Brazil air safety shakeup
BRASILIA (AFP) - - President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva sacked his minister of defense, in charge of air safety, on Wednesday in political fallout from Brazil's deadliest air disaster amid chaotic flight delays.At least partially, Nelson Jobim is being made into a scapegoat. The sorry state of air travel in Brazil is a much bigger than just one person. My initial feelings about the mid-air crash from last year, seem to be getting validated. I doubt more than ever that the crash was the primary fault of private jet's pilots.
Defense minister Waldir Pires was to be replaced by Nelson Jobim, 61, a former justice minister, Supreme Court justice and lawmaker, a presidential spokesman said.
Pires was fired as Brazilian authorities faced sharp criticism over problems plaguing the aviation sector, after a TAM airlines Airbus 320 slid off a wet runway on landing at busy Congonhas airport on July 17.
The jetliner slammed into a building and burst into flames, killing some 200 people. Lawmakers said the jetliner's speed on impact was 175 kilometers per hour (109 miles per hour). It had slowed from 220-240 kph (137-149 mph) on touchdown.
Since the tragedy, all flights at Congonhas, the country's busiest hub, have been diverted to a secondary runway, which is closed in rainy weather.
The military runs Brazil's air traffic control system, and controllers have gone on strike periodically since Brazil's previous most-deadly air tragedy in September, when a GOL airliner collided with a small, private plane over the Amazon jungle.
I hope some valuable lessons are being learned in Brazil. As almost always, it takes a massive and preventable tragedy to shake both people and officials from their complacency.
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