Crash Probe Focuses on Thrust Reverser

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As the political crisis that was ignited by last Tuesday's fiery crash of a TAM Airbus A320 at Sao Paulo (Brazil) Congonhas Airport continues to intensify, the investigation of the crash is shifting from the allegedly dangerous conditions at the airport to a thrust reverser that had been disconnected four days before the crash. The Airbus was landing in heavy rain on a 6,362-foot runway when it ran off the runway, skipped over a highway and exploded. The pilot may have been trying to take off again after realizing he wasn't going to stop. According to an Associated Press report, landing with only one reverser operating is "not unusual" but it cast the accident in a new light, apparently inspiring Marco Aurelio Garcia,an aide to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, to make an obscene gesture for TV cameras that was interpreted as "reaction of glee" that some of the heat was coming off the government.

Immediately after the accident, Brazil's media and opposition politicians jumped all over Silva's government, saying it had ignored the shortcomings of the airport, Brazil's busiest, and laying blame for the deaths on Silva's administration. With a handy mechanical scapegoat suddenly popping up, Silva's back on the offensive, although he's also promising site selection for a new Sao Paulo airport within 90 days. In the meantime, charter aircraft and business jets are banned and airlines have 60 days to stop using Congonhas as their hub.