(Written by an airline pilot specially to people who use air transport in Brazil.)
For someone to understand how aviation works in Brazil, one just needs to follow this idea: imagine yourself driving a luxurious BMW in the middle of a safari in Africa. That is pretty much how it feels for an aviator flying in Brazil: you have cutting edge technology within your plane but poor and outdated system surrounding you. I'll explain it with details.
Delays: Delays in Brazil have unusual characteristics compared to worldwide ones. Whenever there is fog, only Guarulhos airport (in Sao Paulo state) has a more accurate system for landing by instrument, known as "ILS Category 2". Curitiba also has it, but it's so confusing that they put the system to maintenance exactly during fog season.
Shamefully Porto Alegre, Florianópolis and Confins do not have this system. Those airports always close because of fog. Manaus, which has an extremely strategic location and always has fog, also has no ILS. Note that In the U.S. there are over 100 airports with ILS category 2".
If you are a passenger going to Porto Alegre, know that your plane can not divert to Florianopolis in case Porto Alegre is closed. Florianópolis has an absurdly small patio for only five airplanes. Without mentioning that on summer Florianópolis receives 150 more charter flights than usual. This airport, shamefully, has no taxiway (runway for aircraft taxiing to the main runway), requiring the aircrafts to tax down the main runway generating greater spacing between aircraft approaching, or causing delays.
If you are arriving in Sao Paulo, the problem is similar. Guarulhos' patio is always packed, as well as Victoria and Confins. Galeão (International Airport - GIG) and Congonhas were in the same situation of crowded patio days ago. Pilots who had Galeão as an alternative runway had to listen to a "negative" from the controller to divert to that airport. Galeão was in the flight plan as the "alternate" runway.
Therefore, if the controller approved the plan before taking off, that means that following the schedule is a matter of law and not of convenience.
Northeast: Flying in Northeast part of Brazil is quieter because there is less air traffic, but then there is another problem: The air traffic control has the disservice of counting on military aircrafts doing training flights which consequently generates delays, usually more than 20 minutes in departures, what triggers an even greater delay to these aircrafts that arrive late to southern Brazil. Accordingly to international flight rules
an aircraft in international military education takes precedence over civil aircraft in passenger arrivals and departures, however, if the country wants to adopt international rules by the book, let them build military bases for specific military training. Bear in mind that this is Brazil and not Europe or the U.S., where the planes are sequenced for landing with 4 kilometers separations between aircrafts, while in Brazil is 8 km between aircrafts and, in the case of Florianópolis, it reaches 20 km per aircraft for lacking of taxiway.
Know that every Brazilian pilot feels safer flying in the U.S., Europe and Asia than flying here in Brazil, indeed disappointing, but I'll explain why ...
Here in Brazil there is a rule: "the shortest distance between two points is a curve." Did you know that when you leave the Brazilian coast and goes to Sao Paulo you fly in a curve? Flying over Rio de Janeiro is obligatory. pilots have to fly a straight line through Minas Gerais. This outline flight over the coastside generates at least 1000 more liters of burnt fuel in each flight.
In the U.S. air ways no longer exist, but only the straight prow to the destination. There they have agreements with NGOs and understand that the less time a plane stays in the air the lower the greenhouse effect. If it happened in Brazil, it would be the equivalent of taking off from Salvador and the controller allowing direct prow in São Paulo. 1000 liters of kerosene are wasted, and burned over the heads of Cariocas every 2 minutes! (Let Green Peace know about that. They'll be overjoyed.)
The excuse can not be flow separation, since the U.S. are larger than Brazil, and their airflow is fifty times greater than in Brazil. Brazil's flight hours in 50 days are equivalent to U.S. flights in just one day. "It could be worse if snow fell in Brazil. Daily messy air traffic control would be a catastrophe."
But do not blame the controllers. The fault is not theirs. Brazilian air traffic control system is the one that is archaic and insecure. The salary of these controllers is low and there are lots of people working there without any commitment to their profession. Some are serious and dedicated but don't have decent working conditions. One single controller handles various regions of the country and they all suffer too much pressure to, ultimately, be less efficient controllers than Americans, Europeans and Asians.
