots since their release.

“The current opinion here is that [Brazilian] ATC is the major player on the tragedy. After all the chaos on our airports the public is aware that ATC has huge failures and that it is in need of major changes. Everyone knows of blind areas without radar or radio, the lack of personnel, the lack of proper communication skills in English and the list of problems goes on. To my knowledge they can not prove anything against Joe and Jan [the two Legacy pilots]. The prosecutors have no data to base an accusation of wrongdoing since both pilots did as instructed by ATC.”

“This was a huge ATC failure with causes that range from software failures, lack of training, lack of equipment and procedural problems of the militarized ATC.  I only fear that Air force will punish the guys on the radar screens and will not address the other factors that led to this tragedy.”

“We are now expecting huge delays and traffic problems during
Carnival (Mardi Gras), the last opportunity for summer travel and
vacations. A few controllers said to the press that they will fully
comply with the “international standards of traffic control” and
separation will be increased leading to delays.”

No word apparently on when or if the Brazilian government is at work on a long term fix for ATC there.

In November of last year, Aviation Week’s Pierre Sparaco offered an excellent editorial on the legal issues surrounding the kinds of criminal liability problems pilots of all countries face every time they leave home.

While he was not focusing only on the September 2006 midair collision over the Brazilian rainforest, his words should still be floating around in the heads of each of us on our next international flight.

Since copyright laws prohibit me from printing the entire editorial, I quote Sparaco briefly, “An international resolution, issued last month, denounces a very serious danger. Law enforcement and judicial authorities frequently seek to criminalize aircraft accidents, and they do so to the detriment of aviation safety, the ultimate goal of investigations. Pilots, air controllers, airline executives now face negligent homicide charges in a growing number of countries.

Aviators and technical investigators are not suggesting that judicial immunity should prevail. Criminal investigations can be appropriate under specific circumstances, but accident criminalization is certainly not an effective deterrent. Flight safety deserves the best possible treatment, and common sense is urgently needed to restore a workable playing field in countries such as France, Switzerland and Brazil where cracks are appearing.” If you’re an AWIN subscriber, you can read the complete November 13 editorial online.

So is the heat off in Brazil? Not really. The better question however is what the rest of the aviation community will do the next time a crisis like this occurs. And it is not a matter of if, rather of when.

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2 Responses to “Flying in Brazil 2.0”

  1. The Musings of Brian Groce » Blog Archive » Flying in Brazil 2.0 Says:

    […] Nice post Robert… […]

  2. flying in Brazil Says:

    Good Job on covering this Robert. I live in the US and I have never heard of this situation, maybe I was under a rock lol or that news ins Brazil didnt make it big over here

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