Boeing Tragedy: Brazil Air Force Goes Looking for Blind Spots

While Waldir Pires, the Brazilian Defense Minister, continues repeating that Brazil’s air space is one of the safest in the world and that communications between pilots and air traffic control centers are excellent, Brazil’s Air Force commander, brigadier Luiz Carlos Bueno begs to differ or at least to be skeptic about it.

He is in fact so upset with the just-released preliminary report on the September 29 Boeing crash over the Amazon jungle, showing that for 27 times the control tower in Brasí­lia and the American pilots in a Legacy executive jet tried unsuccessfully to talk to each other, that he has ordered a nationwide probe on radio frequencies in search of black holes or blind spots in the Brazilian communication system.

"This is something that we cannot allow to happen," brigadier Bueno told daily Folha de S. Paulo. Pires, however, continues denying any problem: "There is no black hole. The information I have is that the radar spaces between Brasí­lia and Manaus even overlap."

The investigation, which might start this weekend, will consist of a plane crossing the Brazilian air space in all directions. The Air Force’s Special Flight Inspection Group (GEIV) will be in charge of the task.

In the days following the accident, the Air Space Control Department (Decea) informed, after flying over the area, that radar and radio equipments were in ship shape and couldn’t be blamed for any lack of communication between pilots and flight controllers.

The report conducted by the Air Force investigators, however, pointed out that flight controllers from the Cindacta 1 (Brasí­lia) for seven times tried in vain to talk to the Legacy. Joe Lepore and Jan Paladin, the American pilots – the black box revealed – were even more desperate in their efforts to reach the control tower. They had 19 attempts  but failed all of them.

The preliminary report released November 16 hasn’t answered some vital questions: what caused the crash between the small executive jet and the Boeing 737 resulting in the deaths of 154 people and the worst air accident Brazil ever had? What were the mistakes that ended up putting the Legacy and the Gol’s Boeing on the same 37,000 feet crashing path?  

Between 3:51 pm and 4:26 pm, roughly half hour before the collision the two planes didn’t try any contact. The reason for that isn’t explained in the report, but it was during this period that there was a change of shift in the control tower.

According to Veja magazine, the flight controller who was in charge of the Legacy told the colleague who replaced him that the plane was having trouble with its transponder.

The new controller, however, might have been misled by a technical detail: the control center computers corrected automatically the position of the Legacy on the monitor to the altitude (36,000 feet) that the plane should be even though the small jet was still at 37,000 feet.

Three minutes before the crash, the controllers in Brasí­lia finally made contact with the American pilots. They told them that they should now report to the Amazon region’s air control center, the Cindacta 4.

Lepore and Paladino could not understand the message and made seven attempts to talk to Brasí­lia, but didn’t get any answer.  The last was at 4:56:53, one second before the shock.

They finally reached Cindacta 4. Unfortunately, at that time, the collision had already occurred, 17 minutes earlier.

And that connection only happened thanks to the help of a cargo plane who was in the area and made a bridge between pilots and flight controllers translating into Portuguese what the American pilots were saying but could not be understood by the Brazilian air controllers.


  • Show Comments (16)

  • Rick

    Actually I know nothing about Excelaire, I was confusing them with a Japan-based company with a similar name. But I assume that to Excelaire this Legacy is not an airplane any more but simply a check on their accountantÀ‚´s desk from the insurance company. But the last word is either Serac 1 or Anac. There is no way that plane is going anywhere unless the local military are instructed to clear it for refurbishing and takeoff and the appropriate agency issues a ferry permit (traslado). They would have to reinstall the removed components, remove the wing and possibly much of the skin for inspection, put it back together, and have the competent inspectors clear it for a ferry flight. Unlikely……

  • Norman Kemble

    To Rick
    You don’t know Excelaire. They will take the plane anyway they can get it. Including sending pilots to fly it or contracting pilots to fly it back for them. Do not underestimate the depths that Excelaire will go to. I, for one, will not fly that plane back for any price. Actually I would not fly that plane back for ANY reason

