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December 6, 2008

Brazil blames human error for 2006 midair airliner collision

Brazil blames human error for 2006 midair airliner collision

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

This computer-generated image shows the two jets a split second prior to collision

The damage to the Legacy’s wing. Notice that the winglet has been sheared completely off.

It has been revealed that the final report into a midair collision that killed 154 people in 2006 will blame a string of human error for the disaster. Gol Transportes Aéreos Flight 1907, a Boeing 737, crashed into the ground after an Embraer Legacy 600 executive jet’s wing clipped it. The Legacy, owned by ExcelAire, performed an emergency landing at a nearby airbase.

The report says the Legacy’s transponder was “inadvertently turned off by the hand of one of the pilots,” and says this was the “central point in a chain of errors” leading to the collision. Crucially, the transponder failure – which the US pilots have denied causing – prevented the Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) from functioning.

A chunk of wreckage from the Gol airliner.

The investigation, which was conducted by the Brazilian Air Force, criticised air traffic control (ATC) on a number of points; the Legacy was not properly advised on the altitude at which it should be cruising, when one controller changed shift there was a miscommunication between them about the Legacy’s altitude and there was a failure of communication between the Legacy and ATC.

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The ExcelAire pilots, Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino, were only allowed to return home after promising they would return to Brazil if summoned by the courts. The pair, along with four air traffic controllers, have been indicted over the crash and all six face up to three years in prison each.

Collision detail

The purpose of this investigation, however, was not to acertain blame but to determine the root causes and suggest measures by which a reccurence can be avoided. Some moves have already been made in the aftermath; the accident was the deadliest in Brazil until TAM Airlines Flight 3054 crashed the following year and both were responsible for the 2006-2007 Brazilian aviation crisis. In response, a major overhaul of the nation’s military ATC system is underway.

ExcelAire’s executive vice president David Rimmer was critical of the report. “The transponder issue is a distraction from the true cause of the accident, which is an air traffic control system that put two airplanes on a collision course for about an hour,” he said. He complained that ATC did not “recognize the transponder failure and to provide increased separation between the two jets, as required by international aviation regulations.”

He was also concerned by the Air Force’s methodology and the conclusions drawn from it. “We have no proof of how the transponder was turned off and no evidence to suggest it was inadvertently turned off by the pilots,” he said. “[The Air Force] relied on theories rather than conducting in-depth testing of the equipment.”

The report’s official release is next week, however it has already been seen by Brazilian newspapers, hence making its findings public today.



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October 3, 2006

Rescue workers search wreckage of Brazilian air crash

Rescue workers search wreckage of Brazilian air crash

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Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Wreckage of Gol 1907 in Amazon jungle

Gol Transportes Aéreos Flight 1907 crashed 1,750km (1,100 miles) north-west of Rio de Janeiro killing all people onboard, on Friday September 29. National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) has confirmed that the crashed Brazilian airplane did crash into a smaller aircraft. Rescue workers and air force personnel are searching the wreckage for bodies

Search and rescue teams arrive

Search and rescue teams rappelled down ropes or hacked a way through the rainforest, led by local Indians to reach the wreckage.

The first people at the scene had to abseil down to clear away trees to allow helicopters to land.

“It’s extremely difficult to get there,” said Ademir Ribeiro, a foreman on the nearby Jarina ranch, the centre for rescue operations.

About 80 air force personnel were at the site during the day and about thirty stayed during the night.

An air force statement says that the first two bodies were recovered on the afternoon of Sunday, October 1. The bodies were taken to an air force base by helicopter.

Officials say that the investigation would take at least three months. Milton Zuanazzi, director of the National Civil Aviation Agency, says that he does not know how long the removal of bodies would take.

737 Crashed, Legacy made emergency landing

A Embraer Legacy 600 owned by ExcelAire, a charter company based in Long Island, New York clipped the Boeing 737-800 SFP. The Legacy made an emergency landing at Cachimbo air force base with five passengers and two crew on board, none of whom were hurt. The Boeing plunged nose first into the rainforest and disintegrated.

When interviewed by the police, the passengers on the Legacy reported feeling a bump at the time of the collision. The pilot landed the plane manually.

An Air Force statement said that a search of the site showed no signs that the 149 passengers and six crew on board the Boeing 737 could have survived the crash.

“Neither of the pilots can understand how a 737 could have hit us without them seeing it,” said Joe Sharkey, a journalist for the New York Times, in an email to his wife.

Mr. Zuanazzi says it’s possible as they were traveling at hundreds of miles an hour.

