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The ‘Aerial Blackout’ in Brazil

Ten weeks have passed since the mid-air collision that produced Brazil’s worst air disaster, but the issue is still bouncing around many levels. As the investigations progressed, the blame game amplified by the media has triggered many reactions. The most widely felt effects have come from a movement among air traffic controllers, who began following regulations to the letter, significantly slowing operations and causing delays in airports across Brazil. The movement is seen as a response to the attempts to identifying possible human failures on the part of the controllers who were on duty during that tragic September 29th afternoon. The politics of the resulting chaos is being widely discussed and Brazilians, as usual, have labeled the crisis with a buzz word — this time it's the ‘aerial blackout’ (apagão aéreo).

Are the flight controllers right? Sure. Weren't they accused even of failure in the Gol's plane accident? Unjustly and foully they were so charged, without any doubt, because despite their work overload, they, day in and day out, still strive for putting some order in the skies. If someone should be blamed for this horror taking place in our airports this someone is the federal government, which since the Fernando Henrique's era keeps cutting the budget set aside to meet the air traffic growth. In the last three years, 3 billion reais (US$ 1.4 billion) ended up being reallocated, that is, they were never appropriated.
Brazil, Don't Blame the Air Controllers, But the Man Where the Buck StopsBrazzil

A crise do setor aéreo já se tornou o “apagão elétrico” do governo Lula, E mostra muitas coisas. Primeiro, que Lula e Fernando Henrique Cardoso são filhos da mesma forma. A arte de governar, para ambos, é administrar pressões imediatas. No caso da aviação civil, FHC adiou o quanto pode a criação da Agência Nacional de Aviação Civil (ANAC), para não criar atritos com os militares. Para o Ministério da Defesa Lula indicou gambiarras com o mesmo propósito, Ministros sem força, conhecimento e sem vontade para não criar atrito.
A arte de procrastinarLuis Nassif Online

The aerial sector crisis has already become Lula's government's ‘aerial blackout’, and it does show many things. Firstly, it shows that Lula and Fernando Henrique Cardoso are made of the same mold. To both, the art of governing is based on managing the immediate pressures. In the case of civil aviation, Cardoso postponed … the creation of the Civil Aviation National Agency to avoid problems with the military. Lula has proposed improvised solutions to the Defense Ministry with the same purpose — weak Ministers, without the knowledge and the political will to [face issues that] generate frictions.
The art of procrastinatingLuis Nassif Online


The political debate over the crisis
has created a situation where every new fact arrives as fuel for dispute among Brazilian minds. Sometimes we are presented with technical arguments, other times there are contentions about political decisions on infrastructure matters, and it even gets down to details about air controllers daily activities. All this and more are being openly discussed in the blogosphere. As a result, Brazilians are getting an education about an otherwise specialized issue, which until recently could only be found in highly restricted forums.

Last week a new major event fueled the crisis, when all takeoffs from three major airports were canceled after an air traffic communications system broke down, making it difficult for controllers to communicate with pilots and creating air travel chaos. The possibility of sabotage was mentioned, but yesterday a sargent confessed that the breakdown was due to an error while doing maintenance work on the system.

O maior apagão da história da aviação brasileira foi causado por falha humana. Aos prantos, um sargento assumiu ontem ter colocado de forma invertida uma placa que ligava os sistemas de comunicação via rádio do Centro de Controle de Tráfego de Brasília (Cindacta-1), o que causou uma pane inédita no sistema, na terça-feira. Com o apagão de rádio, seguiram-se a suspensão de todas as decolagens e o caos nos aeroportos de Brasília, Congonhas (SP) e Confins (MG). O sargento, cujo nome está sendo mantido em sigilo, garantiu que cometeu o erro involuntariamente, por falta de treinamento. Com isso, o governo praticamente descartou a hipótese de sabotagem nos equipamentos, embora a Polícia Federal continue investigando o episódio..
Apagão aéreo foi causado por falha humanaPTlhando

The biggest blackout in the Brazilian aviation history was caused by human failure. Yesterday, a sargent in tears announced he had inverted the connections of a board that links the radio communications of Brasilia's Traffic Control Center (Cindacta-1), causing an unknown failure in the system on Tuesday. With the radio ‘blackout’, all the takeoffs were suspended in Brasilia, Congonhas [Sao Paulo] and Confins [Belo Horizonte] airports. The sargent, whose name is being kept secret, insisted that the mistake was unintentional, due to lack of proper training. The disclosure made the government abandon the sabotage thesis, although the Federal Police will continue the investigation.
Apagão aéreo foi causado por falha humanaPTlhando

