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Posts Tagged ‘latin america’

The Wall Street Journal today profiles ICE Air, an airline with service to exotic destinations like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Jamaica, Indonesia, and Cambodia. It offers leather seats with custom headrests and in-flight service with box lunches. The forty-pound checked baggage allowance is not enforced. It also has high load factors: “We are making a valiant attempt to overbook.” Would you like to fly ICE Air? Well, unless you’re an illegal immigrant being deported to your home country, you’re out of luck:

This carrier is run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency responsible for finding and deporting undocumented immigrants. A crackdown on illegal immigration has led to a spike in deportations and the creation of a de facto airline to send the deportees home.

The air service, called Repatriate by air-traffic controllers, is known simply as ICE Air to agency employees. . . .

In all, the U.S. government deports people to more than 190 countries. Outside of Mexico, ICE flew home 76,102 illegal immigrants in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, up from 72,187 last year and 50,222 two years ago.

Now Boarding: Illegal Immigrants On One-Way Tickets Home [Wall Street Journal]

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As of March 5, according to new International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) rules, English proficiency is now be the required of all pilots and air traffic controllers. In the past, controllers and pilots could communicate in a local language if both spoke it, even though English was the most common standard. More than anything else, this affects communications at major international airports. A number of air disasters have been attributed to language barriers. A pilot I know was once taxiing to the runway at General Mariano Escobedo International Airport in Monterrey, Mexico, and was instructed — in English, as he flies for a U.S. airline — to proceed to a particular location. Over the radio, he heard the tower, in Spanish, direct an Aeromexico MD-88 to the same location. The U.S. pilot speaks Spanish fluently, so he was able to radio the tower and request clarification. Had he not spoken Spanish, there might have been a collision. The implementation of this rule is a concrete step toward making air travel safer.

English to become compulsory for pilots [Telegraph]

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The tragic TAM crash of July 17 at Sao Paulo’s Congonhas Airport that killed almost 200 people has, when coupled with the government’s bad handling of the 2006 Gol disaster and ongoing air traffic control (ATC) problems that recently scattered inbound planes flying over the Amazon region, made Brazilians and foreigners alike of flying in the country. ATW Daily News reports that even President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is afraid to fly:

“It’s no secret to any Brazilian that we have an aviation crisis,” he said. “Personally, when the airplane door closes, I deliver myself to God. Even with my luck in the hands of God, I confess I’m afraid. I confess this publicly because I am not embarrassed to say we are afraid.” Silva vowed to “do what has to be done and spend what has to be spent” to make air travel safe in Brazil.

Safety is of the utmost importance. But also important is the perception of safety. On the one hand, if the Brazilian government were to deny that there is a problem, it would be engaging in happy-talk. On the other hand, for the president to publicly disavow flying might be going too far.

Brazil’s airlines do not have especially unsafe records. The public notices big events that happen close together and draw perceptions from that, but statistics compiled by Airsafe.com indicate that TAM and other Brazilian airlines are safe to middle-of-the-road for Latin American airlines and doing downright well compared to U.S. giants American and United. Patrick Smith, as usual, counsels calm. So, we cannot merely write off Brazilian airlines as unsafe.

But Brazil’s ATC system needs repair, and it needs to get its employees–public servants, defense officials, even–in line. As long as ATC is a government task conducted on the premise that it is a matter of safety and security, then Calvin Coolidge’s statement after the Boston Police Strike of 1919 applies to them: “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” Ronald Reagan put this to the test with air traffic controllers in 1981, and over 11,000 striking controllers were fired.

Brazil’s controllers have been playing at the edges of a strike. Maybe it’s justified, maybe not. Regardless, they are public safety officials at a time of perceived crisis. Brazil’s skies are safer than the doomsayers say. It is irresponsible for anyone to be toying with the public perception of safety at this time.

Brazil needs to fix its real aviation problems. It doesn’t need its president and its air traffic controllers exacerbating the crisis of confidence in aviation safety.

Congonhas main runway reopens as Brazil’s president admits ‘I’m afraid’ to fly [ATW Daily News]

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