Brazilian Air Controllers Want Militaries Out and Dozens of New Staff

For a week now Brazilians are facing 40-minute to 4-hour delays in all their major airports due to a work slowdown staged by the country’s air controllers. The disruption is making life quite hard for those travelling during the All Souls Day holiday’s prolonged weekend, which starts this Thursday, November 2.

São Paulo, Rio, Belo Horizonte, Brasí­lia, Recife and Fortaleza are some of the capital cities hit by the work-to-rule action started last Friday, October 27, to protest work overload, understaffing and low compensation.

The slowdown started in the Brazilian capital Brasí­lia’s airport where controllers decided to stick to strict rules of safety, increasing the distance between planes landing or taking off and decreasing the number of aircraft watched  by each controller.

They argue that international rules establish that each operator shouldn’t control more than 14 planes and that’s what they intend to do.

The crisis triggered the intervention of president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva who summoned the sector’s main authorities on Tuesday in search of a solution.  Brazilian Defense Minister, Waldir Pires, announced some measures in an attempt to control the crisis, but he admitted that an agreement with the air controllers remains elusive in the short term.

Among the measures being implemented as a palliative are changes in routes so that flights don’t need to use Brasí­lia’s control tower,  cancellation of all vacation and days off and recruitment of new controllers.

Travel agencies are worried that people will start cancelling flights and giving up planned trips due to the slowdown if the situation is not brought soon under control.

After a meeting with minister Pires, the president of the National Flight Protection Workers Union, Jorge Botelho, said that the measures announced by the government are not enough to change the chaotic situation at the airports. He doesn’t see any improvement in the picture in less than 10 days.

The only real solution, he says, is to increase the number of flight controllers. Transferring controllers from one center to the other would just spread the lack of resources, according to him. Botelho is also in favor of  taking the civilian air control from military hands, which, he says only hurts the air controllers’ work.

"Our position is that air control operations cannot work in a militarized structure. For quite some time air controllers have been asking the military that we have examinations for new air controllers. The last examination we had was 20 years ago."

Botelho argues that the Armed forces should mind the Air Defense and leave the management of the air traffic to the civilians. Among Brazil’s 3,200 air controllers only 500 are civilians. According to him, only Brazil and Argentina still use the military model in South America and Argentina is already abandoning this approach:

"Argentina is already changing. Are we going to be the only country in South America that will keep walking backwards?"

The union chief blames the chaotic situation on the growth of Brazil’s civilian aviation in the last two years without a corresponding planning by the Air Force command.

"In these past few years there was a tremendous growth and the number of flights grew. Despite the lack of staff we were able to keep working thanks to traffic management. With the recent departure of 18 controllers, however, some sectors were disabled. It doesn’t do any good to activate a certain sector if there are not enough men to operate it."

Botelho denied that he and his colleagues are engaged in a work-to-rule action and assured that they are doing all they can under the circumstances. "How can we activate certain sectors if we have not enouth men. We have to work managing the traffic flow. The separation between airplanes is increased so that the operators available are able to meet the demand."

While international rules require that each controller be responsible for up to 14 planes at the same time, according to Jorge Nunes, president of the Air Traffic Controllers Association of Rio de Janeiro, before the September 29 collision between the Boeing 737 and the Legacy jet, which left 154 dead, each controller was handling between 16 and 18 planes, simultaneously.

Botelho says that the understaffing problem had been taken to the Air Force command in 2004. At the time his association had urged the hiring of 64 new controllers. The proposal was approved by the Defense Ministry, he says, adding that he doesn’t know why the Air Force didn’t approve the request. 

"All the problems faced by the controllers have been reported to management. If they don’t communicate them to their superiors, it is because we have a militarized structure," he concluded.


  • Show Comments (14)

  • Oy!

    Oh its you
    There you are again! Your funny.

  • claudia

    ” and gradualy they will also start feeling that several people on the site, and only 1 person using several name.”