“They said they didn’t see anything. But this is absolutely normal. …In these conditions, you can only see a shadow and a noise,” said Zuanazzi.

Questions over collision avoidance system

Investigators are trying to determine why two new aircraft equipped with the latest anti-collision technology could have collided. The Brazilian air force says that both planes were equipped with a Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) which sounds an alarm when planes get too close.

“It locks on the other plane’s transponders and tells the pilot whether to go up or down,” John Hansman, aeronautics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said by telephone.

“The 737 should have been warned to take evasive action.”

Hansman said that in air traffic in Brazil is complicated in some parts and vast areas are not covered by radar especially over the ocean on the Amazon Rainforest. Pilots often propose a route and at certain points check with controllers who verify the plane’s location, altitude and bearing.

“Apparently that process broke down somehow,” Hansman said. “When you get to the jungles of Brazil, you have people going in all directions.”

The Brazilian mass communications media are suggesting that a lapse in communication caused the crash. Rio de Janeiro daily O Globo reported that air traffic controllers in the city of Manaus cleared the Boeing to fly at 37,000 feet and Brasília authorised the Legacy to climb from 35,000 feet to 39,000 feet. Agência Estado reports the Legacy pilot Joseph Lepore and co-pilot Jan Palladino told police in Mato Grosso that they had authorisation from Brasília to fly at 37,000 feet and that the anti-collision equipment never sounded a warning.

Blackboxes recovered

The cockpit voice recorder and the digital flight data recorder of both planes have been recovered. The blackbox of the Legacy was taken to Embraer’s headquarters at Sao Jose dos Campos, Sao Paulo.

Brazil’s Civil Aviation Agency said the cause of the crash was impossible to say until the Boeing 737’s two recorders, found by search teams, were examined.

Dale Oderman, associate professor of aviation technology at Purdue University said investigators will be paying close attention to the conversations between the pilots and air traffic controllers said.

“It might indicate they were flying an altitude they weren’t cleared to fly,” Mr. Oderman said.

Bill Waldock, aviation safety professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, says that the Legacy may have clipped the bigger jet’s horizontal stabiliser — fins that prevent the airplane from pitching up or down.

“A likely reason why the 737 would depart continuous flight and go vertically into the jungle at that speed would be damage or loss of the horizontal stabiliser,” Mr. Waldock said.

Relatives flown over crash site

Relatives of the passengers have complained that they were not being informed about the ongoing search for bodies or the investigation. The air force has flown them in groups of six over to the crash site. The air force says that it was to show them how difficult it is to reach the crash site.

“They will be able to see the difficulties of the operation… The place is difficult [to access], there are trees of up to 40 meters (130 feet) tall,” a spokesman said. “The debris is scattered so rescue work is even more complicated.”

Worst air disaster in Brazilian history

This is the worst air disaster in Brazilian history, surpassing the June 1982 crash of a VASP flight which hit a mountain near Fortaleza in northeastern Brazil, killing 137 people.

President Lula has declared three days of national mourning.

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September 30, 2006

Brazilian passenger jet wreck found in Amazon jungle

Brazilian passenger jet wreck found in Amazon jungle

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Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Boeing 737 similar to the one that crashed.

A Brazilian passenger jet operated by budget airline Gol Transportes Aéreos that was reported missing whilst on route to Rio de Janeiro via Brasilia from Manaus has been located by the Brazilian Air Force. The wreckage of the Boeing 737, Flight 1907, which was carrying 149 passengers and 6 crew was spotted in the rural state of Mato Grosso in the Amazon rainforest. There are no survivors.

At least 20 of the passengers of the flight were employees of Yamaha Corp.

José Carlos Pereira, president of the Brazilian airport authority (Infraero) told journalists, “It would be very difficult for anyone to survive such a crash. Our experience shows that when one cannot find the fuselage relatively intact and when the wreckage is concentrated in a relatively small area, the chances of finding any survivors are practically non-existent”

Gol released a statement saying “The wreckage of the plane was found 30 kilometres north of the Peixoto Azevedo municipality”

Troops are currently attempting to make their way through the dense jungle to the wreckage on foot.

Many relatives and friends desperate for information gathered at airports in Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Manaus during the night.

Aviation officials now say that initial reports that the airliner collided with a smaller private plane cannot be confirmed.

Gol, which was founded in 2001, say that the plane was new and had only come into service this month.

A passenger list and further information can be found on the Gol website. Further information for family members can be found by calling 0800 2800749.

Sources

Wikipedia
Wikipedia has more about this subject:
Gol Transportes Aéreos Flight 1907

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