Could It Be The Brakes

Friday, July 20, 2007
By George Hatcher

SAO PAULO Widespread claims of a faulty runway, potential pilot error or failure of the plane’s brakes? That is the question

Many officials and aviation experts blamed the rain-soaked runway where the plane skidded before crashing and exploding.

A video of the landing suggests other factors.

Footage shows the TAM Linhas Aereas plane accelerating instead of braking. Speculation is that the pilot was trying to lift off again.

“The government will try to convince public opinion that the runway at Congonhas is not at fault,” said Elnio Borges, president of the Varig Pilots’ Association. “They’re going to do everything they can to blame the pilot.”

Only 18 bodies have been identified. Four badly injured victims died in hospitals. At the TAM cargo building hit by the plane, eight people are missing.

The landing strip had not been grooved to drain rainwater.

“Why was Congonhas reopened in that state?” asked Paulo Sampaio, an aviation consultant at Multiplan Consultora in Rio de Janeiro. “It’s a crime.”

Infraero’s Pereira said “We have to clarify why the plane accelerated again,” he added. “Only the black box can tell us that.”

Air traffic controllers, fearing to be made scapegoats for that accident, have staged periodic work slowdowns to protest against deficient radar and radio equipment poor pay and hours. Delays and cancellations are routine. Passengers occasionally storm the airfields.

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