Controller alerts to risk of new accident
A little more than a year after the military flight controllers' mutiny (from the evening of March 30 to noon of April 2, 2007), the president of the Brazilian Federation of Air Traffic Controllers (Febracta), Sérgio Marques, declares that the infra-structure situation remains the same, and there is no perspective of improvement:
"There is no perspective of the acquisition of new technologies. The software that does the radar treatment in the Brasilia Control Center, which is also used in São Paulo and Curitiba and presented failure problems (in the September 29 accident involving a Gol plane and a Legacy jet, when 154 people died) continues to be utilized without any updates."
The aviation crisis was aggravated after the accident with TAM Flight 3054 in July of last year, at Congonhas airport, and the criticisms of the safety of Brazilian airports intensified.
In a note, however, the Air Force Command affirmed that the Brazilian Air Space Control System represents an asset worth R$ 6 billion and emphasized that it has invested about R$ 1,8 billion in updating the Brazilian air traffic control system in recent years, modernizing the Air Traffic Control Centers (CINDACTAs).
IN April of last year, the flight controllers (who demand the demilitarization of the air traffic control sector) ended the paralyzation and returned to their posts after an announcement by the Minister of Planning, Paulo Bernardo, that those who mutinied would not be punished. Which didn't happen. Those involved were tried for insubordination. A note from the Air Force Command manifests the removal of "negative leaderships" and the reestablishment of the "integral operation of the system, within the operational and security rules and without any risk for users".
However, Sérgio Marques criticizes the system's safety and believes that, statistically, another accident will happen again soon, whether by human error, infrastructure problems, or lack of equipment. He points to the need for a reduction of operational rhythm to maintain safety.
"No one works calmly with the threat of another accident".
According to the president of Febracta, which represents both civilian and military controllers, now controllers are no longer permitted to file danger reports, or register reports in occurrence books about inoperative situations or excessive traffic situations.
"Nobody any longer has courage to say anything. Everyone now is completely submissive. That is, if there is an infrastructure safety problem, no one says anything, for fear of reprisals. (...) Only the officers write in the books and don't allow any report to be added that goes against the integrity of the system's functioning."
Marques accuses the Air Force Command of "cosmetically creating a false sense of safety":
"The Air Force, being a military institution, has the prerogative of secrecy, but this harms safety. It tries to not act in order to not lose control over aviation traffic, but it can no longer keep up with this. The hierarchy of the military structure overrides the safety rules and safety itself."
In Brazil, the Air Force is responsible for training air traffic controllers, for the execution of air traffic control service and for its inspection and control. Of the around 3,300 air traffic controllers who operate all over the country, approximately 2,700 are military and 600 are civilian. In order to make the Brazilian air traffic control system safer, Sérgio Marques sees the need to create a transparent external body for inspection and control.
"The danger is working under the pressure of the increase in the flow of flights. It is a latent risk, which people don't see, to which society does not have access. What is needed is transparent external control of operations, which would solve 80% of the problem".