  • Rick

    HIS legacy may be, win some, lose some. The Legacy involved in the accident, I would suppose, will end up rotting away where it is. I donÀ‚´t see ANAC issuing a ferry permit (traslado) to fly it out. I canÀ‚´t imagine a qualified pilot being willing to do it. The plane is no doubt built to Part 23 standards or they wouldnÀ‚´t be selling them in the states, so it must have a laminated or fail-safe wing spar, which must be severely damaged. In a more urban setting it could be trucked out but my guess is they will remove all usable components and fly them out. Too big for a lawn display at the local school. Will end up like the C-46 in Itacoatiara……

  • I Love Brazil

    I read about Pires, Governer of Bahia, exile in Uraguay (I think) because he was against the Military dictatorship, came back to government from exile after the military dictatorship was over (1970 I think?), so your right, he deserves respect on a certain level, but he’s making a huge mistake here. This happened under his watch. I think he just doesn’t want this accident to be his legacy. He would do better to be part of the solution not part of the problem. He’s going to end up being remembered for this. Not just the disaster itself, but the way he handled it too. He’s an old Nationalist and thats good, but He’s making alot of people angry now. I’m relieved to hear Air Force commander, brigadier Luiz Carlos Bueno is doing something. It would be another tradgedy to keep covering it up until it happens again.

  • Rick

    Mr. Pires deserves more respect than some are giving him. He, after all, fled Brazil in 1964, our equivalent of a Survivor of The Long March or I was at Woodstock. And these guys are not getting any younger, heÀ‚´s 80. American technology evidently saved his life, as he was flown to Uruguay in a Cessna, running on auto fuel including 5 gallon cans of the stuff inside the cabin. Those old, Made in USA, Continental engines were designed to operate on red-dyed, 80 octane avgas, no longer available. Saved his bacon. And the Brazilian auto gas back then was pretty weak stuff, with no ethanol added. Try running auto gas in a modern light plane and see what happens. Well, an Embraer 710 might do it, but even most of those are thirty years old.

  • JC

    To Ch. c
    Now on a personal level Ch. c, you are nothing more than a pathetic racist human reject with a reading comprehension of a MOLE! I define you to tell us all what university did you go to and what are your qualifications.

  • JC

    GeeÀ¢€¦ let me see who should be more credible the defense Minister Mr. Pires that have full access to classified and declassified information from SIVAM SYSTEM as well as the international investigation team À¢€¦ or with Mr. ch. c ??? Now we all know Mr. ch. c always have the À¢€œinsideÀ¢€Â information that nobody else in the world haveÀ¢€¦ not to mention his À¢€œinstantaneous google knowledgeÀ¢€Â and prolific expertise on all Brazilian mattersÀ¢€¦ Hummm decisionsÀ¢€¦decisionsÀ¢€¦

    The job of the government and the international investigators is to go thru all the technical evidence available to reconstruct what really occurred on the skies above the Amazon forest. The Brazilian government must learn from this tragedy and insure the implementation of appropriate safeguards, regardless of who caused this tragic accident.
    The Brazilian authorities have in their hands one of the most advanced surveillance system in the world the À¢€œSIVAM SYSTEMÀ¢€Â, which has been in operation now for about 12 years and fully implemented in 2003.

    À¢€œSIVAM infrastructure comprises three regional surveillance centers in Manaus, Porto Velho, Belem and a general coordination center in Brasilia. All centers have stations and servers to process incoming data from satellites, specially equipped aircraft, and ground sensors. The Manaus air surveillance center is being equipped with a “blended” ATC system, to make the centerÀ¢€™s addition to BrazilÀ¢€™s air traffic control as seamless as possible,

