Prosecutors Want to Close Airport After Brazil’s Deadliest Plane Accident

Brazil firefighter rescue bodies after TAM disaster Brazil's Federal Public Prosecutor's Office has filed a civil action requiring  "the suspension of all landings and takeoffs on the main and secondary runways" of the Congonhas airport, in São Paulo, the place of the country's deadliest plane accident, Tuesday night, when an aircraft exploded upon landing killing all 186 people aboard and a still-unknown number of people on the ground.

The airplane, an Airbus A320 from Tam Airline, flight JJ 3054, left Porto Alegre, in the south, a 5:16 and landed in São Paulo at 6:45 pm.

The legal action is signed by three prosecutors who believe the accident was caused by the conditions of the airport's runway, which is being rebuilt. The document requests that the main São Paulo airport and the country's busiest, "do not operate until safety conditions have been guaranteed and all doubts raised by the accident have been removed."

In a note the prosecutors say that "the accident in itself, due to its magnitude, justifies immediate action by the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office in order to try to avoid that any reckless situation be carried on, so that the interests of life preservation and citizenry be given priority."

Federal prosecutors had already tried unsuccessfully to get a preliminary order on January 24 to shut down the airport. At that time, they argued that Congonhas main runway should be closed while the airport underwent repairs. The action asked that all flights be diverted to two nearby international airports: Cumbica in Guarulhos and Viracopos in Campinas. In February, the Prosecutor's Office once again tried to close Congonhas.

In October 2006, the prosecutors had already requested that bank secrecy be lifted for a former president as well as three directors and an ex-manager of Infraero, the state-owned company in charge of administering Brazil's main airports. All of them were suspect of having taken part on a corruption scheme, that overbilled the projects to modernize and expand the airport.

The day after Brazil's biggest air tragedy the Infraero could not explain why Congonhas's main runway continued in operation even after two near accidents on Monday, July 16, when a small plane from Pantanal Airline and another TAM's Airbus A320 had also had problems,  losing control due to the wet airstrip.

Armando Schneider Filho, an Infraero superintendent, restated that "Congonhas' s runway is safe" and that it could not be closed before the causes of Monday's mishaps were looked into.

Now, however, before any cause can be found by the federal police, that airport authority has decided to shut down the runway until July 20. After that the airport will only operate in dry weather. In rainy days, planes would have to use the secondary runway that has the grooving, which hasn't yet been applied to the new rebuilt airstrip.

The superintendent didn't blame anyone for the accident and maintained that the Infraero acted correctly when it didn't shut down the runway after Monday's skiddings. "The runway is within international standards and within standards accepted worldwide." he said. "We didn't know for sure what had happened to the Pantanal's jet. We could not close the São Paulo runway just based on an assumption."

Schneider seemed annoyed that reporters would come back again and again to the question of the lack of grooving in the runway, which according to some experts was the main cause of the accident. "The grooving doesn't increase attrition," he answered. "It only helps to drain the water." He also told reporters that many airports don't have this kind of extra protection.

Brazil's Cenipa (Center of Investigation and Prevention of Aviation Accidents) believes that it will be able to conclude in 10 months the inquiry on the causes of the crash although this kind of probe generally takes one year and a half or more. For air brigadier and Cenipa's chief, Kersul Filho, people won't have to wait for the inquiry's conclusion, however, before adopting measures to prevent similar accidents.

Kersul Filho informed that the Airbus's black box is already in the United States and that transcriptions of the data should start Monday. The investigative work, he explained, should not start before the Brazilian team who went to the US to accompany the transcription work returns to Brazil. They are expected back on Wednesday, July 25.

The journalists' insistence that Kersul Filho explain why the accident occurred led the brigadier to comment: "The questions that you ask are the same questions that we ask ourselves. If we knew the answer the investigation would have already been finished by now."

Reporters also wanted to know if the pilot had tried to take off again after noticing that the landing hadn't been successful. His answer: "Only the probes will answer that. But we can say that he had an atypical speed for that stretch. If the airplane had a slow speed it would have fallen into the avenue."


  • Show Comments (15)

  • Ric

    They are under a lot of pressure and learned lessons about spin during the last ordeal. ZÀƒ© Pereira says Congonhas will cut back but not close. ThatÀ‚´s probably accurate. 1. Money. 2. Passengers want the convenience of downtown. 3. The area traffic makes ground shuttles difficult, more so than Midway-OÀ‚´Hare for example.

    Some aviation analysts are amazed at how quickly the actual videos of the Airbus were released. Why? Were they doctored? What about the flash? Is that smoke or steam coming from the left engine? Did he hit something with the landing gear?

    In aviation, there are three opinions that matter about choice of equipment. The pilot wants performance. The passenger wants comfort and speed. The operator wants profit. If you own your own plane, you compromise.

    In this case the political view, as in every case, is damage control on the one hand and search for issues on which to attack oneÀ‚´s opponent on the other hand. Lawyers and judges have a whole different set of parameters and priorities. For the aviation community, I guarantee you that most ATPs saw this story and immediately thought, “Pilot error, there but for the grace of God go I”. Pilot error can be mitigated or cancelled by equipment failure. But pilot error canÀ‚´t be overcome in the aviation system by appeal to runway conditions, controller gaffes, inaccurate weather info, etc, even though that may help in the courtroom with subsequent tort cases.

