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Brazil Has a Huge Blind Spot in the Amazon Air Space. Here’s Proof.

A veteran air traffic controller from Brazil has shown on Brazilian TV, this Sunday, November 26, a radar image from BrasÀ­lia’s air control center (Cindacta 1), which according to experts is the proof that there is a "blind spot" in the area where a Boeing 737 and a Legacy executive jet collided causing Brazil’s worst air accident ever.

The picture exhibited in one of the most popular shows in Brazilian TV, the Fantástico, which is aired by Globo TV network, displays a radar photo with a blue area. The blue region shown in the monitor represents the space covered by the system. In reality, however, what appears on the screen is much smaller than the real area the Brasí­lia air traffic control center should cover. 

The picture contains a huge black hole, a blind spot not covered by radar, which extends for thousands of square miles.

In his TV interview the controller, who remained anonymous for fear of retaliation, also pointed out that the air control equipment being used by Brazil is in very bad shape and often obsolete. Some of the devices are over 30 years old.

He told that is not uncommon that workers in the control center get ghost planes in their monitors. In these cases, the controller sees two planes in his equipment even though, in reality, there is only one aircraft. The work of the controller when this happens is to decide which is the ghost plane and which is the real one.

Another problem are static images on the screen that show an airplane in movement as if it had stopped like a helicopter. This happens when the system fails or the computer freezes.

The nameless controller revealed that in June 2001, a collision between two commercial jets, one from Varig and another from Vasp was avoided just three minutes before the crash. At that time, both jets were in the same route, but flying in opposite directions. The collision was avoided because a controller found the mistake and warned one of the planes to immediately change its path. 

The Fantástico aired a transcript of the conversation between two air controllers in this near-collision incident between a Varig MD-11 and a Vasp Airbus. It occurred over Alta Floresta, in Mato Grosso, the same state in which the the Boeing tragedy occurred September 29:

Controller 1: What level has the Varig 2200 reported?
Controller 2: 310.
Controller 1: Good grief! Both are on the same level here. Call him because he is on the same level of a traffic coming in three minutes.

After alerting the pilot, they continue talking:

Controller 1: Brasí­lia made a huge mistake here!
Controller 2: This is embarrassing! Hasn’t Brasí­lia communicated anything, brother?

The Fantástico concluded that the incident may have happened over five years ago, but the problems with air traffic control in Brazil haven’t changed since then.

Commenting on the old near-accident the controller told Globo TV that the same thing can occur today: "This because the equipment still presents the same failures. We have a hard time to talk, the radio frequencies are bad. And we have an aggravating circumstance today: the number of flights has significantly increased."

And he adds: "There are a lot of problems with the frequency. You can pick up cellular phone, pirate radio and sometimes even official radio." Old equipment can be really scary: "We have radars from 30 years ago, which are still in operation in Brazil. They are obsolete. But we keep refurbishing them."

Planes that fly in the huge Amazon black area can have (sometimes spotty) radio contact with the Brasí­lia control tower, but the plane does not show in the radar screen simply because there’s no radar coverage in the region.

The controller can talk to the pilot but cannot see what’s happening. The collision between the Boeing and the Legacy, which left 154 dead and many unanswered questions, happened inside this black hole. "Knowing what I know I don’t feel secure flying in this area," revealed the incognito controller.

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  • Show Comments (17)

  • tom

    False Reports
    It seems we have lots of confusion regarding the NTSB official report. You can read for yourself the NTSB report here http://www.ntsb.gov/Pressrel/2006/061122a.htm

    These reports only state facts of the case thus far and do not make assumption as the brazil report makes.

  • Norman Kemble

    sk
    Think what you want but you are wrong. You have proved nothing but trying to split hairs. It is you who has shown your real intentions which is certainly not finding out the whole truth. Rather, protecting other (personal??) interests seems to be your goal and attempting (rather weakly) to discredit me. It is interesting that you have suddenly shown up on fresh on the heels of Norm the pilot. Your indentiical twin. I’ll ask you the same questinos……Do you work for excel?? Your friends/family???

    Oh well the facts and my documentation is in the right hands……Time will tell….Good luck

  • SK

    You wrote:
    “Sorry but the report is legit and was passed on to me by someone who had access to it. Nice thought though”

    What do you mean a “legit report” and “someone who had access to it?” You presented it as a news article, complete with a headline and the words “Sao Paulo, Brazil” as if to suggest that it was published by some media outlet with a reporter based there.

