Monday, November 17, 2008

The oldest conundrums, and it’s not prostitution

Sergio Gaudenzi, who is currently heading INFRAERO (the state ill-runner of our airports) stated that our Brazilian airports are bereft of nothing Heathrow, Schiphol and JFK are also bereft of. So in case he needs a help I decided to elicit some of our major gridlocks at the moment. The same old conundrums of the past 20 years, but for INFRAERO they have just passed unnoticed. I told you it had nothing to do with kerb-crawling!

I live in the southernmost state of Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, which borders Argentina and Uruguay. In a sense we feel deeply more attached to Argentinean and Uruguayan culture than to the Brazilian. Our Portuguese here features some Spanish words and accents which we feel utterly oblivious of, such is the normality of employing them in everyday conversations. In our winter thermometers drop to around 0ºC and mists and fogs are commonplace. It is very common here to have an airport closed either for lack of visibility or ceiling and only last year INFRAERO bid the installation of ILS CAT II. The installation was to take place in the summer months (from December to February) so that it could be already operative by when the winter approached. What went wrong you might be asking yourself, because surely something did go wrong. They decided to install the ILS in the winter and so the airport was closed not only because of meteorological conditions but also because of the testing. People queued at the airport, flip-flops where made and rampant fuming took place in the media with passengers punching airline employees, mistaken for root of the problems. Airlines don’t want to take off with us, they are stealing our money, moaned some.

This is not the only problem we have here in Rio Grande do Sul. Porto Alegre’s Salgado Filho International is the only IFR aerodrome operating 24-7 in our state. All the others (2) are part-time operations and one of them is within a 27nm range of Porto Alegre, which excludes it as an alternative. That’s right Caxias do Sul’s Campo dos Bugres is inside our TMA. The closest alternative we have 24-7 operative is Florianópolis’s Hercílio Luz, 180nm away from here.

Porto Alegre lacks a longer and wider runway. In the early 90s Salgado Filho was a common alternative to European and American airlines which unable to get to Argentina for meteorological reasons, harboured in Porto Alegre, nearly 55-minutes away from Buenos Aires by flight. John Kennedy once stopped over forcedly and had a cup of coffee in our old terminal. It was the biggest event in Porto Alegre, a not very eventful metropolis, since João Goulart, an ex-president of ours forbade girls from wearing bikini on the televisioned Miss contests. And at the time there was no such thing as a ‘brazilian wax’.

The thing is that now we cannot be used as alternative because it was only later realised that out runway 42 metres wide could not be certified ILS CAT II because this systems requires at least 45 metres of width. This is of the utmost importance as once a Lufthansa 747 took part of the grass encircling the runway with its outer jet engines, and as a British Airways got stuck in the runway because there was no angle and runway width for the airplane to turn at the end of the threshold. So it had to be towed with passengers onboard.

Other problems haunt other major Brazilian airports. If you decide to wing to Rio chances are you might get drowned in Santos Dumont, an Island, as it is one of the shortest runways available (1200m) and you may find water (sewage basically) either when landing or when taking off. Let’s say you decide to wing to Tom Jobim, another airport a bit away. Chances are you get shot by riffle-totting drug barons who ‘exchange bullets’ across the Linha Vermelha (the Red Line). During Rio’s Pan American, the Red Line had its name altered to Yellow Line, so that no records could be retrieved regarding security matters. For Olympic reasons...

If you are heading to São Paulo, things are not any better. Congonhas is Santos Dumont’s counterpart. The runway is short and chances are you may find a very busy, always jammed avenue at one end or tons of residential buildings and petrol depots on the other. What differs the two of them is that Santos Dummont is encircled by Guanabara Bay's sewage whereas Congonhas is encircled by illegal buildings and brothels legally bid by the government. Guarulhos is the largest in São Paulo. If you land in Guarulhos, you are very likely to get lost in the terminal (for lack of direction and senseless connections)or if you manage to somehow find your way out of the terminal, at least 2 hours will be spent stuck in the traffic jam because there is no other option for getting into or out of the airport, but for the good old road. No express trains such as Rome’s Leonardo Express or Gatwick Express, no monorails, no tubes, no bus lanes. Nothing. And it is our major hub.

Yep, just like Heathrow.

The lure of Brazil

As the end of the year approaches, hoards of tourists flock to Brazil in a foray into finding cheap sex, sun, diversity, liberal natives, orange women and so. But apparently, there’s so much more to this idyllic Brazil than to meets the biased touristic eye.

