Controller Found Not Guilty in Brazilian Midair Collision

In an unexpected verdict announced late last week, Brazilian federal judge Murilo Mendes found air traffic controller Jomarcelo Fernandes dos Santos not guilty in the midair collision between the Embraer Legacy 600 and Gol Airlines Boeing 737-800 over the Amazon in September 2006. Fernandes dos Santos was responsible for controlling the two aircraft at the time of the accident, but Mendes found him innocent because he was “not qualified…to even come near a console.” The judge then called for a criminal investigation of those who approved Fernandes dos Santos. Mendes also said air traffic control software flaws played a role, changing aircraft altitudes on the console without the controller’s consent. Mendes said the flaws were previously known, so he also called for a criminal investigation of those who had found that ATC software placed aviation at risk but had failed to order corrections. A second controller Tibúrcio de Alencar, was found guilty of “endangering aviation” for failing to program the proper frequencies on his console. This had prevented him from hearing 12 radio transmissions from the business jet in the minutes before the collision, which killed all 154 on board the Gol airliner.

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