segunda-feira, 16 de junho de 2008

FOLHA: Reports show that aviation chaos continues

Reports show that aviation chaos continues

Folha had access to 60 documents produced since the 2nd semester of 2007 that point to flaws in the air traffic control system

Records of near collisions are in danger reports, books of occurrences and images of Air Force radar screens
Brasilia Bureau

The government decreed the end of the aviation chaos, but the apparent tranquility of the airports hides the fact that grave failures in air traffic control continue happening.These failures, central to the crisis that swallowed the sector after the collision between a Legacy jet and a Gol Boeing in September of 2006, are related in 60 documents and confidential reports prepared from the second semester of 2007 on, to which the Folha had access.

The reports of near collisions are in danger reports, incident reports, occurrence logbooks, and images of radar screens in the Cindactas (Integrated Centers for Air Defense and Air Traffic Control). Many of them are from 2008.

On January 25, a Gol Boeing and a TAM Airbus went onto a collision course on beginning descent procedure in São Paulo. According to incident report 02/2008, on reaching flight level 365 (36,500 feet, or 11,12 km), the risk of a collision made the aircrafts' anticollision system go off.

The incident report reveals that the controller had a trainee as assistant who, in his report, said that he had not followed his companion's instructions. The controller alleged that the Gol's commandant, who was going from São Paulo's Guarulhos Airport to Lima, confused the position assigned to him.

Situations like this can happen because of errors by pilots or controllers or through technical problems, these related in large numbers by controllers in occurrence logbooks. Through lack of communication, a Trip Airline plane, which had just taken off from Cuiabá on its way to Rondonópolis (MT), almost collided with an aircraft prefix PT-KDS. The incident happened on November 28 of last year.

In the book, the controller said that the episode was "extremely grave", because the airplanes were at the same altitude and separated by "less than 2 miles (nautical miles, the equivalent of 3,704 meters)". In this case, the Trip plane`s anticollision system went off, avoiding the accident. The controller affirmed that there frequently occur "takeoffs without communication in aerodromes that are neighbors" to Cuiabá.

On March 20 of this year, another near collision. This time, a Gol Boeing 737, which was approaching Belo Horizonte coming from São Paulo and was authorized to begin its descent, "without restrictions", going through level 360 (36,000 feet) to 200 (20,000 feet). Between the two levels, however, there was another 737, belonging to Varig, which informed control that it had received "resolution", a anticollision system alert.

In this case, the controller responsible recognized the error and attributed the fact to being under arrest at work. The accident report did not reveal the motive of the arrest. When they are under arrest, the controllers work normally, but remain in barracks after working hours. "I believe that because I was under arrest at the station and worried about my family which is without assistance, my level of attention is low", he reported.

Radar flaws can also induce the controllers to err. The Air Force files contain dozens of report of such cases. At Cindacta-4 (Manaus), it is common for there to appear on the radar screen so-called false targets - when records of airplanes that don't exist appear.

Also common are the duplication of targets, which can lead the controller to guide a plane without knowing its true position.

The controllers also registered the existence of blind zones, where it is not possible to monitor by radar or make contact by radio. The occurrence logbook in the Cuiabá control center registers, on December 18, 2007: "In the area of Sinop and Sorriso (MT) it is not possible to make contact with ACC-BS (the Brasilia control center), nor with ACC- Amazônico (Manaus)."

The region is the same where the Gol Boeing accident happened. At the time, despite the Air Force's denials, several controllers related communications problems.

The log books contain reports of defects in vital equipment, such as TFs (telephone networks to coordinate air traffic control) and of ILSs (Instrument Landing System), system for precise landing guidance.

The controllers, in some center, still complain about poor working conditions. In Cuiabá, the log books hold complaints of the large quantity of mosquitoes in the control rooms and even of the presence of rats under the work stations.

Sought out by the Folha, Ifatca (the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers' Associations), which last year undertook an inspection of Cindacta-1 (Brasilia), made harsh criticisms of Brazilian air traffic control, which it classified as "fragile".

"If nothing significant is done by Brazil and by the responsible authorities, the next accident will be 'planned'. We can only not say when and where it will happen", said Christoph Gilgen, 45, Ifatca representative in Switzerland.

FAB denies that air traffic control is unsafe

By the Brasilia Bureau
The FAB denies that Brazilian air space is unsafe and ascribes the flaws pointed out in the reserved documents to which to Folha had access to isolated issues.

According to the Air Force, a proof of the safety of Brazilian air space was the election in 2007 of Brazil to the first group in the council of OACI (the International Civil Aviation Organization, a species of UN of the world's national aviation systems).

In an official note, the FAB listed the efforts that it alleges it is making to improve the infrastructure of air traffic control.

Among these, it cited the hiring of 220 reserve controllers, civilian and military, and the training of another 305 over the last two years. It also related the inauguration of the Air Traffic Control Simulation Laboratory, with the capacity to train 768 professionals per year.

The FAB affirmed that, since the aviation chaos reached its apogee in 2007, it has begun to pay for language courses and for the education of instructors and monitors.

According to the Air Force, the control towers were modernized at Congonhas airport in São Paulo and Galeão airport in Rio, with the "integration of systems and the reduction of equipment in the control rooms".

Another measure taken by the FAB, according to the note, was the implementation of the Program to Guarantee the Quality of Air Space Control, with the goal of verifying if the services supplies are in accordance with current law.

The Air Force also sited the evolution in 17 radar systems, the implantation of new equipment in Campo Grande and the modernization of the ACC (Area Control Center) in Curitiba.

On commenting on the incidents cited by the Folha, it said, for example, that communications "are affected by meteorological phenomena, interference, position and altitude of the the aircraft, as well as the kind of equipment used on board". (AG)

Major complains about increase in country's traffic

By the Brasilia Bureau
With the Cindacta-2 (Curitiba) command meeting together last May 13, major Carlos Gomes, head of local control at the center, complained about the increase in air traffic, and unburdened himself in a manner that was related in the minutes: "The [major said that the] sector was taken over based on the information provided by ACC-BS [the Brasilia center], but today he sees that the traffic is more than foreseen and that if he had known of this he wouldn't have taken over the sector".

The document, classified as confidential by the FAB, registered a meeting called to analyze a Ricea (Report of Air Space Control Incident) and analyze the conduct of the two controllers involved in the episode. They were guiding traffic when there was a near-collision between an FAB plane and another belong to the Portuguese airline TAP.

Lieutenant-Colonel Norival Floriano Junior, commandant of Cindacta-2, said that the "controllers' deficient planning was determinative". But soon after the command decided, unanimously, to absolve the controllers.

Infraero data show that Brazilian airport movement increased by 15% between 2005 and 2007, when 110.6 million passengers were counted.

In a note, the FAB said that major Gomes's affirmation "does not indicate that the limit foreseen was exceeded". (AG)

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