And let’s face it: Our tourists, mainly Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgender will end up giving up the idea of coming for bureaucratic visa processing, and Lonely Planet’s yellow fever, pick-pocketing and gay-bashing warnings, subtly suggesting them to fly to Argentina where they can spend their money in Recoleta’s fancy bars mingling with the other ‘bun fun enthusiasts’ lot from across the globe and where they are visa-waived. Only Buenos Aires standalone receives 4 million visitors a year. The whole of Brazil, three times as big as Argentina, with dozens of world-class cities, such as BAires, receives 7 million. There’s something amiss, isn’t there?

Let’s face it through a best case scenario. Imagine tourists do come. They will do by flying American, Delta, British, KLM or even worse, TAP. Our flag carrier hardly ever brings foreigners to Brazil. VARIG did for its prestige and services, not for its state-of-the-art entertainment system, comfortable seats and a good pitch between rows. Somehow TAM, whose quality differs nothing from its foreign counterparts, inherited VARIG’s only negative legacy. Prices are higher, indeed. Much due to a burdensome 35% tax whereas Europeans pay 17% and Americans mere 6%. How can we compete? So why would an European take the trouble of flying a Brazilian airline, whose pilots are deemed to be aborigines at their best splendour holding the yoke with one hand while they hold a bunch of bananas on the other paying 30% more for that? I would not.

TAM is not only tax burdened, it is harmed by the lack of a transport policy which should have been devised by our Civil Aviation Agency had it not been involved in corruption scandals embroiling the former president of the Agency, the infamously inept Milton Zuanazzi. Two remarks to be done here. ANAC has been created hastily by orders cascaded from ICAO, never because the system, lui-meme, perceived a need for it. Second Zuanazzi, herein mentioned, is said to have got his post by either lack of a better choice or, as some say, by getting laid with a very important woman of government. I guess the latter hard to believe for two more reasons: Firstly, because the woman per se is a leftists, and as Berlusconi stated once, men are only attracted by right wing women who are far better looking than their left wing counterparts. Second, some say she had her ‘first taste of fanny’ a long time ago. That’s right. She is found to be a lesbo. Lemon. Margareth Thatcher. Dyke. Our probable president-to-be. As you wish.

Shall we move on to the good news section? According to the UK Trade and Investment, with our increasing global demand for commodity exports, a vibrant democracy and a huge domestic market, we seem each time closer than ever to becoming a major player in the global economy. What can I say? I wish. But my foot!

Not only ANAC but the whole transport system needs a review and provisions for investments. Otherwise we will be left under the darkness of underdevelopment. Transports before anything are the best way for performing the utopian ‘trickle down theory’. By enabling wares to reach distant places, by connecting underdeveloped belts to developed belts of Brazil we promote not only our citizenship but also the equalisation of wealth, opportunity by means of unity and geopolitical power. Imagine we were a warlike country like US or Israel. No offence. It would have taken us months before one single troop of ours could reach Manaus had it departed from Rio. If in wartime, we surely would lose much of our territories as we lack connection among our capitals. And by the way, some twenty years ago our military forces were already outdated.

Most of our goods are transported by road, taking time and polluting. There’s an economic explanation for this. Petrobras, a public trans-national company supplies the drivers with the fuel, which is made tender at the price of the FTSE’s Trent. Yep, in Brazil the price of petrol is the same that of London’s. Brazilianoids pay the same in sterlings to 'fill'er up' as the Brits. Good-year, Pirelli and others profit with the tyres. Roads require building contractors and later exploiters which can both profit with corrupted public biddings in the case of the former and overpriced fees in the case of the latter. Roads are designed for speeds of up to 150 km/h but laws limit speed to 100 km/h, which rarely will drivers stick to for practical reasons, being eventually fined filling government’s safes with money which rarely will taxpayers see deployed in public matters again. Everyone is being benefited in a way, except the public interest. Hooray!

What is also remarkable is that despite having the best navigable river grid in the world almost nothing is shipped to the heart of Brazil through them. We have only one shipyard, inaugurated 2 years ago with Korean funds for building oil rigs to Petrobras. But after having finished the rig, it was serendipitously realised that the deadweight tonnage of the embarkation prevented it from being taken to the sea. Eighteen more months were employed into dredging the riverbed. And the oil rig there, in its gleaming conditions, but inoperative.

Our policymakers seem unabashed in seeing such great potential being wasted. They have pocketed their money. Now worries then. This shitty 'representatives of the people' lack expertise, and as an upshot of it the whole nation lacks specialists in the high places of politics. I hope you now understand my unfortunate disbelief in the UK Trade and Investment forecasts.

