Sunday, April 22, 2007

ExcelAire blames ATC for mid-air collision in Brazil last year

damageIt's official: ExcelAire, the company that owned the Embraer Legacy 600 involved in a mid-air collision over Brazil last year, puts the blame for the accident on Brazilian air traffic controllers.

An  article published on says:
The U.S. company that owned the executive jet involved in a mid-air collision with a commercial airliner blamed faulty Brazilian air traffic control for the accident that killed 154 people, according to a report obtained by the Associated Press on Saturday.

The Sept. 29 accident was Brazil's deadliest air disaster. A Gol airlines Boeing 737 and an ExcelAire Legacy 600 jet clipped each other, causing the jetliner to plunge into the Amazon rain forest and killing everyone aboard. No one was injured in the smaller plane.

In a 154-page report to Brazilian federal police this month, New York-based ExcelAire said an analysis of air traffic control transmissions and flight recorders in the Legacy "confirmed that both planes were freed by Air Traffic Control to fly at the same altitude and the same path, in opposite directions."
ExcelAire reportedly passed a copy of the report to the journalist several days ago.

For more details about the accident and the ensuing investigation, I'd like to direct you to Joe Sharkey at Large, the personal blog of the journalist who was a passenger aboard the Legacy at the time of the collision last September. Mr. Sharkey has written compellingly of his experiences that day, and has done a commendable job of reporting on the aftermath.

This past Saturday, Sharkey posted a retrospective view of the accident and the investigation. He summarizes ExcelAire's report "that details step-by-step the chain of on-ground mishaps and failures that put the two planes on a collision course, and also charges that important avionics equipment installed in the $24.7 million business jet, including the transponder unit, had a history of defects and were essentially used parts installed on a new jet."

Embedded in Mr. Sharkey's detailed post are links to 1) a four-page report about the accident by the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations (IFATCA); 2) a factual account from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on the progress of its investigation of the accident; and 3) an FAA airworthiness directive citing a problem with the type of Honeywell transponder that was installed on the Legacy, which also may have figured as a contributing factor in the accident. Also provided is an English translation of an article about the ExcelAire report that appeared in the Brazilian newspaper Folha.

Yesterday, April 22, Mr. Sharkey posted Part II of his review, in which he presents "highlights of documentation ExcelAire can cite and charges it will make in its own defense as Brazilian authorities continue their campaign to scapegoat the Americans." I recommend this as required reading for anyone who has been following this accident.

Mr. Sharkey has provided a link to the 134-page document, in Portuguese, and says he is trying to obtain the full English language version of the ExcelAire document as well. Or, as he says in his own words:
...I'm still hoping to post an English link soon to the whole 20,000-word text for those of you, including so many pilots who have remained in touch with me over this sad event, who want to know just precisely how one sorry mistake after another on the ground added up to cause the worst aviation disaster in Brazil's history.
When he posts a link to an English language version of the report, I'll post it, too.

Kudos to Joe Sharkey, first for championing the cause of the ExcelAire pilots -- who were criminally charged while the investigation had barely begun and held in Brazil for several months -- and for continuing to focus attention on the process of the accident investigation.

[Photo Source]