The Brazilian Air Force says that they have no report of a near collision involving military or civilian planes in recent days, but three flight controllers say that 45 days after the air accident that killed 154 people another tragedy involving two planes almost happened again in the skies of Brazil.
The three air traffic controllers from Brazilian capital Brasília, told their story but asked to remain anonymous in order to avoid any retaliation from their military bosses
The too-close-for-comfort incident, according to these men, occurred November 13, a Monday, around 3 pm, 45 days after the shock between the Legacy piloted by two Americans and the Gol’s Boeing 737, over the Amazon forest in the state of Mato Grosso.
Although both planes, one from the FAB (Brazilian Air Force) and the other from a commercial airliner, have crossed paths 2 nautical miles away from each other, the proximity is considered dangerous and grave and can be seen as a grazing between the two aircraft. Aviation experts don’t call it critical however.
The revelation about the near accident was made by Folha de S. Paulo, the Brazilian diary with the largest circulation in the country. in its November 19 Sunday issue.
According to air control rules, planes are supposed to keep a distance of 10 miles with 5 miles being the minimum acceptable between aircraft in the same altitude. When they are in different altitudes they are supposed to have a 1,000 feet separation.
The work of maintaining planes far apart at all times is the responsibility of air controllers, who are supposed to contact pilots when a course correction is needed.
It happens that the Brazilian Air Force, two weeks after the Gol accident, decided to put the Air Defense in charge of the military planes taking them out from the flight controllers jurisdiction.
The idea was to cut in line preventing military flights from being caught into the work-to-rule campaign by air traffic controllers, which crippled air travel in Brazil, delaying flight up to 20 hours.
The incident reported by the anonymous controllers happened when a commercial plane flying to São Paulo left the Brasília airport and started its ascent. At that moment, the monitor of a controller showed the two planes crossing one over the other.
For a moment he didn’t know what to do and feared the worst had happened. It’s possible though that the pilots of the planes never noticed how close they were of each other.
Routine procedures at the air control tower require that incidents like this one be reported so that an internal investigation can be conducted. After all the denials from the FAB, however, it’s doubtful that any report will be filed.
Controllers were particularly tense that Monday, after two weeks of delayed flights and chaos in all major Brazilian airports. Forced to remain for days in the Brasília control center (Cindacta 1) some workers weren’t feeling good.
In two occasions, the anonymous controllers revealed, some of them protested what they called undue interference by the Air Defense in their work.