Since the accident with the Boeing 737 over the Brazilian Amazon, which killed all 154 people aboard, Brazil’s authorities have suggested that the main reason for the tragedy might have been the actions by two American pilots in a Legacy executive jet.
According to the Brazilian Air Force (FAB), they are suspect of having turned off the Legacy’s transponder preventing that the flight controllers in Brasília could determine the plane’s altitude. Turning that device off would also have kept the anti-collision systems of both planes from working.
In order to once and for all prove or disprove this theory, colonel Rufino Ferreira, the president of the FAB committee investigating the Boeing accident is in the United States. He travelled on Saturday, November 25, to the US carrying the Legacy’s transponder to be analyzed in the labs of Honeywell, the equipment’s manufacturer.
Brazilian experts will be supervising the factory probe. Brazil wants to know whether the transponder had a failure or was disconnected manually by the American pilots. The FAB has already aired a version in which the pilots would have unplugged the device to do air stunts.
Although this theory has since been discarded some still believe that Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino had something to do with the transponder’s malfunctioning. The equipment came back to life soon after the collision between the two planes.
Meanwhile, Brazil continues to debate if the country has any blind spots in its air space, which would prevent communications between an airplane and the air control towers.
The question got nationwide exposure on Sunday, November 26, when Globo’s popular TV show Fantástico showed an interview with a Brasília’s veteran air traffic controller saying that the Amazon has thousands of square miles of air space that cannot be reached by radar.
Defense Minister Waldir Pires says that these blind spots or black holes are just an invention by those trying to discredit Brazil or his work.
But now, Air Force commander brigadier Luiz Carlos Bueno, says that Brazil has at least three blind zones: one in the north of Amapá state, another one in the south of Maranhão and still a third one in the southwest of Roraima.
The confirmation came from Brazil’s Air Space Control Department (Decea). Decea’s technical sector chief, brigadier ílvaro Pinheiro Luiz da Costa concedes that these hard-to-reach areas exist, but for him these "spots without radar coverage" are "negligible" when the whole Brazilian territory is taken into account.
As for the area where the collision between the Legacy and the Boeing occurred, brigadier Costa backs up what the Defense Minister keeps saying that not only there is no blind spot in the area but also that the region is covered by three radar services – in Sinop, São Félix and Cachimbo – that overlap each other. According to him, the whole of Brazil has 160 far-reaching radars and the Amazon alone possesses 25 of them.
And why are there some areas without radar coverage? The brigadier explains: "Our priority are the high-sensitivity areas. The communications we have in these other areas are enough." Costa also explained that even in areas without radar flying is secure: "It’s like over the ocean. There are no radars, but flight is still secure." Planes in these areas are controlled via radio and these communications are "absolutely secure," he assures.
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