    I pointed out two “facts” in the fake news story that are clear falsehoods and a bogus conclusion that shows that even the fake story was prepared in a sloppy fashion.

    That thing wasn’t presented as a report that someone has access to. It was presented as if it were a legit news story that you found and posted on this site. It is wrong and things that it says are facts aren’t facts.

    As I said–shameless and disgraceful. But, by now claiming it to be a “report” from “someone with access,” you proved all by yourself that the thing is completely false. Thanks for clearing that up (along with your true intentions) for everyone.

  • Norman Kemble

    Here is th sentence where the quote begins And the sentence where the quote ends
    “American pilots may have relied on U.S. rather than International procedures for lost communications ……..and this is the sentence where the quote ends………

    Although the investigation is far from complete, this accident highlights the fact that U.S. flight crews operating internationally must be familiar with and adhere to ICAO Annexes and recommended practices, as well as the applicable rules for each specific region or State.”

    Have a nice day

  • Norman Kemble

    sk part two
    I can see where you are confused as I did not put quotes around the article to show that this was not something I had dreamed up. The very first paragraph of part one is my own words. The sentence below is the begining of the article and hence should begin the quote. The very last word under Part 2 is where the quote ends. Hopefully this will clear up any and all confusion on the board with this……..but then I doubt that since speculation rather than facts rule here for most people.

  • Norman Kemble

    sk
    Sorry but the report is legit and was passed on to me by someone who had access to it. Nice thought though

  • SK

    It seems realgivp has an over imagination on brazzil.com, trying to masquerade as a legit report.

    Shameless and disgraceful…

  • SK

    According to information disseminated by the NTSB on behalf of the Brazilian government, the two Legacy pilots, both from Long Island, experienced a loss of radio communications with Brazilian ATC about 40 minutes after their departure from Prof. Urbano ErTotally false.rport, San Jose dos Campos, Brazil (SBSJ).

    Totally false. Nothing in any NTSB-released information states or indicates that a “loss of radio communications” occurred 40 minutes after take off.

    At the time of the loss of communications, the Legacy jet was established in cruise on airway UW2, about 40 nautical miles south of BRS (Brasilia VOR) at flight level 370. At that point, UW2 has a magnetic course of 006 degrees, and FL370 complied with the hemispheric rule for cruising levels and agreed with the Legacy’s filed flight plan.

    Also false. The only thing the NTSB report states is that the last bilateral communication took place just south of Brasilia.

    Those fake “facts” are presented to support an argument made to try to pin blame on Jan and Joe by suggesting that they were following US lost comm procedures. They have maintained from the beginning that they were not even lost comm–and they were not.

    The story also has a bigus conclusion here–

    Following this guidance, 7 minutes after the Legacy pilots determined they had a communications failure, and after passing BRS, they would have descended to FL360 in compliance with ICAO rules and their filed flight plan. This would have positioned the Legacy 1000 feet below the opposite direction Gol 737 on airway UZ6.

    Actually, the filed flight plan would have directed them to climb to FL380 at Teres, meaning that they would have been 1,000 feet above the Gol aircraft if that rule applied.

  • Norman Kemble

    Home at Last Part 2?? Does it make sense yet chc??
    It is well known that in certain areas of the world reliable ATC communications are sporadic at best, and periods of communications loss are common. However, in the instant case, there was no two-way communication between the Legacy and ATC for one hour and five minutes, from the last ATC contact at 3:51 pm until the collision at 4:56 pm Brasilia standard time. The Legacy crossed the BRS VOR at 3:56 pm and after the turn onto airway UZ6 was cruising at a level not in compliance with the hemispheric rule for one hour until the collision. While any loss of communications with ATC can be cause for concern, the situation becomes especially urgent when an aircraft is established on an airway and cruising at a level inappropriate for the direction of flight.