    KKK they started finding you are the same as chick!! kkkk

  • Oy!

    I think Rightto and Ch.c are the same person. Baiting everyone to respond. Eat Bananas in the Amazon? Backyard of the world? Hey there’s the real show. watching this moron have a two sided conversation with himself to get a response.

  • I Love Brazil

    To Rightto
    Right to what? Your a knucklehead on every posting I see you on. Your the Lunacy that reasonable people are speaking of. And your English sucks. Ha Ha…Ch.c, Rightto is baiting everyone to respond to him. Just ignore him. He can’t speak intelligently anyway so whats the point of even engaging him. Malouca!

  • ch.c.

    ….just read again ALL the contradictions in the news article :

    – how can the 500 civil ATCs WANT ALL the military ATCs (2700) be replaced with only a few dozens of new civilian ATCs ????? laugh…laugh !
    – How can the ATC stay ONLY around 5 years before they resign, for reasons described, and still be a higher number than 25 years ago….. AND .the apparent last
    examination WAS 20 YEARS AGO ?????????

    Strange…isnt it ?
    Why in Brazil 2 + 2 never equals 4… their more than “curious” explanations and basic maths !
    Well, that is how Brazilians are educated, they just tell lies that cannot be reconciled if one has the basic common sense and education of knowing that 2 + 2 = 4 !!!!!!!!!!

  • ch.c.

    tO : RIGHTTO !
    FUNNY YOUR STATEMENT : Come on we have a fresh bone here u tommy ..sammy.. !!!!

    Why dont you re-read the Brazilian news, comments and accusations starting from day 2 or 3 after the plane crash ??????

    All the attacks from Brazil…and NOT the otherway around !

    Brazil is really full of junkies, educated less than baboons. Stay in your Amazon and eat
    Bananas, that is the only thing you do well. You hate America…but you all dream to be there….even illegally ! Worse….you even pay lots of US$ for brazilians who can smuggle you there !
    Now tell me, how many Americans are illegally in Brazil……to find a good paying job ???????
    2 or 3 millions like the estimated number of illegal brazilians….in the USA !!!!!!!!

    Laugh….laugh….laugh !
    You really are the backyard of the world : Brazil has ONLY 10,5 % of students with University degree ! And probably this can be bought….for 100 Reais….in supermarkets or be won in lotteries !
    Exporting basic commodities such as iron ore, cattles or grains doesnt need a lot of brains or education !
    You dont even are able to produce a car with brazilian technology…..all car plants being Foreigners with their own investments AND TECHNOLOGY !!!!!!!!!

    Be proud to be so mentally retarded !

  • ch.c.

    Tp : Jay
    …either you are too young and you dont know the details, either you are old enough and your memory is deficient.

    When the US ATC went on strike in the 80’s, Reagan FIRED THEM ALL AND PLANES CONTROLS WERE MADE BY THE MILITARY !!!!!!!!!
    Furthermore, they were given a deadline to go back to work and after the dealine if the ATC did not show up at work, they did not have their previous job guaranteed and had to re-apply !!!

    Straight and simple !

    Eventually this is what the Brazilian government should consider !
    The problem was solved once and for all…even to this day.

    Unfortunately it is quite obvious that what the Brazilian ATC do actually is directly
    related to the plane crash….to put pressure and find excuses for their errors !
    They are diverting the attention to get some leniency….while such leniency was
    not provided to the US pilots.The US pilots were simply accused openly…time and time again, by every Brazilian citizen and many Brazilians officials.



    Just recently, a Cleveland. court put a 38 years old U.S. citizen in jail for 65 years without the right to parole for having raped a Brazilian au pair girl ! (the girl was not
    physically injured and did not die either)

    This is Justice !

    Now it is up to Brazil to show that they do not have a multi speed Justice and laws…..depending of the nationality of those who commited whatever error that
    justify to be found guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter !!!!

