ALPA Cautions Pilots on ATC Operations in Brazilian Airspace

On January 29, the Association issued ALPA Safety Alert 2007-01 to caution pilots about certain aspects of operating in Brazilian airspace. The September 2006 midair collision that occurred over Brazil has highlighted several issues associated with operations in that airspace that may have significant implications for the safety of flight.

ALPA believes that all pilots should maintain a high level of situational awareness while operating into or within the Brazilian Flight Identification Regions (FIRs). Of particular concern are both the procedural and technical ATC methods used in Brazilian airspace and its FIR boundary areas, compared to what pilots may be used to in other parts of the world.

ALPA therefore recommends that pilots

While the ALPA bulletin focuses on issues related to the pilot/controller interface, pilots should note that the underlying deficiencies are caused by lack of proper governmental oversight and control of the ATC system. This is a separate issue that ALPA, in conjunction with IFALPA and other international agencies and entities, is working to correct.

Without commenting on the ongoing accident investigation regarding the recent midair collision, and based solely on reports from pilots who are experienced in operating in this environment, ALPA wishes to ensure that flight crews are aware of the following issues that may present operational challenges in Brazilian airspace:

One of the consequences of today’s highly accurate navigation systems is that their precision can result in aircraft being on the same route with little or no lateral deviation. While the strategic lateral offset procedure (SLOP) that is in use in other areas of the world does not yet exist in South America, some member associations are actively debating the benefits of this concept and may soon put forth positions encouraging the use of this procedure. In the meantime, if individual flight crews choose to fly any deviations from a published airway, they should advise each ATC sector of their intentions.

Contact the ALPA Engineering and Air Safety Department at 1-800-424-2470 or for more information or to report safety issues.