    The regionˢ۪s environmental data is delivered to the centers via a Network Systems of geostationary satellite, located above the equator. The transponder dedicated to SIVAM is in the satellite and the data derives from an array of 424 small aperture terminals with the Brazilian government to install 900 more terminals.
    Authorized users at the terminals can access a À¢€˜catalogÀ¢€™ of information products. The four centers receive and archives a steady stream of data to create the information products from SIVAM sensors, multisensor and earth observation satellites.
    As part of the SIVAM system is an upgraded satellite ground stations for the INPE (the Brazilian institute for space research). The earth observation satellites include the Landsat 7, SPOT 4, Radarsat, and ERS-1 and -2. Data also comes from three additional satellites: GOES, a weather satellite accompanied by three ground stations; TIROS, a polar orbiting satellite that provides weather and atmospheric data and includes a ground station in Manaus; and SCD-1, a Brazilian satellite that acquires data from ground stations, such as water levels and rainfall. Information from these satellites largely serves to monitor the AmazonÀ¢€™s rain forest environment, but it also can be accessed by the regionÀ¢€™s air traffic control.Twenty-five ground radar sites are linked to the Manaus center by a Comtech/Alcatel satcom system. Five sites that have Thomson CSF radars are integrated into the SIVAM network. In addition, seven ASR-23 solid state, L-band, two-dimensional (azimuth and range) primary radars with integrated monopulse secondary radar, and seven stand-alone Condor Mk 2 monopulse secondary radars. They are 3D-capable to monitor aircraft that are not equipped with transponders. The radar sites, along with five additional sites, also serve as telecommunications centers, incorporating both VHF and UHF transceivers. À¢€œ

    Points of interest (in my opinion)
    a) À¢€ÂAuthorized users at the terminals can access a À¢€˜catalogÀ¢€™ of information products.À¢€Â

    A subdivision of the SIVAM system is entirely dedicated to the Brazilian Defense Department, the INPE, CISCEA and the Air Force with most of its information being À¢€œclassified informationÀ¢€Â.
    The Brazilian ministry find themselves, perhaps for the first time, dealing with the logistics of releasing classified information to the international authorities or declassifying matters of National Security. The information generated by such system used in conjunction with the Black Boxes laboratorial analysis, could provide for one of the most detailed À¢€œreconstruction accident investigationÀ¢€Â in recent times.

    b) À¢€œequipped with a “blended” ATC system, to make the centerÀ¢€™s addition to BrazilÀ¢€™s air traffic control as seamless as possibleÀ¢€Â.

    c) À¢€œThey are 3D-capable to monitor aircraft that are not equipped with transponders.À¢€Â

  • JC

    to Ch. c
    Ch. ch.. if a higher being could permit the real YOU to transcend the bounderies of your no doubt feeble body to take a look at your senseless and pathetic contribution from another one’s eyes, you’d skip the trip back (to your body) and head straight to hell. you know NOTHING about brazil. nothing worth sharing here at least.

    have a great weekend… and keep brazil FAR from your mouth (and mind)…

  • Gringousa

    To Ch.C
    Who the fuck do u think you are? and you dont seem to have any clue of what you are writing!

    ” Brazilians are just a bunch of crooks and idiots.” What do you mean by tis? I am sure you have no balls to come and talk this in front of any sound human being, in person. Forget in front of me.

    No doubt you are a disgrace on human kind. I am sure your wife and daugther turned lesb lovers, and you turned into a psycho sick. Thats why you shit all ove this site. And maybe you are a probem in your condo, neighbourhood, and even social circle. here, indeed you are a piece of shit. Go fuck your mother.

  • Costinha

    Put them Fat american cowboy
    pilots in jail where they belong. Them Ass (…..o…..) are CIA operatives anyway!

    Fuck the USA.

  • Norman Kemble

    Hey Me whoever you are
    Sorry asshole, but worked there and know the pilots. Been in aviation 30 years more than you have. Try finding Sharkey’s first posting that was yanked after less than one day. In that one he says he was in the cockpit seconds before the crash. In the latest in Aviation International News, says that he was in the cockpit, left, went back to his seat and was there an undetermined amount of time, but managed to get his laptop out and was working on it when the accident occurred. Between those two PUBLISHED articles is a lot of back sliding and different stories in two other published articles and a couple of live interviews.