    Simple ! And every thing that will come out differently from what would have happened, had the US pilots been responsible, is simply INJUSTICE……ONCE MORE !

  • JAY

    While international rules require that each controller be responsible for up to 14 planes at the same time, according to Jorge Nunes, president of the Air Traffic Controllers Association of Rio de Janeiro, before the September 29 collision between the Boeing 737 and the Legacy jet, which left 154 dead, each controller was handling between 16 and 18 planes, simultaneously.

    We had the same problem in the USA back in 1980’s.

    Too much work not enough people. The controlers went on Strike, they slowed down, called in sick also.

    They placed the public in more danger, presedent Reagan fired all striking controlers.
    We survived, it was hard and very emotional, but some one did what had to be done.
    Lets hope Brazil has some one willing to take contorol and fix the problem.
    Those who can do, those who can not, talk about it.

  • Righto

    In the begining of the show there seem to be some polite barking…though dont worry readers….the north americans will live to their reputation and soon start fireworks…..


  • ex pat

    Hot off the press
    HereÀ¢€™s an interesting article published today. For those that donÀ¢€™t speak Portuguese, IÀ¢€™ve decided to translate and summarize it given the dearth of timely English news on the matter. IÀ¢€™ve used quotes, where quotes appear in the original text. It is a journalistic piece citing a respected and influential paper (yes, they do exist in Brazil) and NOT the ranting of some overly medicated doctor looking for À¢€œimperialist bogeymenÀ¢€Â (Dr. Lerer -** cough cough**).

    Note: IÀ¢€™ve not posted the original Folho article because it is a pay service.

    Title À¢€“ Black Box reveals controller error say Newspaper

    According to the À¢€œFolha de Sao PauloÀ¢€Â [one of the most respected broadsheets in Brazil] the information contained in the LegacyÀ¢€™s black box confirms that the control tower from Sao Jose dos Campos authorized the American Pilots to fly at an altitude of 37,000 until their final destination of Manaus.

    Yesterday, Federal Police Chief Renato SayÀƒ£o who is responsible for the criminal investigation declared that Aeronautica already knows what happened however have opted not to make an announcement because of À¢€œnational SecurityÀ¢€Â.

    In a dialogue between Lepore and the tower from Sao Jose dos Campos, the pilot asks for permission to take-off during a procedure called À¢€œclearanceÀ¢€Â. The tower gives the authorization and says, clearly, that Lepore should fly to 37,000 feet À¢€œuntil the airport Eduardo GomesÀ¢€Â in Manaus.

    ——- (original artcle here –,,OI1226070-EI7792,00.html)

    So here we have new little piece of information, coupled with the fact that air traffic Controllers all throughout Brazil are on a À¢€œwork to ruleÀ¢€Â citing À¢€œsafety problemsÀ¢€Â. Ya think? An added shot in the foot is that 10 AT controllers working the day of the accident whom should have been questioned from the get-go have a doctorÀ¢€™s note excusing them from talking with investigators. The investigation has gone secret and now concerns are over À¢€œNational securityÀ¢€Â?

    Things that make you go hmmmmmm.

    For my caustic and aggressive Brazilian brethren this is not an issue of bashing Brazil as so many cry. Itˢ۪s about transparency and FAIRNESS.

    For the true knuckle-dragging Che Guevera t-shirt wearing Brazilian À¢€œimperialist YANK hatersÀ¢€Â, put down the robe, and back away from the tree. It looks like there will be no lynching this time around and youÀ‚´ll need another issue to kick start your revolution

    Quinta, 2 de novembro de 2006, 04h31 Atualizada ÀƒÂ s 05h17
    Caixa-preta revela erro do controle, diz jornal

    Segundo reportagem do jornal Folha de S.Paulo, a anÀƒ¡lise da caixa-preta do jato Legacy, sob a responsabilidade do (Centro Nacional de InvestigaÀƒ§Àƒ£o e PrevenÀƒ§Àƒ£o de Acidentes AeronÀƒ¡uticos), revela que a torre de controle de vÀƒ´os de SÀƒ£o JosÀƒ© dos Campos (SP) autorizou os pilotos Joe Lepore e Jean Paladino a voar a 37 mil pÀƒ©s de altitude.

