Brazil's Defense Minister Wonderful Waldir Pires again denied last week that there are any dead zones or black holes in air traffic radar coverage. "If the holes existed, I'm sure I would have been informed," he said.
Given the recent drumbeat of media stories showing that Brazil's air space is riddled with air traffic control communications problems, perhaps someone by now has awakened the man responsible for the country's militarized air-traffic control and duly informed him.
Last night there was more proof offered on "Fantastico," a popular weekly program on Globo TV, in which a radar display from the air traffic control center at Brasilia shows what Brazzil.com today describes as "a huge black hole, a blind spot not covered by radar, which extends for thousands of square miles."
In an interview on the program, an anonymous controller "also pointed out that the air control equipment being used by Brazil is in very bad shape and often obsolete. Some of the devices are over 30 years old," Brazzil.com says, adding:
"He told that is not uncommon that workers in the control center get ghost planes in their monitors. In these cases, the controller sees two planes in his equipment even though in reality there is only one aircraft. ..."
"Another problem are static images on the screen that show an airplane in movement as if it had stopped like a helicopter. This happens when the system fails or the computer freezes."
The controller added, according to Brazzil.com, that equipment is prone to failures. "We have a hard time to talk; the radio frequencies are bad. And we have an aggravating circumstance today: the number of flights has significantly increased." ...
Among the problems controllers have is noise and interference on their radios in the urban Brasilia area itself. "You can pick up cellular phone, pirate radio and sometimes even official radio," the controller said.
Often, over the vast skies of the Amazon, "the controller can talk to the pilot but cannot see what's happening. The collision between the Boeing and the Legacy, which left 154 dead and many unanswered questions, happened inside this black hole. "Knowing what I know I don't feel secure flying in this area," the controller said.
Earth to Wolderful Waldir: Do you read us? Over.
Meanwhile, the two American pilots of the Legacy 600 corporate jet, Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino, remain detained in Brazil, with no charges or even the slightest evidence of possible charges having been presented by the Brazilian authorities. It is now Day 59.