Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Update on the 2006 ExcelAire Legacy - GOL mid-air collision

Damaged ExcelAire Legacy aircraftLast month I reported here that ExcelAire, the company that owned the Embraer Legacy 600 that was involved in the mid-air collision in Brazilian airspace last year, had blamed Brazilian air traffic control for the accident.

I linked to a blog item by journalist Joe Sharkey, who was a passenger aboard the Legacy at the time of the collision in September of 2006. Mr. Sharkey presented his account of the accident investigation in two parts in his blog, and included a link to the Portuguese language version of ExcelAire's report.

A few days ago, Joe Sharkey posted another update that includes a link to the 98-page English language version of the ExcelAire report about the accident. If you have been following the story of this accident and the subsequent investigation, I would suggest the ExcelAire document as required reading, along with a few more recent posts in Mr. Sharkey's blog.

Have a look at this post from May 4, in which Joe Sharkey writes about the Brazilian response to the NTSB letter that discusses the malfunctioning collision avoidance system on the Legacy at the time of the accident. Sharkey cites Brazilian press reports that quote Federal Police chief Renato Sayão, who said of the NTSB letter, "...this is information for the pilots' defense. This type of release is only in their interest." He was referring to the two American pilots of the Legacy, of course.

Then read what Mr. Sharkey wrote earlier today in his blog. Here is an excerpt:
The Federal Police in Brazil, having quickly finished what strikes me as a very dodgy investigation, are rushing to file criminal charges against the two American pilots as soon as they can.

The police will apparently claim that pilot negligence caused the crash, in that the Legacy's transponder (which is connected to the TCAS, the anti-collision alert) was not working for 55 minutes before the collision with a Gol 737 that sent all 154 aboard the 737 to their deaths on Sept. 29.

The police evidently will also trot out the long-discredited charge that the American pilots were also at fault because they failed to follow the filed flight plan (which -- and this is no longer in any dispute -- was superseded, as flight plans routinely are, by explicit instructions by air-traffic control to maintain 37,000 feet altitude).

We know that the transponder was not signaling. But why the transponder was not working is very much an open question -- unless one believes (as no one with the common sense of a turnip does) that the pilots deliberately turned it off.
He then recounts the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations (IFATCA) version of how the accident happened. He winds up his long but compelling blog post with press articles about the conclusions of the "investigation."

It has seemed, from the outset, that the Brazilian authorities have been only too anxious to assign blame to the Legacy pilots alone. It looks as though the investigation has focused solely on trying to find "facts" to support their theory. Their agenda seems to have been to find ways to justify a criminal indictment against the American pilots. Meanwhile, they have ignored, discounted or dismissed other information that might have led to a fuller understanding of what happened in order to prevent it happening again.

[Photo Source]