    According the the NTSB, beginning at 4:48 pm, the crew of Legacy N600XL made a series of 12 radio calls to ATC attempting to make contact. At 4:53, the crew heard the call instructing them to change frequencies, but the pilot did not understand all of the digits, and requested a repeat. No reply from ATC was received. The pilot made 7 more attempts to establish contact. ICAO Annex 10 Vol. II – Aeronautical Telecommunications, includes standards and recommended practices for aircraft experiencing communications failure. It offers a variety of guidance including attempting to establish contact with the aeronautical station on another frequency appropriate for the route, attempting contact with another aircraft, or attempting contact with a different aeronautical station. It also includes procedures for transmitting in the blind, and transponder operation (setting the transponder to Mode A Code 7600). Indeed, multiple air traffic services communications frequencies are published on high altitude charts along an airway. Frequencies for different sectors and altitudes of the same Area Control Center are listed. In remote regions, many times ARINC HF frequencies are listed as well. In addition, many aircraft are equipped with CPDLC or SATCOM that can be used as another form of communication with ATC. At this time, what actions the Legacy crew took, other than those listed above, to re-establish communications with ATC have not been released.

    Although the investigation is far from complete, this accident highlights the fact that U.S. flight crews operating internationally must be familiar with and adhere to ICAO Annexes and recommended practices, as well as the applicable rules for each specific region or State.

  • Norman Kemble

    Home at Last?? Part 1 chc see if you can undestand these two posts
    First let me say that the anticipated release of the pilots is overdue and welcome. For those of you on this board that seek answers to the questions of why this happened, how it can be fixed and to make sure that it doesnˢ۪t happen again I am attaching the following. This will explain in clearer terms why I have posted the questions and voiced the opinions that have appeared here. I doubt that it will please the few xenophobes, excel and their backers. But it will show that the accident was not solely the cause of the Brazilian ATC.

    American pilots may have relied on U.S. rather than International procedures for lost communications

    Sao Paulo, Brazil À¢€“ Two American pilots detained in Brazil since a tragic midair collision that left 154 dead may have followed U.S. rules rather than International procedures governing lost communications

    The investigation, conducted under the authority of the Brazilian Aeronautical Accident Prevention and Investigation Center (DIPAA) with assistance from a U.S. team including members from the NTSB, FAA, Boeing, and Honeywell, is focusing on why the two aircraft were at the same altitude on the same airway, why there was no indication from either aircraftˢ۪s Traffic Collision Avoidance System, and why the Legacy jet experienced a loss of communication with Brazilian air traffic control (ATC).

    According to information disseminated by the NTSB on behalf of the Brazilian government, the two Legacy pilots, both from Long Island, experienced a loss of radio communications with Brazilian ATC about 40 minutes after their departure from Prof. Urbano Ernesto Stumpf airport, San Jose dos Campos, Brazil (SBSJ).

    At the time of the loss of communications, the Legacy jet was established in cruise on airway UW2, about 40 nautical miles south of BRS (Brasilia VOR) at flight level 370. At that point, UW2 has a magnetic course of 006 degrees, and FL370 complied with the hemispheric rule for cruising levels and agreed with the Legacyˢ۪s filed flight plan.

    According to the Legacyˢ۪s flight plan, the aircraftˢ۪s initial cruise altitude was filed as FL370, with a planned change to FL360 at BRS, and to FL380 at the TERES navigational fix, approximately 282 miles north of BRS. The descent to FL360 after passing BRS was because the magnetic course of airway UW2 inbound to BRS was 006 degrees and the magnetic course of airway UZ6 outbound from BRS was 336 degrees. The Legacy jet crossed BRS at FL370 and remained at that altitude until the collision occurred approximately 460 nautical miles north northwest of BRS on airway UZ6.

    Under U.S. Federal Aviation Regulations (14 CFR Section 91.185), aircraft experiencing two-way radio communications failure are to fly the highest of three possible flight levels: the level assigned in the last ATC clearance received, the minimum level for instrument operations, or the level ATC has advised may be expected in a further clearance. Using this guidance, itˢ۪s understandable why the Legacy crew stayed at FL370 contrary to the hemispheric rule and the filed flight plan.

    In contrast, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Annex 2, Rules of the Air, specifies that aircraft experiencing communications failure are to fly the last assigned speed and level, or the minimum flight altitude if higher, for a period of 7 minutes and thereafter adjust level and speed in accordance with the filed flight plan. Following this guidance, 7 minutes after the Legacy pilots determined they had a communications failure, and after passing BRS, they would have descended to FL360 in compliance with ICAO rules and their filed flight plan. This would have positioned the Legacy 1000 feet below the opposite direction Gol 737 on airway UZ6.