    You are right about a cover up in Brazil, but are totally wrong about excel. And you know nothing about them or the people working there or more importantly, how excel is run.

  • me

    dysfunctional government
    Quit talking out of your assholes, especially you realgivp. You know absolutely nothing about Excel and probably don’t know much about aviation in general.

    I never understood why mindless citizens so blindly follow corrupt politicians. Specifically the Minister of Defense, Waldir Pires, who is so clearly and blatantly covering up the truth to avoid accepting responsibility for his departments shortcomings. This is not surprising of course. It’s the nature of politicians to lie and cheat to make themselves look good and the nature of the gullible to listen to them. This behavior is not limited to Brazil and obviously Americans do it also but that doesn’t change the facts.

    I’ve read Joe Sharkey’s blog and many of his articles. He is clearly frustrated and angry at all this as he should be. We should all be angry at the cover up and the attempt to scapegoat foreigners to save the face of one corrupt man. Waldir Pires’ own Air Traffic Controllers and Air Force Officers have spoken out against him to try to shed light on the truth. The Controllers initiated a work slowdown by refusing to work beyond international recommended normal workloads. The department has refused to allow the controllers to testify for the investigation and has refused to release the transcripts of the voice recorders and data recorders that have already proved what happened. Pires continues with the wild accusations of arrogant American pilots performing maneuvers even though this has already been firmly established as false. These are not the actions of an organization that holds no regret over the events that caused the tragic deaths of over 150 innocent people.

    Pires’ only desperate hope to steer away unwanted eyes is to bring out the anger of Brazilians by fanning the fire of hatred and anti-Americanism at a time when they are most vulnerable. This is shameful politics at it’s worst and anyone who listens to such dribble is equally responsible for the evil sentiment it spreads.

    It’s time Brazilians stand up to their government and demand the truth and demand that problems be fixed instead of swept under the carpet. Grow some backbone people and stand up for what is right and quit following the ramblings of a corrupt man in a dysfunctional government.

  • Norman Kemble

    To ch.c
    The previous post by me is for you. You have ducked the question several times.

  • Norman Kemble

    Im still asking the same question to you. Do you work for excel? If you don’t which of your family and/or friends work for excel? While there are questions regarding the actions of the Brazilian’s involved there are just as many regarding the crew and the passengers. Particularly the NY Times reporter Joe Sharkey. He has changed his reporting of the accident at least 4 times. If you had been following this from the beginning you would realize that the responsibility for this accident is shared among all participants. Also, if you knew anything about excelaires operations you would not be backing them unless you, your family or friends worked there.

  • ch.c.

    the only lack of vision from xuxu…..
    is the cattle manure of the Brazilian Government, ATCs and Justice disregarding the International Aviation Laws…..because the local laws are worth nothing and reality and facts being hidden on purpose !

    Just read what were and still are the brazilian accusations, every time contradicted by the Brazilian Investigators….themselves !

    But in Brazil who cares about the investigators ?
    Even the Brazilian investigators were so disgusted against the Brazilian Justice and government, that many of them simply resigned…..after your many corruptions scandals ! Re-read your own news !

    Very strange that in the case of the plane crash, the ATC’s have not agreed to testify YET, while the US pilots had to testify immediately !

    The more and more news and fact that are coming out, the more it becomes clear that Brazilians are lying and hiding the truth…voluntarily ! Guess why….if they are innocents !

    Brazilians are just a bunch of crooks and idiots.

    Enjoy your life in such a Tropical mud.
    Doubtful that 2 or 3 millions Americans will ever reside legally or illegally in Brazil !
    But 2 or 3 millions Brazilians are already illegally in the USA…and increasing….by the day ! Guess why too !

  • xuxu

    The only lack of vision here
    was the cowboy american pilots disragarding local laws.

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