Flight 1907: Brazil’s Air Force Rebuffs Colombian Pilot Who Panned Air Controllers

Brazilian aviation authorities told yesterday, October 24, that they had finally found a missing part of the black box from the Boeing 737 that fell in the Amazon jungle on September 29, killing the 154 people aboard, in the worst plane accident ever in Brazil.

The missing piece now encountered is the voice recorder, which aviation experts hope will help determine the facts that led to the collision between a small jet in its maiden voyage to the United States and the Gol’s Boeing 737 and the ensuing tragedy.

The voice recorder, which was buried in the jungle soil and doesn’t seem to have suffered any  damage, was found thanks to a metal detector. The recording device will be taken by Air Force officials to the same experts in Canada where the data recorder was also sent. If everything goes as planned the work on the voice recorder will start Monday, October 30.

Waldir Pires, Brazil’s Defense Minister, told reporters that the investigation will continue in secrecy, which according to him will not only guarantee the good course of the work but also make sure that everything is done according to the norms of international law.

The Brazilian Federal Police were told they will not receive information contained in the black boxes from the Boeing and the Legacy until the investigation is concluded.

Even though the voice recorder has now been retrieved, search teams continue looking for the body of the only victim still not found, Marcelo Paixão Lopes, 29, a manager at the HSBC bank.

Colombian Pilot Disavowed

Earlier in the day, the Air Force Command disputed charges made by Colombian pilot Alexander Gomez, that personnel working in the Brazil’s air traffic control didn’t know enough English to guide the American pilots of the Legacy jet that collided with the Boeing while they tried to find a runway where to land.

Gomez was in the area of the accident and heard the calls for help through the radio. In an interview to Brazilian TV Record, the pilot told that he established a bridge between the Brazilian air control and the Legacy because there were lots of static and interference in the communication and the American pilots couldn’t make themselves understood by the Brazilians.

He also said that the Brazilian Amazon has very bad communication and pilots sometimes are on their own for as much as 15 minutes without being able to talk to anyone on land.

Brazil’s Air Force Communication Center released a note stating that the "Testing Field Brigadier Velloso, organization of the Air Force Command located in Serra do Cachimbo (where the Legacy ended up landing),  neither deals with civilian traffic nor is it an international airport. Therefore, the controllers who work in the unit have no obligation to use the English language, in contrast to what occurs in airports that operate international lines".

The note suggests that Gomez instead of helping the pilot of the small plane made things worse. The problem, according to the Air Force wasn’t that the American pilots and the controllers could not understand each other. They weren’t able to communicate properly because the Colombian pilot was always interfering:

"What happened is that the pilot of the Legacy talked at the same time that the pilot who was making the communication bridge and the controller."  The Air Force praised its controller reminding that "only with the help of the controller the Legacy was able to land safely."

The Air Force also denied Gomez’s charges that is hard to establish radio communications in the Amazon region. Authorities once again informed that soon after the accident an Air Force plane flew over the area and concluded that all the systems were working properly.

Gomez was flying a plane from Miami to São Paulo for the American company Polar Air Cargo. Brazilian authorities still haven’t decided if they will call the pilot to hear his version of the story.

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