São Paulo, Saturday, December 06, 2008
Legacy pilots turned off transponder, FAB concludes
Air Force final report, which will not indicate guilty parties, will be presented Wednesday
If it had been operating, the equipment would have activated the anti-collision system, able to turn the plane away from any target
The Air Force final report on the accident between the Gol Boeing and the Legacy jet, on September 29, 2006, with 154 dead, is 261 pages and will be presented next Wednesday, clarifying the principal and practically only doubt that remains: the Legacy's transponder was handled incorrectly by the pilots and went into "standby" inadvertently.
If it had been operating normally, the equipment would have avoided the accident, because it is what activates the TCAS, the anti-collision system capable of diverting the airplane from any solid object that is ahead of it, even without the pilots' participation.
It would have been the last chance to avoid the collision, after a series of errors, from carelessness to lack of communication, which the report confirms both on the part of the North American pilots of the Legacy, Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino, as on the part of the controllers at CINDACTA (Integrated Center for Air Defense and Air Traffic Control) in Brasilia and in São José dos Campos (SP), from where the Legacy took off on its maiden flight.
The investigation, under the command of CENIPA (the Center for the Investigation and Prevention of Aeronautic Accidents), was detailed not only in text, but in a minute-by-minute reconstruction of everything that went on with the two aircraft until they collided in midair, over the Cachimbo mountain range, in Mato Grosso. All those aboard the Boeing died. The Legacy managed to land.
The work is more than two hours long and was all done based on data from the black boxes and ground radar. It has already been shown to representatives of the families, who cried during the presentation at Cenipa and were left with one doubt: how long their relatives took to die.
From the moment in which the Legacy cut part of the Boeing's right wing [NT: it was the left wing] until its pieces hit the ground, a minute and four seconds passed. The black box ceased recording the technical data after the first 55 seconds, when the Gol plane had spun around 12 times. To the ground, another 9 seconds passed.
With the force of gravity, besides the strong possibility of having struck their heads, it it unlikely that the victims suffered or had a clear understanding of the tragedy.
One piece of data that the investigation disregarded was the possible existence of a voice or voices on the Boeing's black box. According to what the Folha learned, CENIPA concluded that reproducing the voices would cause additional suffering for the families and would not contribute to the conclusions.
The "animation" is based on three screens, one vertical on the left with the map and the route of the two airplanes. On the right, there are two screens, one on top with the Legacy's movement, and the one on the bottom, with the Boeing. At any doubt the images can be frozen and compared to those of the CINDACTA radars. The Legacy was monitored by five of these radars.
The screen at Cindacta 1, in Brasilia, clearly shows that the circle with a cross in the middle, which indicated the connection with the Legacy's transponder, disappearing. On the same screen, simultaneously, at least a half dozen other symbols were connected and continued connected, including those of two other airplanes.
The Legacy was, at that point, at 55 minutes and 18 seconds from the exact moment of the collision with the Boeing, which was coming in the other direction, starting from Manaus, at the same altitude, 37,000 feet. The transponder was off the radar this whole time and only reappeared after the accident, when Lepore questioned Paladino and the two notice that they were in "standby". The dialog is on the black-box and is one of the most relevant items of information in the report.
The objective of the technical conclusions on aviation accidents is not to punish nor even to blame people, but to identify failings and produce recommendations than can avoid new accidents.