Brazil’s New Air Force Chief Tackles ATC

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Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has named Brig. Juniti Saito to take over the country’s air force, and along with that comes the unenviable task of sorting out its increasingly troubled air traffic control system. The air force oversees ATC there and, since the collision between a Gol Airlines Boeing 737 and a U.S.-bound Embraer Legacy last Sept. 29, problems with the system seem to be escalating. Flight delays are common and the controllers, who are civilian, are complaining about workload and conditions as the government investigates the role of controllers in the crash, which killed all 154 people aboard the 737. The two American pilots of the Legacy are also under investigation. They were able to land the damaged business jet, with five passengers on board, safely at a military base in the Amazon jungle. The accident seemed to be the flash point for controllers, who have apparently been complaining about their jobs for a long time. There were some work disruptions, resulting in hundreds of flight cancellations, shortly after the crash and the system is reportedly still plagued with problems. The former head of Brazil's air force, Lt. Brig. Gen. Paulo Roberto Cardoso Vilarinho, was fired in late November for not fixing the problems.