Flash back to last year. In the days following the midair collision of the Gol 737 with an Embraer jet, there was a great deal of backlash within Brazil. The country was quick was to jump on the American pilots of the Embraer jet and blamed them completely for what happened. It was so bad that they detained them in the country and refused to let them leave.
It’s amazing what a year can do. Now, after striking air traffic controllers protesting unsafe conditions have caused delays to ripple throughout the country, everyone is screaming about how dangerous the system is. In fact, they’re blaming the system for every problem under the sun, even when it’s likely not at fault. The president of the country, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, even was quoted recently as spouting this gem:
It’s no secret to any Brazilian that we have an aviation crisis. Personally, when the airplane door closes, I deliver myself to God. Even with my luck in the hands of God, I confess I’m afraid. I confess this publicly because I am not embarrassed to say we are afraid.
Are you kidding me? You’re the friggin’ president of the country. Fix it!! He says he will, but anyone want to take bets?
I’d actually say there’s a decent shot at seeing at least some movement now, believe it or not. In a strange twist, it might happen because of something the system likely didn’t do. The TAM accident at Sao Paulo/Congonhas was instantly blamed on the dangerous airport conditions. Initial findings, however, make it appear to be pilot error. We don’t know yet, of course, but the fact that one of the throttles appears to not have been idled for landing make it look like pilot error was at least a major contributing factor. There is nothing pointing to the Brazilian system as having anything to do with the accident as of now.
That didn’t stop Brazilians from marching in protest. One member of the group held up a sign saying “Corrupt and incompetent officials killed my daughter.” Last year, you have people saying incorrectly that it’s all the fault of the American pilots. Brazilians could do no wrong. Now, the Brazilian system is being blamed for everything. Once again, that’s not the truth.
For once, the twisting of truth can actually be helpful here. Though blame for this accident probably doesn’t lie with the system, without reform there’s a decent chance it will be responsible for the next one. Hopefully this will actually spur some of that sorely needed reform.