Cuts will delay modernization of air traffic control
Thiago Vitale Jayme, in Brasilia
The budget cuts planned by the Government to compensate for the loss of revenue with the extinction of the CPMF have left worried air major-brigadier Ramon Borges Cardoso, director-general of the Department of Air Space Control. With reduced budget for 2008, the official said that the modernizing of the complete system will be harmed if there is impounding. "It is the State's choice."
Besides the outdating of equipment, Cardoso also points to the shortage of air traffic controllers. If consulted, he will advise the Federal Government to construct a third airport in São Paulo and recommend improvement to Viracopos, in Campinas. Even with improvements, Guarulhos will not handle passenger movement for much longer.
The brigadier also revealed that, in June, a more efficient passenger information system should be adopted. A big screen will inform where each scheduled flight is.
Following, the principal segments of the interview
Valor: Was there an improvement in the flight safety after the crisis? Or was there only a better distribution of traffic?
Ramon Borges Cardoso: Flight safety isn't only the responsibility of air traffic control. It is much more the responsibility of the pilots and of aircraft maintenance and condition. In the year of 2007 we had a large quantity of accidents, but none of them had air traffic control as a cause. In this point, our safety is the best possible. The only accident in recent times which had air traffic control responsibility was the 2006 collision, but the failure wasn't the system's, it was human. Not just of one person, but of various people. What improved was that we learned, after the 2006 accident, that we needed to improve some things.
Valor: And what went ahead?
Cardoso: The controllers' training. In the schools, we saw that we needed to improve some subjects. In the system as a whole, we saw that some parts of the air traffic control software - although they did not contribute to the accident - could be changed. The warning to the controller that the aircraft lost the anticollision system could be more attention-getting than it is today. The warning to pilots, too. In terms of security, we continue very well.
Valor: In 2007, 350 controllers graduated. Is there still a need for more professionals?
Cardoso: We have a shortage of 300 controllers. We need to arrive in 2010 with 4,000 controllers to cover the 12% annual growth of air transport. Today, we only have 2,700 (including the 350 graduated in 2007). For 2008, I already need to have 3,000 to fill the goals.
Valor: Can the cuts made to compensate the loss of the CPMF harm this process?
Cardoso: The training won't be bothered, because it doesn't depend on these resources. If we suffer cuts, what it will make very difficult will be the implementation of new equipment and new control software.
Valor: Could the modernization of the system be delayed?
Cardoso: It could be. Today, we're two years behind between what was planned and what's being done. We had expectations of receiving resources that would do away with this backlog in 2008 and 2009. If there were a cut, for us it would be very complicated.
Valor: What did you imagine for budget to update software and equipment?
Cardoso: What we need is R$ 700 million annually for maintenance and implantation of new systems in 2008 and 2009. From 2010 to 2012, when we will implant new systems, the value will go to R$ 800 million annually.
Valor: How much will Decea have in 2008?
Cardoso: R$ 584 million. But we have a two year backlog in equipment and we need to get rid of this difference. The ideal would be for us to already have some R$ 250 million more this year to get rid of the backlog.
Valor: Aren't you very optimistic?
Cardoso: Let's say that I'm hopeful. Or praying for this to happen. They are decisions that go beyond the Air Force Command. It's the State's choice: is it going to want to get rid of the backlog that we know exists?
Valor: If you were asked, would you support the construction of a third airport in São Paulo?
Cardoso: Certainly. Because Guarulhos airport has physical limitations. There isn't much more that can be done there. There's no was to grow further in terms of runways.
Valor: But isn't there an idea of a third runway in Guarulhos?
Cardoso: It would be a very large expense for a very small gain in numbers of aircraft and passengers transported. Today, if we improve the infrastructure of Guarulhos, we could have an increase of 25% in its movement.
Valor: But even so a third airport is necessary?
Cardoso: Even with this growth, in a little while it won't have nay more capacity to handle passengers. What we see is that is will be necessary to add a third airport in the medium term, and, immediately, increase the capacity of Viracopos, in Campinas. Another runway can be constructed and a large passenger terminal. There's space for this.
Valor: But it's necessary to improve the access.
Cardoso: Yes. Air transport is very dependent on surface transport for people to reach the airports.
Valor: What should the new airport's capacity be? Something around 35 million passengers per year?
Cardoso: Around that. It has to be larger than Guarulhos. We would have a way to distribute the passengers over a long period, 50 years. There's a need to plan now for an airport to be in operation in ten years.
Valor: Besides São Paulo, is there a need for new airports in Brazil?
Cardoso: New airport, no. But there's a need for an increase in the infrastructure of the current airports in some places. It's the case of Brasilia. In a little while, it will be saturated.
Valor: How long?
Cardoso: In two years. The infrastructure needs to be improved. Not the runway, but he capacity of the airport itself.
Valor: Why was Brazil so badly placed in the list of airports with delays done by "Forbes" magazine?
Cardoso: Air transport is based on three pillars: the airport infrastructure, air traffic control and the airlines. If one doesn't work, the system as a whole has problems. An analysis has to be made of the reasons for delays. That brings us back to the infrastructure problem.
Valor: But there's a lack of communication with passengers.
Cardoso: The matter is beginning to be treated. This is the responsibility of the airlines.
Valor: The airlines allege they aren't receiving the information from Infraero in a satisfactory way.
Cardoso: This is not true. Who knows what's happening with the aircraft is the airline.
Valor: Even so, when there is some problem, the passengers don't learn of it.
Cardoso: This sort of communication is something we're trying to see how to do. We are beginning to test a software that will allow information to be sent to the destination and to the origin of the aircraft, independent of the airline.
Valor: Is this already being tested?
Cardoso: We're going to do it at Galeão to see if it's possible. If it works, it's going to be adopted in all of Infraero. We are going to place, in the airports, a big screen which will show all the country's flights or for that region. The passenger will be able to see just where his flight is.
Valor: And when will this be implemented?
Cardoso: The expectation is to finish the tests in May and, in June, already be installing it in the major airports.