Release #08.057
December 17, 2008

Brazilian Report Downplays ATC System Deficiencies in Midair Collision

WASHINGTON—A Brazilian report on a 2006 midair collision between an airliner and a business jet ignores the severity of the air traffic control system deficiencies that contributed to the tragedy, according to the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA). Moreover, the Brazilian legal system, by pursuing criminal prosecution of the pilots and controllers, is thwarting the global aviation industry’s ability to improve safety.

“The accident investigators found that this midair collision, like virtually all airline accidents, was the result of many factors,” said Capt. Rory Kay, ALPA’s Executive Air Safety Chairman. “In its report to the Brazilian government, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board lays out many safety concerns, including serious deficiencies in Brazil’s air traffic control system, and urges rapid improvements to help prevent a similar tragedy from occurring again.”

ALPA maintains that the report issued by the Brazilian government fails to fully reflect the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) information and recommendations. “ALPA urges the Brazilian government to reevaluate their conclusions in light of the input made by their U.S. colleagues,” said Kay. “We encourage them to swiftly continue actions to enhance safety for all aircraft operating in Brazilian airspace.”

In addition, the Association’s pilots have long recognized that the goal of accident investigation is to learn everything possible about how to prevent a similar accident from happening again. ALPA, which is the world’s largest non-governmental aviation safety and security organization, asserts that criminalizing those involved does nothing to achieve that goal.

“The facts clearly show that there are opportunities to improve the aviation system by addressing deficiencies in the air traffic control system, potential design problems with the aircraft, and mistakes by the professionals,” said Capt. John Prater, ALPA’s president. “It is equally clear that no person acted with any intent to do harm.”

ALPA’s Safety Committee has long held among its top priorities developing regulatory and investigative policies to prevent the criminalization of aircraft incidents and accidents throughout the world.

“The threat of criminal prosecution hinders information-gathering and data-sharing, which form the foundation of accident investigation,” continued Prater. “Pursuing prosecution for the alleged mistakes of professional airmen is misguided and incompatible with preventing future accidents.”

ALPA calls on aviation professionals in government and industry throughout the world to create an environment that fosters a “just culture” in which identification of safety deficiencies is used only for the purpose of making the aviation system as safe as possible.

“ALPA urges the Brazilian government in the strongest terms possible to abandon this ill-conceived effort to arbitrarily assign criminal liability in this accident,” concluded Prater. “Our society must honor all who have suffered by making theirs a legacy of a safer air transportation system.”

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union representing more than 53,000 pilots at 37 airlines in the United States and Canada.

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Contacts: Linda Shotwell or Molly Martin, 703/481-4440 or