    De acordo com os diÀƒ¡logos revelados pelo jornal, os controladores autorizaram o aviÀƒ£o a manter a altitude atÀƒ© o destino final, em Manaus, enquanto o plano de vÀƒ´o previa a descida do Legacy para 36 mil pÀƒ©s quando sobrevoasse BrasÀƒ­lia e subida para 38 mil pÀƒ©s a partir do ponto Teres (localizado a 480 km de BrasÀƒ­lia), atÀƒ© a capital amazonense. Com a orientaÀƒ§Àƒ£o errada, o jato teria se mantido todo o tempo a 37 mil pÀƒ©s e entrado em rota de colisÀƒ£o com o Boeing da Gol, que caiu apÀƒ³s bater no Legacy, matando todos seus 154 ocupantes.

    Ontem, o delegado da PolÀƒ­cia Federal (PF) Renato SayÀƒ£o, responsÀƒ¡vel pelas investigaÀƒ§Àƒµes sobre o acidente em CuiabÀƒ¡, no Mato Grosso, declarou que a corporaÀƒ§Àƒ£o e a AeronÀƒ¡utica jÀƒ¡ sabem o que aconteceu no espaÀƒ§o aÀƒ©reo no momento da colisÀƒ£o, com base na anÀƒ¡lise da caixa-preta. PorÀƒ©m disse que nÀƒ£o se pronunciaria a respeito por uma questÀƒ£o de “seguranÀƒ§a nacional”.

    No diÀƒ¡logo entre Lepore e a torre de SÀƒ£o JosÀƒ© dos Campos, o piloto pede autorizaÀƒ§Àƒ£o para decolar, durante o procedimento chamado de “clearance”. A torre dÀƒ¡ a autorizaÀƒ§Àƒ£o e diz, claramente, que Lepore deve subir para 37 mil pÀƒ©s “atÀƒ© o aeroporto Eduardo Gomes”, de Manaus.

  • Righto

    Haha as easy it americans find it to blame the whole world for everything that is bad going on. And everything that is good going on is because of americans. I suppose americans should soon find a new planet, and start living there, probably this earth will the be reduced of 90% of enemity and bad mouthing. Less weapons, etc..will be a direct bonus.
    The great american bone chewing show has just started. Soon these americans will start calling me idot, and useless, and gradualy they will also start feeling that several people on the site, and only 1 person using several name. So also they will in between say that how they live in sao paulo, and how much they are neutral in their comments, and how us is better… and so on…the jokes are soon the start..the show has just started…… the rest please take your chairs….

  • Icann Rules

    Having problems published is painful but in the end, beneficial. The difference between military control and civilian isn’t always good versus evil, but subordinates in a military system generally have far fewer freedoms and face much more severe penalties.

  • Bob

    So whos the fault of the crash of the airline
    There was talk that after the airline crashed the the controller were at sleep or not on duty. But Brazil jailed the airline pilots. Maybe the above atricle proofs who was really to fault.
    But of course its easy to blame the Americans for all of Brazil problems.

  • Righto

    I havent read the above article. But I am surprised the American stupids who visit here, havent yet reacted by saying:
    1) Brasil is like this and like that,and good for nothing.
    2) Usa is better.(No doubt the best)
    3) They are not at fault in iraq, or anywhere.
    4) The whole world is running and alive because of their charity.
    5) The best is coming from Usa.
    6) And so on? We all americans who are living in Brasil are doing a favor on Brasil by repetedly telling the brasilians how stupid they and their country is.

    Bark Bark woof woof… scratch scratch…

    Come on u americans…..start the show….

    Come on we have a fresh bone here u tommy ..sammy..

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