  • Jõao da Silva

    Ok, give me a feed back after you read the “prounciamento” of Lula.Medal giving ceremonies were not given much attention in the main stream media.I thought Pires was being fired,but……..

  • Ric

    No, I
    Missed that, but after we got home tonight we saw that the thrust reverser issue had caught the attention of Fox News. They said that a video showed only the left side working and indicated that on a temp basis only one side could be used. That surprised me. Surely not at full max reverse. And in the rain. Maybe on a DC9 or other jet with the engines close together in back, but on a plane with one engine under each wing? Asymetrical thrust has killed many a pilot, in fact a major issue with any twin.

  • João da Silva

    [quote]16h07 – Ao vivo – Entre os homenageados estÀƒ£o o presidente da Anac, assim como a diretora da agÀƒªncia Denise Abreu. Eles foram condecorados com medalha entregue pelo vice-presidente da RepÀƒºblica, JosÀƒ© Alencar. O prÀƒªmio Àƒ© entregue a personalidades civis e militares que se destacam por serviÀƒ§os prestados ÀƒÂ  AeronÀƒ¡utica.

    16h03 – Ao vivo – O presidente da AgÀƒªncia Nacional de AviaÀƒ§Àƒ£o Civil (Anac), Milton Zuanazzi, ainda nÀƒ£o veio a pÀƒºblico para se manifestar com relaÀƒ§Àƒ£o ao acidente com o aviÀƒ£o da TAM. De acordo com a Globonews, uma cerimÀƒ´nia para homenagear autoridades do setor aÀƒ©reo brasileiro ocorreu hoje, na Base AÀƒ©rea de BrasÀƒ­lia.


    In case you missed this news on the afternoon news of Globo.

    Disgusting to know that they didnt even wait for the 3 day mourning period for the vitims to end and decided to pay homage to these two clowns.

  • Ric

    Depends on how much longer. The main runway at Cumbica is about twice as long as the main runway at Congonhas. If he had been landing at Cumbica all he would have to do is keep it straight and let it slow down. IÀ‚´m no expert but one possibility is that he came in hot, no one is perfect, and at some point, maybe after seeing that the alleged go-around was not going to work, hit the thrust reverser out of desperation, even though only the left side was working, which had the effect of turning the aircraft to the left. In this scenario when someone was yelling Turn, Turn, it would have been to turn to the right, away from the leftward yaw. ThatÀ‚´s just an uneducated guess.

  • Jõao da Silva

    [quote]Not all A320 series planes have the same engines so thrust reversers vary but certain models have had problems with thrust reversers.

    Thanks for the explanation Ric.The history repeated. In 1996, the cause of the Fokker 100 of the same airline crashed for the same reasons at the same airport.I mean,because of the problems with the thrust reversers.That accident also claimed the lives of people on the ground.

    My question: If the runway was longer,would the pilot have had a chance to abort the landing, in this A320 accident?

  • Ric

    The Airbus A320 family, including the 18, 19, 20, and 21, uses thrust reversers, ground spoilers, and brakes. ThereÀ‚´s a squat switch on each main gear. When the main gear is firmly on the ground, the computer unlocks the ground spoilers, which have a 50% maximum setting. Kills the lift so the wing ceases flying. Has to be BOTH main gear on the ground.

    Backup is that if the wheel speed on both mains is greater than a certain value, like 72 knots, the spoilers may also be deployed.

    There are brakes on both sets of main gear wheels, but the computer only allows them to engage when a certain speed is attained on both sets of main gear. ThatÀ‚´s so the plane canÀ‚´t be landed with the brakes already applied.

    The backup is that the brakes can also be engaged ifa certain cockpit switch related to nose gear steering is in the off position.

    Not all A320 series planes have the same engines so thrust reversers vary but certain models have had problems with thrust reversers.

  • Ric

    Yes, gentlemen pay to watch Ana P. But she might send you some sample fotos for free. Confira!

  • João da Silva

    [quote]bilal talk to anaP for pic [/quote]

    A great suggestion 😉

  • ch.c.

    ” All of them were suspect of having taken part on a corruption scheme, …….
    ……..that overbilled the projects to modernize and expand the airport. “

    Who is surprised ???

    Eventually even the prosecutors who tried to close down the airport, were themselves bribed….by competing airports !!!!

    Stupid question :
    Who is NOT CORRUPTED……in Brazil ?

  • forest Brown

    landing speed is fastrer on 320 than 737.

    and a lot of it has to do with glide plane for landing speed . but water on runway is a plus as i remember landing there before and the plane just felt like a fast boat and then a jerk back when the water came off and hit dry

    bilal talk to anaP for pic

  • bilal

    i want to have photographs of brazillian girls in my e mail. please send

  • João da Silva

    [quote]only allow planes of 737 with rverse thrust to land

    Hi Adm,you mean to say that Airbus 320 does not have Reverse thrusts to bring down the speed, while landing?

  • forest Brown

    any one see the film on the crash , that was on MSNBC this morning

    all it would take close the airport complete the groving .

    only allow planes of 737 with rverse thrust to land

  • bo

    Reactive vs. Proactive…
    will Brazil ever learn? Why does it always cost lives for people to take action here? It doesn’t matter if it’s as obvious as the sun and the moon, in my experience here in brazil no one ever wants to take action, spend money, to SAVE lives before they’re lost.

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