For O Estado, Brazil Only Didn’t Sue US Pilots’ Moms Because It Couldn’t

With the title "Now, is this any time for joke?," Jornal da Tarde, the afternoon edition of O Estado de S. Paulo wrote this Monday, December 11, a scathing and ironic editorial lambasting the bad shape of air control in Brazil and the "biggest chaos in the country’s commercial aviation history."

The crisis in the sector, notes the daily, would have supplied enough material for a book of jokes if it weren’t for the fact that everything started with the crash of the Boeing 737, the deadliest accident in Brazil’s aviation history.

The editorial remarks that the Brazilian authorities tried all conceivable ways to accuse the Legacy jet’s two American pilots, whose plane collided with the Boeing, "until it became impossible to hide that a series of mistakes had  occurred in the national control towers and that there was a communication failure due to the easy-to-understand fact that controllers and pilots don’t speak the same language." 

And Jornal Tarde continues: "Since only 3% of our controllers understand English and the Americans haven’t learned Portuguese, ones didn’t know what the others were talking about. Nevertheless, they only were able to go back to the USA after they were charged by the Federal police with putting the aircraft at risk. Certainly because their mothers could not be sued for not having taught them the ‘uncultured and beautiful’ language invented by Luí­s de Camões."

The editorialist then comments: "Another tragicomic detail of the episode is the fact that, living outside the country, all they have to do to escape the legal proceedings’ disastrous consequences is not coming back ."

The opinion piece goes on pointing out that Brazil’s Congress is  restless for not having any of the spotlight turned to them in the crisis: "The Congress leadership decided to enter the playing field with obvious requests that Defense Minister, Waldir Pires, also known as Softy Waldir, be ousted and they are threatening to take over in order to solve the problem."

The Jornal da Tarde also observes that the usually fragmented Congress has been united to ensure impunity for its members:  

"At the same time that they promised to intervene into a subject that doesn’t concern them, our Congress didn’t mete out any punishment to the last of the mensaleiros (those involved into the votes for cash scandal), José Janene from the PP party of Paraná state.

"With their moral authority wasted in the national general pizzeria, the congressmen have as much authority to intervene in the flight control crisis as the bey of Tunis, the caliph of Baghdad and the king of spades from a deck of cards." concludes the editorial.


  • Show Comments (14)

  • Rick

    Considering the amount of traffic around Brazilian airports, the number of cross-country flights and the present infrastructure, in my opinion the flying public would be safer if all controllers and tower personnel would go home, airports would install uncoms, and let the pilots handle separation themselves.

  • Norman Kemble

    Sorry but professional pilots are taught to be vigilant even under IFR. À¢€œStuffÀ¢€Â happens all the time and you fight to prevent complacency. ESPECIALLY if you are flying in unfamiliar territory or a different country that you have never been in. Complacency at any time is something to avoid. Flying along F D and H where you have never been before is not being professional no matter what anyone on this board says.

    Will be really interesting to see the full transcripts when they come out and which of Joe Sharkeyˢ۪s many changing accounts is true. Also how many other of the Legacy passengers were up front and contributing to the over hour long delay before the Legacy crew realized that they had not been talking to ATC.

    Error chains are not the fault of just one thingÀ¢€¦..ATC, lack of communication, faulty equipment or faulty understanding of either language. There are few people here looking for the whole answer, but many seeking to put forth their À¢€œpet peeve.

    This proves the point that I have made about flying in Brazil over 8 years ago. Loss of communications is COMMONPLACE…..and STILL IS…….. Therefore everyone is compicit no matter what. That english is the common language doesn’t mean you fly along assuming that someone will take care of you. Vigilance is the rule not the lip service that some seem to be able to put forth. And KNOWING and being TRAINED on the differences…………..

    Doubt that will get most people to think……

    But, REAL PROFESSIONAL pilots will

  • Guest

    Bush drunk on morning when Baker-Hamilton report released?
    I can’t believe that I missed this story. This was published a few days back in the Washington Post by Dana Milbank:
    Lawrence Eagleburger was asked how President Bush reacted to the recommendations.
    “His reaction was, ‘Where’s my drink?’ ” the former secretary of state cracked after the commission’s White House visit and Capitol Hill news conference. Reaching for his own cola, Eagleburger continued: “He was a little loaded. It was early in the morning, too, you know.”

