Sunday, June 03, 2007

Brazil: Disorder in the Court

One day after a federal court in forlorn Sinop in Mato Grosso state rubber-stamped the Federal Police May 25 indictment of the American pilots, while ruling that the pilots could not be permitted to give their testimony in the United States, Brazil's Supreme Court ruled that the Americans cannot be compelled to testify in Brazil before congressional committees investigating the Sept. 29 disaster and the subsequent systemwide work protests by air-traffic controllers.

Note that the bizarre game of Whac-a-Mole continues. Up again pops the long-since-dispensed-with nonsense about not following a filed flight plan that
everybody involved long ago conceded was overruled by air traffic control, as flight plans routinely are overruled by air traffic control based on real-time conditions.

Also, note the reiteration of an asinine charge -- that the cockpit voice-recorder tape shows that the pilots "did not know how to operate some equipment in the plane" -- the implication being that they did not know how to operate the transponder.

In fact, it is NOT IN DISPUTE that the cockpit voice-recorder segment in which pilots Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino discussed confusion about operating "some equipment" illustrates merely a brief discussion in which the two pilots were casually trying to figure out how to turn on "Airshow." Airshow is an in-flight cabin entertainment system that depicts a map showing the plane's real-time location and other information such as airspeed and estimated on-time arrival on video screens in the passenger cabin.

Airshow, as anyone with intelligence of a turnip knows, has as much to do with flying an aircraft as an in-flight magazine does.

By now, I'm convinced that this constant re-raising of issues that have long-since been explained or dismissed as absurd has to be part of a coordinated, multi-agency plan to scapegoat the pilots -- evidence and common sense be damned. As I said from day one, the fix is in.

And as Charles DeGaulle once supposedly said, "Brazil is not a serious country."

Anyway, from today's

"Ellen Gracie Northfleet, the chief of the Brazilian Supreme Court (STF), told the president and the reporter of the Air Blackout Congressional Inquiry, House representatives Marcelo Castro and Marco Maia, that Brazil's Justice has no means to compel Americans Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino, the pilots of the Legacy executive jet, which collided with the Boeing 737 last September, to travel to Brazil to testify before the congressional committee.

The collision led to Brazil's worst air accident ever, which caused the death of the 154 passengers and crew aboard the plane when the Boeing fell in the Amazon jungle. The two pilots and the five passengers aboard the little jet were spared and were able to land safely in a Brazilian Air Force base airport.

The congressional inquiry is probing not only the Boeing tragedy but also the whole Brazilian air transportation system, which went into a state of chaos in several occasions since the plane accident over the Amazon.

According to Northfleet, who is the grand-daughter of an American confederate soldier who went to Brazil after the US Civil War, the cooperation agreement on penal matters between Brazil and the United States doesn't give the congressional committee the right to summon Americans to testify in Brazil.

"This is our main problem at the moment," complained representative Maia. "From a juridical point of view and from the agreements signed by Brazil with other countries, we have no guarantee that we can indeed hear the pilots."

The Supreme Chief suggested that the congressmen appeal to the Foreign Ministry of the Brazilian embassy in Washington to convince Lepore and Paladino to travel to Brazil. If everything fails the inquiry committee will try to fly to the US to get the American pilots testimony. Still another option would be to grill them via videoconferencing.

Just last Friday, Brazilian federal judge Murilo Mendes, from Mato Grosso, the state where the Boeing fell down, indicted the two Americans for involuntary manslaughter. Four Brazilian air controllers, all of them Air Force sergeants and all working at Brasília's air control center, known as Cindacta 1, were also indicted by the same judge.

While three of the flight controllers are being charged with involuntary manslaughter, one of them is being accused of intentional manslaughter.

Judge Mendes determined that the pilots would be interrogated on August 27 and made it clear that they would have to travel to Brazil for that "not being allowed that the act occur at their native country - the United States."

In the court filing, prosecutor Thiago Lemos de Andrade stated that the negligence of the six men caused the collision between the Legacy and the Boeing. According to the charge, air controller Felipe Santos dos Reis gave wrong instructions to the American pilots, not telling them about the Legacy's altitude changes.

Jomarcelo Fernandes dos Santos, another air-controller indicted. was responsible for monitoring the area in which the Legacy jet was flying, about one thousand feet above the altitude it should be. Santos is accused of not alerting the US pilots about their wrong altitude.

More than that, the prosecutor says, Santos informed "consciously and willfully" the controller who took over from him that the jet was at 36 thousand feet of altitude feet, when actually it was at 37 thousand feet. Therefore, on the wrong way, since the odd altitude is reserved for planes coming to Brasília and not going from Brasília as it was the case.

