Senior ministerial sackings have been announced in Brazil as anger over the state of the country's aviation infrastructure continues to be reflected strongly in the national media.

On 25 July president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva dismissed his defence minister Waldir Pires, because in Brazil the country's air traffic management systems are run by the military.

Behind the discontent are the September 2006 mid-air collision that brought down a Gol Boeing 737-800, the recent fatal runway overrun by a TAM Airbus A320 at São Paulo's Congonhas airport, and a 3h total ATM blackout over 4.6 million km² (1.77 million miles²) of northern Brazil on 20 July that was little reported outside the country.

Former Supreme Court president Nelson Jobim is taking over Pires's task, which is seen locally as an indicator that privatisation of the country's aviation infrastructure is on the cards.

The Lula government is also considering leadership changes at airport operator Infraero.

Compounding public anger over the two serious accidents and the massive disruption to air services that has followed the Congonhas disaster, a complete communications and radar black-out that affected Brazil's Amazon flight information region for more than 3h on 20 July is under investigation.

The outage was attributed to a power generator failure during a routine maintenance at the Manaus-headquartered area control centre CINDACTA IV. Flight information and alerting services to aircraft transiting through or bound to destinations within that area were lost.

The Amazon FIR is used by US, Canadian and Central American flights flying to destinations in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina.

When the black-out occurred, at least 13 US and Canadian airliners were en route to Argentina and Brazil, and all returned to their departure airports or were diverted to Puerto Rico.

A further 45 aircraft, many of them foreign, were well inside the FIR when the blackout occurred. By contacting neighbouring FIRs, including Venezuela's Maiquetia FIR, CINDACTA IV personnel managed to arrange diversion for the aircraft.

Although over the past nine months Brazil's air traffic control system experienced two short breakdowns, neither lasted more than 3min. Although the air force suggests that the black-out probably occurred because of a maintenance error, it has not ruled out a deliberate act since standby systems were not triggered.