  • Guest

    Sunday, December 10, 2006
    US opens new jail at Guantanamo Bay
    Because our inner “truthiness” tells us that the best way to promote habeas corpus to Middle Eastern dictatorships is by opening up new prisons where we can hold people indefinitely without charging them with a crime:
    The US has begun moving terror suspects detained at Guantanamo Bay into a new $37m (À‚£19m) maximum-security prison.
    Forty-two prisoners were transferred from another high-security facility on the US naval base in eastern Cuba, the Associated Press reported.
    The new 178-cell prison will allow commanders to close the wire-fence camp originally built for early detainees.
    The US holds some 430 men at Guantanamo Bay on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda or the Taleban, most without charge.
    UN human rights investigators and foreign governments have called on the US government to close the entire detention centre.
    But the new facility has been built to provide more permanent secure accommodation for those judged to be “enemy combatants” and detained by the US military.
    Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) is planning on submitting legislation that would repeal the Military Commissions Act. Remember, the MCA was the deal reached between Bush and McCain that allows for the suspension of habeas corpus for anyone that is a threat to the United States.

  • bo

    Response to: “I would llike to know how many times contact has been lost and the controlers just hoped for the best.”
    It has been stated by numerous air traffic controllers as well as pilots that in the region where the accident took place that loss of communication was COMMONPLACE. Meaning that on a daily, or weekly basis this occurred as a matter of ROUTINE!!

  • ch.c.


    Simple demonstration that comparing Foley and the plane crash……can be made only by idiots Brazilians.
    And as one member said, changing the subject, just show how incapable you are to discuss the subject of the article.

    The sad truth is that Pires too changed the subject of the plane crash problems……by accusing the US pilots…….to hide the messy situation of your inept ATCs, shortage of ATCs, lack of Security Towers….well explained not in one but in many Brazilians medias, not even in foreign medias….!!!!!!

    And why should foreign pilots learn the language of all the countries they are flying in ???? Almost impossible. That is why the International Air regulations and laws have
    chosen 1 languaqe : ENGLISH !!!!!!

    Simple demonstration again where Brazil totally failed and lied contrary to what you assured the various International Air Authorities as to the degree of air safety in your country : 3 % of ATCs speak English….while you are supposed to have all them speaking English sufficiently enough in their job of Air Tower Controllers !!!!!

    Shame once more to Brazilians to have put tens and tens of millions of local and foreign air passengers at risk….FOR YEARS !

    And all this while they caressed their navel by saying Brazil has the best ATCs, the best and latest equipments, in sufficient quantity, and that there is NOOOOOOO blindspot !!!!!

    Brazil is governed and managed by crooks, cheaters, liars and totally inept politicians….but totally corrupted to their roots !

  • Stephen

    One close call is one to many!
    Regional Security Office at U.S. Embassy Brasilia reported the following:


    Flight delays have become the rule in Brazil over the last two months as air traffic controllers have instituted a “work-to-rule” operation, reducing the number of flights each controller handles to the internationally recommended limit of 14. The Brazilian press has started reporting on flight delays along with traffic congestion reports in the morning. According to one source, one-quarter of all flights in Brazil were delayed by at least 30 minutes on November 27.

    The “work-to-rule” operation was instituted primarily in response to a September 29 mid-air collision and controllers’ longstanding complaints that they were overworked. The decision to institute the “work-to-rule” policy was adopted unilaterally by the air traffic controllers, leading to a week of severe delays, flight cancellations and isolated incidents of unrest at several Brazilian airports in late October and early November. (See Safety and Security Report: Brazil Air Traffic Delays) In addition, technical failures, such as the one that occurred on December 5 temporarily halting most domestic flights out of SÀƒ£o Paulo, Brasilia and Belo Horizonte, exacerbated already delayed flight schedules. Although technical failures of this significance remain the exception rather than the rule, flight delays have been common and Brazilian air safety has come under intense media scrutiny.

    Technical and Financial Challenges

    There were 22 in-flight incidents in Brazilian airspace between January and June 2006, compared to 80 such incidents for all of 2005 and 82 for all of 2004. Other accounts note that there have been four in-flight near misses between aircraft since May 2006.

