Monday, December 04, 2006


From O Globo:

"The investigations of the Federal Police point to a series of failures and omissions of the flight controllers [in] Brasilia and Sao Jose dos Campos which, if corrected in time, could have avoided the collision between the Legacy jet and the Gol 737-800."

Here is my summary of what is now being openly conceded in Brazil:

The most serious failure by air traffic control was not noticing that the Legacy passed through the Brasilia sector at 37,000 feet, though this was clearly visible on a monitor that steadily showed the Legacy's actual altitude for at least seven minutes before the private jet disappeared into a well-known blind zone on what would be a direct collision course with the 737.

Though it accurately gave the Legacy's altitude for at least seven minutes, that monitor, a component of Brazil's outdated and unreliable air-traffic system, later began wildly oscillating and gave the altitude as being anywhere from 33,000 feet to 37,500 feet. Air controllers say the monitors often oscillate and provide unreliable readings. Thus, they put more trust in separate screens that give an aircraft's altitude according to its pre-filed flight plan that can be, and in the case of the Legacy was, overridden by instructions from air traffic control.

The radar screen oscillations, I now assume, account for the asinine charges repeatedly made by Defense Minister Wonderful Waldir Pires and others that the Legacy was engaged in "stunt maneuvers" at the time of impact. No, you nitwits, your radars and computers in that area DON'T WORK and everyone in the system has known this for years! Why not fix them so nobody else gets killed in another horrible plane crash? Oh, I forgot, that would require accepting responsibility.

A second monitor, this one operated by software programmed only to reflect a filed flight plan (which in the Legacy's case had already been overruled by air traffic control at its departure point), faithfully but incorrectly presented the Legacy's altitude as 36,000 feet.

The military controller assigned to both the Legacy and the 737 had one year's experience and wasn't being supervised, as is required. His supervisor was filling in elsewhere. Meanwhile, air traffic control in both Brasilia and Manaus had lost track of the 737 with 154 aboard bound southeast from Manaus when it, too, entered the vast blind zone over the Amazon. (This would be the well-known blind zone that Wonderful Waldir and other authorities insisted does not exist).

As the Legacy approached the edge of the blind zone, bound northwest at 37,000 feet, the controllers knew its transponder wasn't working. Unable to reach the Legacy because of notoriously faulty air-traffic control communications in the area, they nevertheless made no effort to reach the 737 by radio and change its course and/or altitude.

In the U.S. military and elsewhere, there is a precise term for this sort of serial breakdown and lack of control: "Cluster f---."

The American pilots, Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino, remain detained in Brazil without charges or evidence of charges. It is now Day 66.


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