I know I diverted here, but I had to so that people could understand the extent of the mess we are into. People sometimes say I just hound for the dark side of everything, as if there were a bright one. The thing here is that we cannot get any airliner of any airline without undertaking ourselves to the bureaucracy of INFRAERO, our state company who runs all the airports in Brazil, profits over and charges those who keep it running: the taxpayers. If it is a public company run by taxpayer’s money the least they could do is not to bill its ‘services’, or a small levy at least. In Brazil we pay the double in Euros we pay when boarding in Europe. Brazilian hospitals are kept with our money too and in case of a sprained ankle, a brain surgery or a pacemaker we will all leave the premises of the hospital paying nil. So why do have to be such heavily billed for travelling?

Aviation is markedly associated with speed, state-of-the-art equipment, haste and both safety and security. Imagine leaving all this on the hands of the government that is marked by slowness, lobbying, corruption and bureaucracy. This is what happens to the whole system of Civil Aviation. The top posts are politically negotiated and are often fought over and haggled with an opposition threatening not to vote for propositions and new laws which interest or somehow benefit the allied party. So imagine having for mysterious political forces a completely inexperienced, inept, unskilful and unacknowledged man on a post that requires precisely the opposite. It makes me miss the good old days we had the militaries patronising everything and everyone. At least they knew what they were doing or at least what had to be done. Not that they did. It was just a matter of connaissance.

Happily they did not disappear. They are sitting on the very same chairs they were but now they are undercover, working for an institution that no longer bears connections with the Ministry of Defence and no longer dubs itself Civil Aviation Department (DAC), but ANAC (National Agency of Civil Aviation).

Some claim ANAC is packed with ne’er-do-wells who are only worried about spending their afternoons at Windows Live Messenger under the taxpayers financed recently installed air conditioning systems, fending off users by telling them to move to the next sector to get some shitty document stamped, but I find it far-fetched to tell the truth. But the users are better have a forbearing trait, nonetheless.

The thing is that the benefits of ANAC outweigh any serious complaints one may have. Processes are faster, scholarships have been given, the premises are cleaner, we now feel the scent of women working and smiling at us and we have finally got rid of that army of Magnum PIs, whose civilian names are now destitute of Military posts and beautifully written in nametags with passport-sized photos to help users to complaint in case they are found victim of any sort of ‘mistreatment’ that might have happened as they watched TV, sipped a horrible coffee, had an overpriced snack at the cafeteria or were just ushered from counter to counter questing for stamps, under the balm of the air-conditioning system.

Friday, April 14, 2006

How to Suffer Successfully

A belated comment, it’s true. I feel I must comment on last year’s (2005) Universitary Meeting on Flight Safety that was held at the campus of Pontifical University of Rio Grande do Sul. Pontifical, it’s true, but not so Catholic.

Everyone was there, wearing the same clothes they wear every year at the same occasion, militaries controlling everything, as they like to do, old-fashioned suits, even older-fashioned ties and feather-brained people just repeating what they had just read on a quick reference guide talking on the Flight Safety matters issued some twenty years before. Very current, though.

I must confess, every year I go, and every year I swear I will not return. Yes, but I did. I don’t want do excuse myself for attending one more year, but I believe I attend hoping to see some change, that so far has not come and to be quite straightforward, I doubt it will. What still impresses me is the non-academical basis, whatsoever. Most of what is being presented in the late October’s annual meeting is pretty much the same we heard during the year in non official news. It’s widespread that pilots and aviation professionals are quite gossipy, no wonder we know everything hours before they happen. Joking, of course. So, what is the point of a meeting such that, I wonder?

I wonder as well, who has given the presenters and lecturers the proficiency to talk on those issues, not that I want to sound academical for being one of the few who really think that attending a university is, indeed, going to make me a better pilot in Brazil, in which few attend and fewer are the ones who see some “advantage”.

So, there was I, casually dressed for that year’s annual reading of bad elaborated Power Point presentations and lectures with colours that clash, among those militaries wearing those magnum moustaches of the 80’s, those bathetic and predictable sentences, same old pics, same animations. A reading, indeed. I don’t know why the lecturers are called so, if all they do is read, there’s no debate, no explanation, whatsoever. Should a clever man decides to record the audio and burn it on a CD, he could name it, “Audio Lecture: Perpetual Presentation on Brazilian Flight Safety” the CD could be used forever, and this man would grow rich.

No one raises issues as, why are the militaries involved in a civilian activity of transportation, why are taxes so high, why are government’s IQs so low, how is the decadence of the structure of Brazilian government policies contributing to the risks. Why not?

I bet it’s something Latin. Do not create trouble! Nevermind, let it be. Wait until next year’s annual session of buttocks, breasts and naked women. Let’s wait for the carnival, shall we?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

This Blogspot is Under Construction

Aerial Views is an independent aviation-wise blospot. It represents the ideas and takes on of the author in terms of Aviation, not representing Trade Union's, Airliner's, Institution's, Agencies' or any other organ's ideas. This Blog is to be written in English, and posts and e-mails are required to be written in the same language.