The other day I heard a radio controller saying goodbye because he got a better job - it is shameful for a country that wants to offer a "first world" service - but I wished him the best and hope he is happy in his new well-payed job now. He has certainly not been valued as he should.
Being an airline pilot, I can say without exaggerations that flying in Brazil today is like being in a kind of flying yellow alert. Another accident is very close to happening. When taking off does we are never sure to land at the destination or alternate airport. The other day five airports were literally closed for lack of patio: Confins, Galeão, Vitoria, Guarulhos and Campinas. So you have to take off from Brasilia to Sao Paulo with enough fuel to divert to Salvador!
Theses continuous problems will make Brazilian aviation impractical, not to mention the sale of our airlines to neighboring countries, due to high tax rates on them, so that, to survive in the market, undergo miraculous partnerships including moving the head offices to neighboring countries to get rid of Brazilian nonsense taxes, in other words, they now will pay taxes in another country ... Why does that happen? Because there are no incentives here. Lack of structure and lack of clarity. That's what I call "Delivering the National Sovereignty."
Sovereignty is not only putting military troops on the borders. The country has never been so prosperous, the problem is that our politicians win elections because they know how to be in the spotlight but they have mediocre mentality. They sell themselves. Simply put dollars in their hands or speak with a little accent and they give you everything.
I flew a lot over Amazônian and I guarantee that after the rainforest turn into a desert no one else will want to take it from Brazil. Deforestation in the area occurs in a proportion of a football field per second.
Today Brazil only builds dams because of the blackout of 2002. The blackouts in aviation will be repeated for the next 20 years. And remember that the World Cup and the Olympics will take place durinh fog season.
Infraero already got two solutions: remove sits from the bus stations-like airports to give more space for passengers to stand up, and free Wi-Fi to console the users.
Today Brazilian aviation offers a different surprise each day, "the mess" (a mess), as defined by an European pilot days ago, and I assure you that being blindsided in aviation has tragic consequences.
Solution: First of all: The politicians have to start thinking as serious rulers and do as the Brazilian singer Raul Seixas once said: "the solution is renting Brazil".
In the U.S., Europe and Asia airports are built to meet a demand that will only exist in 20 or 30 years and with enough patio to park more than 100 large aircrafts together. This is quite different from Brazilian adaptations which does not even attend the current demand.
As you read this e-mail, more than 10 airports larger than Guarulho's airport are being built in India. In China more than 70 are being built and the 3 countries: China, Brazil and India are part of the same group called "BRIC", which also includes Russia and South Africa. It seems that only Brazil has not yet agreed among these five.
Absurdly as it may seem, Brazilian airports do not have subway stations! Foreigners think is a joke when they get here and see no subway stations at airports. Any airport abroad has subway stations.
What country is this? Brazilian people compare themselves to American people, but American people, opposingly to Brazilian citizens, know how to claim for their rights. By acting this way, the Brazilian government does not expect to be pressed by the citizens to start investing money from taxes in education, health, etc.
Brazilian people only care about complaining. They just don't do so to the right person, organ or appropriate sector of the government. They complain to friends and neighbors, but almost none of them is able to access the Senate or the House of Representatives websites to send e-mails complaining about politics absences or even know what these people do with the money from taxes that the citizens pay.
It is very easy to go on vacation to the United States and come back to Brazil saying that everything is fantastic there and Brazil is the end of the world. In fact there are decades of delay, but American people are way more conscious about what their politicians are doing with public money and bureaucracy in their country is practically nonexistent when compared to Brazil.
In Brazil ANAC takes 30 days to issue an aeronaut license, thus generating a fall in the wages of pilots and flight attendants, as well as financial losses to employers. Who will pay this bill? ANAC? The Federal Government? In the U.S. the same license is issued in just one hour by the FAA. Bearing in mind that ANAC in Brazil manages a universe of 20,000 commercial pilots while the U.S. deals with over 600,000.
In the U.S. a few public sector jobs offer stability, maybe that's why the public servants work harder, are more efficient, work for the good of population, apologize if they get late at work and treat taxpayers properly, even if it's a Latin American person. Diversely from public servants in Brazil. Anyway...
Good luck to all and may God protect us!