Sunday, March 04, 2012

Brazilian Skies Still Have Safety Problems, With Accidents Up 40 Percent in 2011

While the Brazilian authorities angrily feud with World Cup executives who are expressing concern that Brazil might not be up to hosting the 2014 tournament as scheduled, while Brazilian courts affirm a ridiculous libel judgment against an American journalist who is falsely accused of calling the country a "banana" and "most idiot of all idiots" (uh, that would be me), Brazil continues to have serious troubles keeping its skies safe for aviation.

According to this AP article in the Washington Post, the number of aviation accidents in Brazil jumped more than 40 percent in 2011, the Brazilian air force said. There were 156 accidents with planes and helicopters last year, compared to 110 in 2010. The air force said that 90 people died in last year’s accidents.

I know a little about Brazil's unsafe skies. Back in 2006, I was one of seven people who survived a horrific mid-air collision over the Amazon that killed 154 others.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board subsequently determined that operational and systemic errors by the military-run Brazilian air traffic control system were the probable causes of the collision, at 37,000 feet between a 737 commercial airliner that crashed in the jungle, and a Legacy 600 business jet that managed an emergency landing.

About seven months after that crash, which was then the worst aviation disaster in Brazilian history, another airliner crashed at the Sao Paulo airport, killing 199.

The Amazon crash had been followed by months of air-travel chaos in Brazil, caused by air traffic controllers engaging in work stoppages to protest any investigation that might lay blame on them for the mid-air collision.

After 2006, Brazilian authorities, in my opinion, did little to address systemic problems in that country's troubled air-travel system, and instead concentrated on covering up their own obvious malfeasance while vilifying me for reporting and commenting about those problems.

I was later convicted -- in a Brazilian court case that still has legal experts shaking their heads in wonder -- of causing dishonor to Brazil because I criticized that country's authorities while writing in the U.S. A Brazilian court affirmed that conviction -- which has been criticized by free-speech organizations around the world -- last month.

So call me a "banana" and the "most idiot of all idiots" for remarking on it, but obviously air safety in Brazil is still a major issue. You'd think a country so obsessed with its "honor" would place that problem high on its list of things to get agitated about.

There remains serious concern that Brazil, which is scheduled to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, has not adequately addressed its air-safety problems, along with other concerns for the Olympics such as rampant crime in the cities and protests, already underway, from urban dwellers who are disinclined to be literally bulldozed out of the way for Olympic construction projects.

This will be interesting to watch and observe on.


1 comment:

ChefNick said...

Brazil should be hosting nothing. I hear it's trying to evict the occupants of one of its oldest favelas (slums) in order to put in some "futuristic Olympic park."

How about creating a future for the slum-dwellers instead of wasting money on some pathetic showpiece (reminds me of the huge hotel they built in Pyongyang that no one wants to stay in because of fears of crumbling concrete and off-skew elevator shafts) that will be gathering weeds a couple of years after the festivities are over? The ludicrous description of "Brazil’s democratic rise as a regional power" would be laughable if it weren't a quote in an article in the NY Times.

Brazil is nowhere approaching a developed country -- "developing" may even be too charitable a description -- and to my mind any large international event taking place in Brazil is going to inevitably have to be paired with the word "fiasco" in any reportage thereof.

I for one can't wait. I generally have no use for the Olympics but I'll be watching this one closely!