    Air traffic controllers have been voicing their complaints in the press, recently stating that equipment failures are quite normal. Reportedly, one of the controllers on duty on September 29, who was tracking the ExcelAire Legacy’s flight from Brasilia, said that his computer screen was showing the jet’s altitude to be at 36,000 feet when it really was flying at 37,000 feet. The controller then passed the incorrect information to his replacement on the next shift.

    In addition, controllers have unanimously pointed out that there are blind spots and communication failures in the area where the September 29 accident occurred.

    On the same day as the Legacy collision, air traffic controllers reportedly said that they had problems communicating with two other planes that were flying the same route as the Legacy jet. In this specific case, another airplane flying in the vicinity of the Legacy had to help relay emergency communications between air traffic control and the Legacy in order to direct it to a safe landing zone.

    In addition to technical limitations, lack of resources has also been cited as a contributing factor to the current crisis. During the past four years, a period over which Brazilian air space saw a marked increase in flights, the budget for airspace management and air traffic security was reduced by 25%. Between 2003 and 2005, the Brazilian government invested 460.9 million reals (approximately US $223 million) annually in aviation. This was a significant reduction from the 2000-2002 period, when the average amount spent on aviation each year was 612.5 million reals. The draft 2007 budget for aviation calls for an 8% reduction in resources allotted to the sector. The passenger volume, however, has been growing between 15-20% per year over the last two years.

    Significance for the U.S. Private Sector

    As air traffic controllers continue to follow their “work-to-rule” policy, delays have been common throughout Brazil. As it can be difficult to predict which flights will be delayed and by how long, the employees of U.S. businesses traveling to and in Brazil should verify their flight status with their designated airline carrier.

  • Rod

    Brazils legal system
    I have been following this situation and I thought I might give my 2 cents worth.
    I have had some experience dealing with the legal system in Brazil. I endured a lecture by a court cleark about how the English Common Law we use in USA is a very low law and how the law that is used in Brazil is the kings law in other words Napolianic law is far superior In common law you are inocent until proven guilty and decisions are based on previous cases that have been tried. In Kings law you are guilty until proven inocent before a judge that makes a decision without referring to any past decisions. It is not a good feeling going before a judge putting all of my hopes on them and knowing that if I dont give him the right compensation I will not get the judgement I needed. Ths was a civil matter so what I did was take care of it in the common law here in the USA. I can relate to the Aviation workers, Flight controlers and pilots being very afraid. It is not a very good situation to correct the cause which in my opinion was a systems breakdown. The full truth will not be found until the political pressure is removed and the aviation professionals are free to speak. I have been an aircraft mechanic for over twenty years and without full disclosure of the events that happened air travel in brazil will be more dangerous. This involves me because I am married to a brazilian and travel there 2 times a year on a major US airline. I can only imagine how many close calls that have happened. I would llike to know how many times contact has been lost and the controlers just hoped for the best.

  • Rick

    Right, if someone feels offended by this story, blame O Estado, not other countries.

  • Dennis J Farquharson

    It is indeed a clever technique to change the subject. If the point is that the United States is not a perfect country and that humans are imperfect, the point is taken. Who would think otherwise?

    Democracy is always a work in process and each generation must re-earn the right to self government often one citizen at a time. Will this time U.S. democratic institutions and the American people be up to the challenge? We should all hope so.

    Rule of law and accountability are essential to being a part of a modern country. It is unacceptably dangerous to integrate hi-technologies like modern air travel and pharmaceuticals and not insist on a regulated structure with consequences for failure that assures the public safety.

    The question is impunity. I wonder if Mr. À¢€œDid you know thatÀ¢€Â realized the significance of Mr. Foley resigning from office in disgrace. As a part of the consequence, the Republicans lost their majority control in the US Senate and House of Representatives. Forgive me, but you could say George Bush lost one of his political À¢€œtesticlesÀ¢€Â in the process. This also forced him to remove Donald Rumsfeld. Last week George had the other testicle chopped off when an important bipartisan commission who looked at Iraq made obvious the arrogance and incompetence of the US administration in Iraq. He is now severely weakened and on the defensive.

    All of this process is messy, controversial and disappointing. But stayed tuned, the last chapter is not written on what happens to Mr. Foley, Mr. Rumsfelt and Mr Bush. Be prepared, it will be a bumpy ride and ugly. I am hoping justice will prevail and that those who try to stand in the way are penalized. It should be our fervent wish that Brazil too will eventually get it right. If you are looking for utopia, grow up. Welcome to democracy.

