Brazil’s Aviation Crisis Continues

Saturday, July 21, 2007
By George Hatcher

Radar failure over the Amazon forced Brazil to turn back and ground international flights yesterday.

Authorities mistook a piece of the fuselage from the accident for the flight recorder.

The loss of radar from 11:15 p.m. Friday to 2:30 a.m. yesterday caused planes s to return to their points of origin or make unscheduled landings.

A short circuit turned off electricity during routine maintenance. When power went out, 17 flights were within the coverage area. Nine planes continued to their destinations, and eight were rerouted. None were in danger.

“This is total chaos. I have never seen anything like it, and it makes me feel very unsafe,”

The radar problem prompted American Airlines to divert 13 Brazil-bound planes.

Delta Airlines said six of its flights were also diverted.

Jose dos Santos, a 43-year-old cafe owner, was aboard a cancelled flight when the crew announced Brazil was not letting airplanes enter its airspace because of the radar failure. “I was saying, ‘Oh, my God, my life is over!’ I was in a panic, all I could think about was the Gol jet that crashed in the Amazon last year,” Santos said,

Four United Airlines flights were also canceled.

The flight cancellations and diversions followed a nationally televised speech by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Authorities plan to build a new airport in Sao Paulo, where an Airbus A320 operated by TAM Airlines crashed Tuesday, killing 191 people.

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