Lucivando Tibúrcio de Alencar, the air controller who replaced Santos, was charged for taking too long to attempt a contact with the Legacy - about ten minutes after starting his shift - even though he was aware that the jet's transponder wasn't working properly. The last air controller charged was Leandro José Santos de Barros, Alencar's assistant.

Lepore and Paladino are being charged mainly for their use of the transponder and for not following the written flight plan. The prosecution says that both didn't know how to use the plane's equipment and that they ended up turning the transponder off unintentionally.

As the prosecution put it, "For not knowing how to operate some items in the plane, they ended up deactivating by mistake the transponder. To this momentary active ineptitude followed a long omissive negligence."

The penalty for involuntary manslaughter is from one to three years in jail, but aggravating factors might lead to up to six years in prison. As for willful manslaughter, as one air controller is charged, the penalty can vary from 8 to 24 years of detention."

My note: The Comments, below, follow the above-referenced post on today's

In the past, the readers' "Comments" on about this incident used to include a fair amount of anti-American vitriol, as well as wild denunciations of anything that appeared to conflict with the Official View that the American pilots caused this disaster. It's probably not good news for Brazilian authorities who are still trying to frame the Americans that, with almost all of the evidence no longer in any dispute, public sentiment in Brazil may have shifted significantly against the authorities transparent lies that the Americans did it. I haven't fixed punctuation or spelling in the Comments.

(And no, I did not post the first comment, though it reflects my views exactly).


Charging the americans...
written by bo, 2007-06-03 11:58:35

for not following the written flight plan? I'm no pilot and just brainstorming here, but wouldn't the ATC's instructions override any previously written flight plan?

It's pretty plain to see what happened here, as I've said since the beginning, the ATC's and the very system that existed(exists?) in brazil are the main culprits here.

written by Jay Glenn, 2007-06-03 12:22:33

I am a pilot and any change by ATC is manditory.
I seldom file a flight plan that is not changed by ATC some times before take off.
In North America both Planes would have to have a Device Called TCAD. It comunicates with nearby aircraft, warnes off
aproaching aircraft. Instructs each aircraft how to avoid each other. Not reguired in Brazil!!
Also they would not have been flying in a "black hole" yes they do exsist in Brazil!

written by João da Silva, 2007-06-03 14:51:30

In North America both Planes would have to have a Device Called TCAD.

[My note: the writer refers to what we call TCAS, the collision avoidance alert that works in tandem with the transponder. Here's the Wikipedia entry on the TCAS].

It comunicates with nearby aircraft, warnes off aproaching aircraft. Instructs each aircraft how to avoid each other. Not reguired in Brazil!!

Jay, both the planes were fitted with TCAD, but they failed to alert the pilots to avoid the collission. Remember the Boeing was less than 2 months old and Legacy was brand new and I would imagine that the devices were brand new and well tested. In spite of it they failed to operate. This question intrigues me and so far there has not been any explanation.

So where's this going really?
written by Simpleton, 2007-06-03 15:26:52
J Glenn, your TCAD is comprised of the transponder (which the American pilot's are being accused of willfully turning off and the Brazilian controllers only now of being well aware that the one on the Legacy was not working properly) and a computer that calculates trajectory intersection potentials and avoidance guidance data (climb, dive or maintain altitude - presented via your VSI) using the altitude and speed data of ones own aircraft, the altitude data of the other aircraft transmitted by that other aircraft's transponder along with bearing and rate of closure computations made from the two transponders automatic interactions with each other. This TCAD (or TCAS or ACAS) is intended to augment the situational awareness of the crew, directions and monitoring by the ATC controller's, etc., etc., to avoid just what happened here - in any case, one should never become too reliant / entirely reliant on the machinery as it too may have its failings.

It is a fact that you as pilots are mandatorily required to follow the directions of the ATC controllers (unless what you see out your windscreen or is advised by your TCAD guidance dictates otherwise). It is a fact that those in the government of Brazil and prosecutors do not wish for the general populace of Brazil to ever learn about / fully understand. Regardless of how weakly plausible it is that the crew f'd up and turned their transponder off has to be made into a criminal conviction. Without this there would be no way to pursue the civil suits against the American crew, the company they were under contract to and the insurance companies of same for renumerations. When all is done and said, there's basically no hope to get any money out of the seargents, FAB, government of Brazil.

The crew was last directed to the altitude they were at by the ATC. The crew was not advised by the ATC that their transponder which the ATC is required to monitor was apparently malfunctioning or inoperative. The crew was not regularly poled via voice communications from the ATC to report their status and intentions. If in fact the crew did do something incredibly stupid (out of ignorance or any other cause) to contribute to this, there is no proof. All prior contributions are proven and rest solely upon the shoulders of the ATC and their infrastructure. Jury dismissed.



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