A investigação sobre a pane do sistema de rádio de Brasília, que causou o maior caos da aviação civil nesta terça-feira e teve reflexos nos dois dias seguintes, aponta falha humana como a causa do problema. A Aeronáutica já indentificou um técnico de manutenção como o responsável pela falha de comunicação que causou atrasos e cancelamentos de vôos em cascata, possivelmente devido a um erro involuntário. O sargento teria desviado algumas freqüências para a central de áudio reserva, mas só depois teria percebido que o equipamento estava inoperante, em manutenção. Segundo fonte da Aeronáutica, o programa de computador do sistema não permite que a operação seja revertida. Com isso, teria ocorrido a pane de todo o sistema.
FAB responsabiliza técnico pelo Apagão AéreoAerominas

The investigation of the radio system breakdown in Brasiila, which caused the biggest civil aviation chaos last Tuesday and triggered effects for the following days, found human failure as its root cause. The Air Force has identified a maintenance technician as the one responsible for the communication failure that caused delays and cancelations, possibly due to an involuntary mistake. The sargent changed some frequencies to … audio central, but only then did he notice that the equipment was not functioning, [being] under maintenance. According to the Air Force, the system does not allow the reverse operation, and this alone caused the whole breakdown.
FAB responsabiliza técnico pelo Apagão AéreoAerominas

Onde estão os mordomos da Aeronáutica para responder pelo apagão aéreo? Ontem, foi a vez de culpar um sargento, que teria cometido um erro na manutenção. Vejam só: nem Lula, na Presidência, consegue parar inteiramente o Brasil. Mas ficamos sabendo que o direito de ir e vir pode ser extinto pelo erro de um sargento. Não há como o governo, a Defesa e a Aeronáutica se cobrirem mais de ridículo nessa história toda.
Apagão aéreo: a Aeronáutica não tem um mordomo?Reinaldo Azevedo

Where are the Air Force butlers to be accused for the aerial blackout? Yesterday they managed to blame a sargent who made a mistake while working on equipment maintenance. Check it out: even Lula can't completely paralyse the country. But we are told that the right to come and go can be suspended by an error of a sargent. There is no way for the Defense Ministry and the Air Force the be more exposed to public ridicularization in this whole event.
Apagão aéreo: a Aeronáutica não tem um mordomo?Reinaldo Azevedo


The use of the term ‘blackout’ (apagão)
to label the recent aviation crisis in Brazil has its own political motivation. One of the main crisis in the government of former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso was a problem with the country's energy supply, which became known as FHC's blackout. During the recent electoral campaign, Lula managed to exploit the issue, reminding voters about what happened then. Indeed, the use of the term in relation to the aviation crisis may not be so obvious, but the intention is to show that Lula also has problems dealing with infrastructure matters. The issue is also pushing into the never-ending debates over the class struggle in Brazil.

Peralá. Esse negócio de chamar de “apagão” o que está acontecendo nos aeroportos brasileiros já passou do ponto. Não se pode comparar o que está acontecendo agora ao apagão que efetivamente aconteceu no governo de FHC. São coisas muito diferentes. O chamado apagão dos aeroportos atinge apenas os que se utilizam de avião. O apagão verdadeiro, aquele da energia elétrica no governo de Fernando Henrique, atingiu todos os brasileiros. Além escuridão, vieram os alimentos perdidos nas geladeiras e freezers, a paralisação das indústrias, do comércio, da iluminação das ruas, do controle de tráfego etc. Com isso, não estou querendo livrar a cara do governo Lula. A situação dos controladores de vôo é absurda, e os riscos a que todos os que utilizamos os aeroportos nos submetemos é inadmissível. Mas daí a comparar uma coisa com a outra vai uma distância enorme.
Sobre o tal apagão nos aeroportos brasileirosBlog do Mello

Come on! This story of calling the airport crisis a ‘blackout’ is out of tune. We can't compare what is happening now with the effective ‘blackout’ that occurred during FHC's government. These are two very different things. The so called ‘blackout’ in the airports is hitting only those who use airplanes. The real ‘blackout’ [apagão], the one that involved electrical energy during FHC's government messed with all Brazilians. Besides the darkness, there were problems with lost food in refrigerators and freezers, industry and commercial paralyzation, street lightning, air control, etc. I am not trying to ease Lula's responsibility for the aviation crisis, as the situation of air controllers is absurd and those of us who use airplanes cannot be exposed to such risks. But to compare both crises is just too much.
Sobre o tal apagão nos aeroportos brasileirosBlog do Mello

