Brazil ATC Transcripts Under Wraps

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Although it would seem a simple matter to release the transcript and tapes and let the investigation proceed with the benefit of that crucial information, the Brazilian air force has refused to do so. The air force oversees air traffic control in Brazil and told The Associated Press it’s normal to sit on this kind of pivotal data under International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) conventions designed to protect information given voluntarily to investigators. Just who the air force is trying to protect is open to speculation but, while it keeps the tapes and transcripts from public view, the American pilots must remain in what amounts to house arrest in a Rio de Janeiro hotel. Their lawyer is calling for a return of their passports pending “frank disclosure of all the facts.” Meanwhile, the air force has other ATC-related problems on its hands, some of which stem from the accident. Controllers have embarked on a work slowdown that has delayed hundreds of flights. They complain that they are understaffed, underpaid and have been further burdened by extra safety regulations in the wake of the midair collision. Controllers began calling in sick on Thursday (this is a long weekend in Brazil), causing bottlenecks in the system, not to mention long lines of upset travelers in the airports. Although the situation has improved as more controllers reported to work over the weekend, today is expected to be tense as travelers make their way back from their spring holiday.