Brazil Air

Tuesday, August 7, 2007
By George Hatcher

“How many people will be killed before the Brazilian government stops the [air force’s] live experiments on the travelling public’s safety?” said Marc Baumgartner, the president of the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers.

Brazil is rethinking its flight patterns

Across the country, frustrated passengers whose flights have been delayed or cancelled are rioting due to the long lines in Brazil’s airports. Underpaid and understaffed air traffic controllers are at the hub of a logistical nightmare. More than 10 government agencies oversee aviation.

Baumgartner accused the Brazilian government of “chasing scapegoats” among the Brazilian air traffic controllers instead of “re-engineering the necessary safety oversight and risk assessment to prevent Brazilian civil aviation from falling into deeper chaos.”

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva promised to get tough on safety and build a new airport in São Paulo to ease congestion. “Our aviation system, in spite of the investments we have made in the expansion and modernization of almost all Brazilian airports, is passing through difficulties.” To ease the pressure, several measures are planned like bans on charter, cargo and executive flights to Congonhas. The question is what pressure will such changes actually ease: the stressed airport system, or the government taking the heat for the stressed airport system?

Aviation experts say that the Airbus 320 that crashed at Congonhas was too large for the airport’s short runways, that the runway was not textured properly and part of the plane’s supplementary braking system was not working. Last February, a federal judge prohibited the landing large types of aircraft at the airport, including Fokker 100, Boeing 737-800 and Boeing 737-700.

Carlos Gilberto Salvador Camacho, director of flight security for the National Union of Pilots, tokd a São Paulo newspaper last week. “There is subliminal pressure from the commercial airlines that if you don’t land there you are somehow hurting the companies that rely on their revenues from the passengers.”

“What exploded at Congonhas was not just the TAM jet and its almost 200 victims, but the credibility of the Brazilian system of civil aviation. Ten months ago, the country felt the impact of the worst disaster in its history of civil aviation, an incident which lifted the veil off the chaos in the industry, and we completely ignored it.” wrote Cezar Britto, the national president of the Order of Brazilian Lawyers after the Congonhas crash.

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