Toda classe média está histérica com o cáos aéreo que surgiu no Brasil. Não é para menos. As senhoras e senhores de bons préstimos e impostos pagos a sociedade estão as neuras por causas do seus doces minutos perdidos nos aeroportos. Mal eles sabem o que é pegar um ônibus para ir e voltar da cidade tiradentes, todos os dias. Perder horas, dentro da cidade, ficando de pé, dividindo o metro quadrado com 6 pessoas. E sem ter a quem reclamar, apenas pagar.
O apagão aéreo serviu para informar a classe mérdia e os Ricos o que passamos nos ônibustijolos sobre tijolos, sem construir uma casa

All the middle class is hysteric about the aerial chaos that is happening in Brazil. It is understandable. The Misters and Misses who pay the taxes are neurotic because of the precious minutes lost at the airports. But they don't know too much about what is to take the bus to come and go to work from Tiradentes city [Sao Paulo suburb] every day. To lose hours in a bus, inside the city, sharing your square meter with 6 more people, and having no one to complain to, just pay.
O apagão aéreo serviu para informar a classe mérdia e os Ricos o que passamos nos ônibustijolos sobre tijolos, sem construir uma casa

A situação do (des)controle do tráfego aéreo é muito grave e só não é pior porque muitas viagens têm sido canceladas e porque ainda não aconteceu outro acidente como o do vôo 1907 da Gol. Será que Lula vê o apagão aéreo como uma evidência de que seu governo não se preocupa com as elites e sim com o povão? Será que ele ainda vai dizer que dormir no aeroporto é fácil, que difícil é vir do nordeste num pau-de-arara?
Apagão aéreoBlog do Hélio Pimentel

The situation of the air traffic control is very serious. It is not worst because many flights have been canceled … we still don't have another accident as the one with the Gol airplane. I wonder if Lula sees the aerial blackout as an evidence that his government is not worried with the elite, but only with the poor crowds. I wonder if he will declare that to sleep in the airport is easy; [but] it is difficult to come down from the northeast in a ‘pau-de-arara’ [truck turned into bus].
Apagão aéreoBlog do Hélio Pimentel


In the midst of all the accusations,
there are a few commentators focusing on the real solutions to the crisis.

Para Gabeira, o governo tem sua responsabilidade para reorganizar os vôos e horários mas empresas aéreas devem ser chamadas a contribuir para amenizar o sofrimento dos passageiros. Como? “No aeroporto, o poder está no microfone. O passageiro precisa receber informação, sempre. O problema de todo mundo nessa hora é saber o que aconteceu com seu vôo. Se atrasou, quando vai sair. Se foi cancelado, quando haverá uma substituição. Em caso de imprevistos, quais são seus direitos. Até hoje, essa informação é controlada por uma visão militar, de quem acha que as pessoas não precisam saber de nada. E elas precisam saber de tudo.” Outra idéia é criar serviços nos aeroportos para evitar a tensão e o desgaste nas muitas horas de espera que, em alguns casos, são previsíveis e inevitáveis – seja em Guarulhos ou em Cingapura.
Gabeira e o apagão aéreoPaulo Moreira Leite

Gabeira [Green Party representative] has said that the government has its responsibility in reorganizing flights and schedules, but the flight companies also have to be called on to help alleviating the passengers suffering. How? “In the airport, the power is in the microphone. The passengers need to be well informed, always. In this kind of situation, everybody needs to know what really happened with her flight. If it is late, when it will takeoff. If it was canceled, when will it be replaced. In case of unexpected events, what are the passengers’ rights. Til today, this information has been controlled by a military view which thinks that passengers can't have access to this kind of data. But they have to be aware of everything”. Another idea is to create services to alleviate the tension in the airports caused by the many hours of waiting which, in some cases, are predictable and inevitable – be it in Guarulhos or in Cingapura.
Gabeira e o apagão aéreoPaulo Moreira Leite


And yet,
there are some who see the situation as an artificial and politically motivated amplification.

