Avoiding the blame game

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Independent aviation safety organisation Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) has reacted swiftly against comments attributed to the lead criminal investigator of the September 2006 mid-air collision between a Gol Airlines Boeing 737-800 and ExcelAire Embraer Legacy 600 executive jet in Brazil.

Lead investigator Renato Sayo is reported to have told local media that air traffic controllers shared some of the blame for the air accident that killed 154 people - the first time Brazilian authorities have said anyone other than the two US pilots of the executive jet could be held responsible.

"The challenge the government of Brazil faces is to create an environment of honesty and openness where problems are reported and resolved before accidents occur," says FSF president Bill Voss.

"If controllers and pilots live under the threat of prosecution, problems will be hidden until they turn into tragedies. It's important to note that no-one is calling for immunity for the aviation industry but the rush to punish must be balanced against the need for openness and reporting that is essential to avoid the next tragedy. We are trying to save the lives of those who could be lost in the next accident."

FSF says that because the Brazilian air traffic control system is staffed by military personnel, any judicial action against individual controllers would be decided by the military judicial system.

The pilots of the Legacy jet were allowed to return to the USA in mid-December, but still face criminal charges in Brazil.

 
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Brazilian mid-air collision last year has raised fears of prosecution