  • bo

    Get Used To It Rick…
    that’s the way it is in brazil. Do whatever you can to deflect blame, find a scapegoat, etc. The solution to problems in brazil is to blame someone else, or simply behave as if nothing ever happened!!

  • Rick

    Trying to figure out what Foley and Rumsfeld have to do with this story. While itÀ‚´s often true that the best defense is a good offense, simply changing the subject makes one appear incapable of rational comment.

  • Guest

    Today, in federal court, the ACLU and Human Rights First argued its case that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld should be held accountable for the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody.
    Todayˢ۪s hearing marked the first time a federal court has considered whether top U.S. officials can be held legally accountable for the torture scandal in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    The ACLU and Human Rights First filed the lawsuit in March 2005 on behalf of nine innocent civilians who were detained by the United States military in Iraq and Afghanistan. While in U.S. custody, the men were subjected to abuse, torture and other cruel and degrading treatment, including severe and repeated beatings, cutting with knives, sexual humiliation and assault, mock executions, death threats, and restraint in contorted and excruciating positions. All of the men were released without charge.
    À¢€œOur clientsÀ¢€™ case is about ensuring that thereÀ¢€™s meaningful accountability, to create an effective deterrent against future violations and to ensure the courtsÀ¢€™ ongoing role in enforcing the law against torture,À¢€Â said Deborah Pearlstein, director of Human Rights FirstÀ¢€™s Law and Security program. À¢€œThe Supreme Court has made it clear that wartime does not create a law-free zone.À¢€Â
    Rumsfeld moved to dismiss the lawsuit, hence, the hearing today.
    Todayˢ۪s hearing addressed the defendantsˢ۪ claim that they cannot be held legally liable for the torture of civilians in U.S. custody. The ACLU and Human Rights First argued that the Constitution and international law clearly prohibit torture and require commanders to act when they know or should have known of abuses. In addition to the orders they gave directly, Secretary Rumsfeld and the other defendants were repeatedly notified of abuse and torture at detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan by military reports, the International Red Cross and other reports and complaints by human rights organizations.
    The groups further charge in the lawsuit that Secretary Rumsfeld personally approved brutal and illegal interrogation techniques in December 2002. Those techniques included the use of À¢€œstress positions,À¢€Â the removal of clothing, the use of dogs, and isolation and sensory deprivation.
    The ACLU also brought three related lawsuits against Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, former Brigadier General Janis Karpinski and Colonel Thomas Pappas. The four cases were consolidated and transferred to Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. All of the defendants have moved to dismiss the suits in their entirety.
    The lawsuit is seeking compensatory damages for the plaintiffs and a court order declaring that the actions of Secretary Rumsfeld and the other officers violated the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes and international law.

  • Guest

    Foley might not even be prosecuted
    This is getting worse and worse. Yesterday, the Republican-led House Ethics Committee ruled that the Republican leadership did nothing wrong in how it responded to the Foley incident. Now, according to ABC News, Mark Foley himself might not even be prosecuted:
    According to several sources, prosecutors have had difficulty establishing probable cause of a crime. The barrier in getting past the probable cause threshold was the statute on transmitting obscene materials to minors. Under federal law, the age of minors receiving obscene materials is 16.
    Republican-led Ethics Committee gives partisan ruling on Foley
    Gee, what a surprise! The Republican-led House Ethics Committee finished its investigation into the Mark Foley sex scandal, and concluded that nothing was unethical about the way the Republican leadership handled it:
    The panel voted to endorse an 89-page report recommending À¢€œno further investigative or disciplinary proceedings,À¢€Â against anyone in connection with the scandal, which is believed by many to have contributed to heavy Republican losses in the November election.
    It comes despite the fact that this same committee even admitted that a Republican House clerk had been addressing the Foley issue since 1995:
    The committee concluded that House Clerk Jeff Trandahl “repeatedly tried to address Rep. Foley’s conduct,” beginning with his 1995 election to the House, and “directly confronted Foley on the matter approximately ten times at various places for various reasons.”
    Dennis Hastert, the leader of the Republican majority, was found innocent by a Republican majority in the committee. How would we have expected any other ruling but this? This is where power can be such an asset.

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