Com a experiência de ter viajado de avião, no período de um ano, 39 vezes, sendo a maioria dos vôos para o Rio, Brasília e Foz do Iguaçu, todos partindo de São Paulo (Congonhas preferencialmente), posso afirmar por experiência própria: o sistema de tráfego aéreo brasileiro nunca funcionou. Fico me perguntando o quanto desse “escândalo” atual é frescura da classe média ou exagero da imprensa. Os aeroportos são o caos. Os atrasos sempre foram uma constante. E, principalmente, as companhias aéreas são grosseiras e despreparadas para atender a demanda, ainda mais depois da quebra da Varig – que, é bom enfatizar, também era uma grandissíssima porcaria. Já tive minhas malas extraviadas, já perdi vôos porque a atendente da Tam deixou minha carteira de identidade cair no chão, já tive de sair de Congonhas e pegar vôo em Cumbica e a Gol só liberar passagem da Ponte Aérea partindo do Galeão (detalhe, não me reembolsaram o táxi). Isso, deixo bem claro, era o normal, o corriqueiro. Agora, depois do “apagão aéreo”, a coisa só ficou explícita e atacou todo mundo, mas eram constantes, sempre foram.
O apagão aéreoComo sentir calor e suar alguma metafísica

With the experience of having traveled 39 times by airplane in a year, most of the times to Rio, Brasília and Foz do Iguazu, always starting from Sao Paulo (preferably Congonhas), I can affirm by personal experience: the Brazilian air traffic control [system] has never worked. I keep asking myself if all this ‘scandal’ is middle class jitters or an exageration by the media? The airports are always chaotic. The delays have always been a pattern. And mainly, the airline companies are not prepared to [meet] the demand, especially after Varig's collapse — and we could say, [we have] another crap company. I had my bagagge purloined, lost a flight because a TAM attendant droped my ID card on the floor, had to go from Congonhas to Cumbica by car to make connections, etc. This was the normal, the commonplace. Now, after this ‘aerial blackout’, things have become more explicit and have attacked everybody, but they were always constant, always.
O apagão aéreoComo sentir calor e suar alguma metafísica

Segundo os jornalões, Waldir Pires no ministério da Defesa tem os dias contados. Vai espatifar-se no chão duro da política, conforme a previsão de uma charge de Chico Caruso publicada em O Globo ontem, dia 6. Confesso que a charge não faz bem ao meu espírito, mas isso é o de menos. Conta mais outra questão, crucial, se me permitem. Ou seja, em meio à tempestade provocada pelo caos nos aeroportos, vem à tona, com prepotência, a insatisfação militar pela presença de um civil no ministério da Defesa. Quer dizer, o quartel de Abrantes continua o mesmo. Civil na Defesa é absolutamente normal em democracias mais ou menos autênticas. Temos aí a enésima prova de que o Brasil está longe disso, haja vista o comportamento dos jornalões, todos empenhados em acompanhar sofregamente o rumo do furacão, na linha de Tasso Jereissati e ACM, que uivam da tribuna. É, sempre e sempre, o golpismo à espreita.
Um civil na defesaBlog do Mino

According to the big newspapers, Waldir Pires has his days numbered in the Ministry of Defense. He will crash on the hard ground of politics, as shown in a Chico Caruso's ‘charge’ published in ‘O Globo’ yesterday…. I confess that the charge did no good for my spirit, but this is not important. What matters most is that in the middle of the storm caused by the chaos in the airports, the military reveals its dissatisfaction with the presence of a civilian in the Ministry of Defense. Or we could say, all the same in the fort. Civilians in Defense is totally normal in more or less authentic democracies. We have here one more proof that Brazil is far from that, as seen by the big newspapers behavior, all of them ready to follow the path of the hurricane, in the line of Tasso Jereissati and ACM who are howling from the tribune. Yep, ever and always, golpism is watching.
Um civil na defesaBlog do Mino

6 comments

  • Robert Stone

    Have flights been resumed from CNF (Belo Horizonte)?

  • As far as I know, the situation right now is ‘normal’.

  • A cara das elites (da qual a classe média faz parte segundo muitos) que viajam de avião…

    Fonte: Terra. Toda classe média está histérica com o cáos aéreo que surgiu no Brasil. Não é para menos. As senhoras e senhores de bons préstimos e impostos pagos a sociedade estão as neuras por causas do seus doces……

  • […] Last Friday, at the same time Lula was in the air traveling to the US to visit President Bush, a huge crisis was developing back in Brazil. Air traffic controllers had started a strike protesting working conditions, paralyzing flights across the nation and bringing the “Aerial Blackout” crisis to a climax. The problems were started last year with the disintegration of Varig, Brazil’s one-time flagship airline, and signs of persistent failure in air traffic control in the southern and central regions of the country were already being noticed by the media in March. It only got worse after the Sept. 29 collision which became Brazil’s worst air disaster, as the controllers started to perform slowdowns that brought delays in airports all over the country. […]

  • […] still facing a highly blogged crisis in its air traffic management, and not yet recovered from the crash of a Boeing-737 over the Amazon ten months ago, Brazil was […]

  • susa

    Ministro substituido, Jobim.
    Another Minister.

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