Don’t Blame Us, But Blind Spots and the Americans, Say Brazil’s Air Controllers

The 13 Brazilian air traffic controllers who were on duty in the BrasÀ­lia control tower, September 29, when a shock between a Boeing 737 and a Legacy executive jet ended up causing Brazil’s deadliest air accident ever, with 154 deaths, say they have no part in the accident despite what the media or authorities might have said in recent days.

Normando Augusto Cavalcanti, the lawyer representing all of them, says his clients are unanimous in declaring two things: they are not at fault for the air accident and they all agree that there is a blind spot, where communication is very hard, in the area the collision occurred.              

Cavalcanti also revealed that the flight controllers are very upset at the congressional testimony by Air Force commander, Luiz Carlos da Silva Bueno, who told Brazilian senators, Tuesday, November 21, that a misinformation by a controller in Brasí­lia might have contributed to the crash.

According to the controllers, they were induced to error by a defective equipment. They argue that the radar showed that the Legacy was at 36,000 feet when flying through Brasí­lia. In reality the executive jet was at 37,000 feet, the same altitude in which the Boeing was flying only in the opposite direction.

As for the "blind zone," the lawyer informed, this is an old problem that has been presented in the past to the Brazilian air authorities: "The controllers had already told the Air Force about these problems," said Cavalcanti.

Contradicting Defense Minister, Waldir Pires, who has often stated that Brazil has no problem of communication in the skies, the flight controllers assert that airplanes cannot talk to control towers in the North of Mato Grosso state where the accident occurred.

This "blind zone," according to them starts 200 miles north of Brasí­lia and stretches to almost the Mato Grosso and Amazonas states border.

Once again, since the information has already appeared in the media, the lawyer stressed that the controllers at work that day were not tired or in any condition that would adversely affect their performance.

He also denied a report published in the press that the controller who was guiding the Legacy was 20 years old and had no experience. According to the lawyer, the worker in question is 27 and has 5 years of experience in the job.

After ruling out any chance that the controllers might have made a mistake, Cavalcanti said he has two possible explanations for the tragedy:  inducement to a mistake due to a failure in the communication system or an error made by the Legacy’s American pilots.

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