    These variations in regional procedures can be confusing and complex. Although ICAO is working with member States to harmonize procedures worldwide, progress is incremental and slow, with much work still to be done. In the meantime, many U.S. pilots who fly internationally are unfamiliar with the ICAO Annexes, standards and recommended practices (SARPS), and regional procedures that govern their actions, even though compliance with them is mandatory. A little known but critical reference to ICAO procedures is contained in U.S. Federal Aviation Regulation 14 CFR Subpart H, Section 91.703, and entitled À¢€œOperations of civil aircraft of U.S. registry outside of the United States.À¢€Â It states clearly that each person operating a civil aircraft of U.S. registry outside of the United States shall, À¢€œwhen within a foreign country, comply with the regulations relating to the flight and maneuver of aircraft there in force.À¢€Â

  • Simpleton

    Yes, as I explained (under the name I had before Ch. c. gave me this one), from my own experience listening in on an open comm channel about two years ago it is obvious (repeat – obvious to me anyway) that there are places where repeated VHF comm calls to ATC go un-responded to. Is it the blind spots of yore? I didn’t want to believe the lack of response was a return of rudeness to what seemed to me to be nagging gringo pilots that kept asking for something the controller most apparently wasn’t going to / couldn’t give them for other reasons. The controller has no need nor obligation to explain a denial of a requested flight level change. I did not even consider at that time that the controllers might have been over loaded (in the middle of the night). The ATCs communications with other traffic on that channel didn’t seem to be consuming up much of thier time but that doesn’t show what all they may have been up against in those periods.

    The equipment sellers (from outside brazil at least) would dearly love to get in the doors. Unfortunately what they would sell for equipment and services has to first be requested and authorized by the legislature. An as yet unproven need cannot overcome this.

    Let the poor b*stards go back to thier homes and families. Nothing’s going to change in ten months.

  • ch.c.

    but…but…..but…….
    Re-read all the articles and government statements since the tragedy :
    – Brazil has one of the World Best Air Security with the LATEST technology covering the whole Brazilian airspace.
    – There are NOOOOOOOOOOO blind spots in Brazil ! Statement re-confirmed not later than 2 days ago by the old insane crook wearing Pampers : Pires himself !

    What a cover up story all these statements and affirmations were !

    And as I said many times, accusing the the US pilots, were simply a diversion by saying….dont look where the problem were and still are !

    Your government members (Pires, Amorim and el al) are a bunch of crooks and liars ! They all should go on trial ! Your ATCs are not any better, just re-read what they said after they finally testified : they are not responsible and in their view the responsiblity is either with a communication failure or the US pilots.

    Great, except that a blind spot is not a communication failure, but a lack of (updated ?) equipments and that the US pilots cannot be blamed if that is the case !

    It is quite curious that some forum members still accuse….the US pilots !
    Either they are stupid or have only half a brain ! May be both !

  • Rick

    Thirty years old? Some VORs in the states are still powered by vacuum tubes.

  • Stephen

    reply to alltheway
    Mate, This info has been presented to the media here in Brazil more than once but Brazilians just see it as Brazil Bashing and discount the reports. Don’t know if any of this has ever been reported outside of Brazil. Peres is the best example, head in the sand, won’t accept any valid complaints and says that all the near misses here are as common in the US and Europe.” A big puddle of shit and he does not have the shoes for it” if Lula does not fire this guy today then we had all better really start to worry!

  • alltheway

    Why haven’t the professional airline pilots from Brasil and other countries that fly these routes made this information available years ago to the press in Brasil or elsewhere ? . no loyalty to their passengers, their companies, their own lives ? strange //

  • Ralph M

    Equipment Manufacturers
    Lots like equipment manufacturers would be down there knocking on doors to sell the stuff that is needed. They ought to know what it is and how toget it paid for.

    ‘Nuff for today! Goodnight to all.

    RM

  • Ralph M

    Updating to Make Things Right
    Does anyone understand specifically what facilities are needed for the ATC system? Looks like additional stations, maybe relay stations are needed along the airways for continuous communication, navigation and radar. What would it take to replace the older equipment? What would it cost? Where would the money come from? Are there taxes collected for supporting continuous maintenance and equipment updating and replacing? Are national financial data reports available for all to see? Budgets for getting this done? Who would take charge of all this to get it done? Yes, there are some who will not, but there must be some who will!

    If there are communication black holes along the airways, there must also be sections where no VOR signal is received to maintain ground track. Is all navigation in these regions by low frequency ADF? Surely there is some method to navigate those few hundred miles other then just maintaining a heading! What is the situation with the rest of South America? The big guys may use GPS.

    RM

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